||Home | Archive | Travel | Videos | About|
story and photographs Frank Greco
Antigua claims to have one beach for every day of the year. Can you believe it - 365 beaches at your disposal? Without a doubt, this tiny island is the go-to place in the Caribbean, for sun and beach lovers.
The best way to see Antigua and spot your beach, is by air. Caribbean Helicopters offers tourists a bird’s eye view of Antigua’s coastline. Glimpse deserted offshore islands, see the pristine waters surrounding the island’s reefs, fly over secluded bays and historic sites. Owned and operated by a Canadian couple, they offer a 30-minute flight around 100 miles of amazing Antiguan coastline. Here’s a hint: bring a camera and try to sit next to the pilot, as the helicopter has a glass bottom floor. The tour costs about $180 CDN.
All of the beaches surrounding Antigua are public, even those on hotel properties. The nicest by far is Jolly Beach. Stretching a mile along Antigua’s west coast, it is the longest white sand beach on the island, boasting clear turquoise water that caresses the shoreline.
Although Antigua has many resorts, the largest and most popular is the all-inclusive Jolly Beach Resort. Not only is it situated on the best beach in Antigua, it has a fabulous pool and five restaurants that include an International Buffet, Italian fine dining, Indian cuisine and more. Five bars on the property help you wash down your food (one is a swim-up bar). Days on the resort are full of activities like water sports, beach games or just lounging, but when the sun goes down the place livens with local bands playing calypso, reggae, steel rhythms and cultural dance groups providing the hot entertainment.
Not too far away is Antigua’s sister island, Barbuda, which offers secluded pink and white sand beaches. That’s right, Barbuda, not Bermuda (as is the common misunderstanding when people hear the name). Barbuda’s secluded beaches are unrivaled!
Barbuda is a rugged island and is relatively undeveloped. Dirt roads, a rocky terrain and animals such as donkeys, sheep and dogs roam freely along the roadside. The island is also filled with caves that are a marvel to explore. One of Barbuda’s best-kept secret is that Indians who inhabited Barbuda carved faces into the cave walls. Spotting the faces provides a very awe-inspiring experience. Make sure you hire a guide!
You can reach Barbuda by air - it’s a very short 20 minute flight, or by ferry – about three hours each way. Barbuda is not as commercialized as Antigua so finding a local store can be difficult. Also, be sure to make your flight or ferry on time; they won’t wait for you.
Back on Antigua, historic Shirley Heights, located on Antigua’s south coast, provides a panoramic view of the famed English Harbour and the surrounding landscape. Every Sunday afternoon you can experience an island barbecue like none other. This party is not to be missed. For about $30 CDN you receive a scrumptious barbeque plate and the fixings, a great setting and local musical entertainment. As an added bonus, everyone gets a spectacular view of the sunset. As the sun goes down, the rhythm heats up the night. Steel bands and reggae music provides the motivation to dance the night away.
At the base of Shirley Heights is English Harbour, home to Nelson’s Dockyard, named after England’s most famous naval hero, Admiral Horatio Nelson. This area served as living quarters for officers during hurricane season. The buildings have been completely restored and showcase art galleries, shops, restaurants, naval supplies and services and local crafts. The harbour hosts yachts of all shapes and sizes, but the setting takes you back in time.
One historic note, Horatio Nelson actually hated the island and spent most of his time in the small quarters of his ship docked at English Harbour, missing the beauty that surrounded him…silly man!
The talk around Antigua is about the local Hot Sauce called Suzie’s. As one chef so colourfully explained, “It burns at both ends– going in and going out.” No meal is complete without Suzie’s, at least that’s what the locals will tell you. The creator of Suzie’s Hot Sauce (Rosie McMaster) lives in Antigua and frequently refers to herself as the hottest woman in the Caribbean. Rosie is a local celebrity in Antigua and is most hospitable to everyone who drops by her home (where she cooks most of the sauce herself).
Speaking about food, you have to try the local favourite, Fungi (pronounced Foon-gee), it can be compared to the Italian version called polenta. Fungi is easy and quick to make and goes with pretty much every dish in Antigua. The recipe is simple. In a bowl over a hot plate combine Okra water (the secret ingredient), cornmeal, garlic, salt and pepper to taste, stir quite often until thick and then let cool. The dish I enjoyed most was the snapper accentuated with Antigua style Creole sauce and fungi – best experienced on the beach with fresh coconut water right out of the coconut…it was great! GL
Frank Greco is a world traveler, producer and host of a new television series called The Travel Guy. Frank can be contacted at: firstname.lastname@example.org
|ABOVE Sunset, Jolly Beach
ABOVE Shirley Heights
ABOVE Frank enjoys a drink of Coconut Water straight out of the coconut – the Antiguan’s refer to this as “having a drink island style”) – with Chef Reg of Millers By The Sea Restaurant and Bar, Fort James Beach.
For more information on Antigua and Barbuda,
Learn some of the local lingo.
Antigua’s refer to Bananas as figs.
Do not sit under a coconut tree for shade.
Many tourists get seriously injured each year
by falling coconuts.
Driving is on the left side of the road.
Resorts are spread out all around the island
and cater to every budget and lifestyle.
Celebrities like Oprah Winfrey, Eric Clapton,
Robin Williams and others have homes on the island.
Although Antigua is very safe, make sure you have
someone to keep you company on secluded beaches.
Always carry bottled water, snacks and plenty of sunscreen.