The Caribbean island of Antigua has plenty of stunning beaches, 365 to be exact. But even the most devoted of sun worshippers enjoys a little variety, which is where the country’s historical attractions, outdoor pursuits, and wellness and shopping opportunities come in. Here are the top draws that will have you willing to leave your slice of white-sand heaven for a little while.
History and culture
Nelson’s Dockyard, home to the British Navy for two centuries, is a wonderful way to spend a couple of hours away from the beach. Today a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the gorgeous 18th-century Georgian buildings — former offices, storehouses and workshops — have been repurposed into a space boasting restaurants, bars, gift shops and a small, old-fashioned museum in what was once Admiral Nelson’s house.
Pillars Restaurant is an especially atmospheric spot for drinks or dinner with a view across English Harbour. Alternatively, enjoy a sundowner at the Shirley Heights Lookout, a restaurant in an old military complex high up on the other side of the bay.
There’s more history on offer at Betty’s Hope, which, for many years, was the island’s largest sugarcane plantation. Only one of the plantation’s windmills has been restored — the rest of the estate is still in ruins — but the historical site and the small interpretation center effectively tell the grim story of Antigua’s slavery past. It’s sobering, but definitely worth a visit.
Head to Antigua’s capital, St. John’s, for souvenir shopping at Redcliffe Quay. Arts and crafts are the main attraction in this picturesque shopping district, which is located on the spot where trading for slaves, sugar, coffee and rum took place during the colonial era. We love The Pottery Shop for handmade items and driftwood hangings.
If you can’t resist a bargain, there’s duty-free shopping for big clothing and jewelry brands at Heritage Quay across the road.
The great outdoors
You’ll find the North Sound Marine Park, an isolated area of mangrove forest just perfect for exploration by kayak, in the northeast corner of the island. You’ll start your peaceful guided paddle tour with Antigua Nature Tours at a floating jetty nestled deep within the mangroves. From there, you can finish the excursion with snorkeling over the coral reef off tiny, uninhabited Great Bird Island or by making a short trek to the island’s summit, with its fantastic views over the mangroves.
Guests at Carlisle Bay can take advantage of more hiking opportunities, thanks to guided walks led by resort gardener Elliot Michael. Journeys set off early in the morning, following the curve of the coastline through the jungle to Rendezvous Bay, one of the island’s most beautiful — and totally undeveloped — beaches.
Finally, guests at staying at Forbes Travel Guide Five-Star Jumby Bay, A Rosewood Resort, can take advantage of the luxurious opportunities on offer at Four-Star Sense, A Rosewood Spa. Refresh tired muscles after all that hiking, kayaking and sightseeing with the Jumby Signature Ritual, a massage and facial package that begins with 30 minutes of meditation and stretching. Or try Sun-Kissed, a spa experience that soothes the skin with neem, aloe and blood orange.
Day passes are also available at Carlisle Bay’s Blue Spa if your accommodations are elsewhere. Sample a range of massages and facials that draw on the power of the sea to help you unwind and ensure that you return home from your vacation rejuvenated. The Seaweed Leaf Body Lift can help with water retention and cellulite, and the Seaweed Marine Eye Treatment uses seaweed leaf to reduce eye puffiness.