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Island hideaways

Top things to do in Antigua

Annabelle Price October 17, 2014

Ask anyone to sum up the Caribbean in one world and they’ll most likely say “beaches”, especially if they’re thinking of Antigua. With over 360 beaches there’s almost a beach for each day of the year. I’ll admit I had the preconception that the island was pretty much one big beach and the only things to do in Antigua was sunbath and sip cocktails...let’s just say I was very wrong! 

 
If you can bear to tear yourself away from your sun lounger this beautiful island has so much more to offer. Many people, me included, may be nervous about venturing out of the hotel alone but there’s really no need to worry. The locals are some of the friendliest people you’ll ever meet and you’ll be greeted with a smile wherever you go. 
 
As Antigua is such a small island (not much bigger than the Isle of Wight) it’s incredibly easy to get around. Plus there’s always a taxi driver in the hotel lobby ready to take you wherever you please. So where do you want to go...?
 
 
English Harbour, Antigua
 
History & Culture
 
Well, you can swim in the crystal clear ocean with friendly stingrays or rocket through the air on a rainforest zip-line adventure. If history and culture are more your thing Antigua is most definitely full of it. An island tour will help you discover a rich heritage and some stunning photo opportunities too. 
 
Dow’s Hill Interpretation Centre is loaded with historical facts and offers a beautiful view over English Harbour, which was once home of Nelson’s Dockyard. It‘s a fascinating place to visit, and after watching the centre’s short video on the founding of the island you’ll be able to appreciate Antigua so much more. 
 
 
Shirley Heights, Antigua
 
Local rum enjoyed on the beach
 
Steel drum band
 
 
Party Vibes 
 
For a taste of the local flavour I whole-heartedly recommend spending a Sunday evening at Shirley Heights, a favourite hotspot for tourists and locals alike.
 
The Sunday night parties are a famous in Antigua and, after 31 years and 1560 events, they definitely know how to hold a shindig. Here, you can experience the local cuisine with a BBQ of jerk chicken and pork, all served with a side order of steel band music and breathtaking vistas. It won’t be long before you’re swept up in the laidback islander lifestyle. As the night gets going and the music begins it’s time to let your hair down and let the beat take over. 
 
 
Sunset cruise
 
Catamaran Cruises 
 
After dancing the night away, there’s nothing better than a relaxing catamaran cruise to a secluded island. There are so many options for boat trips, including a circumnavigation around the entire island or a short sail out to Bird Island.
 
I spent the day onboard the 70ft catamaran boat the ‘Caribbean Queen’. The crew were attentive and sociable, telling us about the local area, the Caribbean way of life and pointing out places of interest on the coast. A boat trip is the perfect way to get a deeper knowledge of Antigua. 
 
After two hours sailing (a fantastic sunbathing opportunity), the boat anchors a short distance from the isolated cove of Bird Island. As the water is shallow and the coral reefs abundant, the beach is only accessible by speedboat. 
 
 
Reef snorkelling
 
Sublime Snorkelling 
 
Once on the beach you’re kitted out with flippers and goggles for a snorkel — the perfect way to work up an appetite for a BBQ on the beach. The reefs surrounding the island are stunning; there’s so much marine life to see. I had the chance to swim alongside wild stingrays, tropical fish and sea anemones. The guide from the crew stopped us now and again to point out something we may have missed or share some fascinating marine facts. 
 
Once back on board the party starts, the rum flows while music blares out on the way back to harbour. In my opinion, there really isn’t much in life better than being surrounded by good people, with a drink in your hand and barbecued lobster on the menu, while looking out over the Caribbean. 
 
After returning from my first visit to Antigua, one thing I’m sure of: this island with something for everyone, not just beaches. I can’t wait to go back.