Antigua – Beyond the Resorts

Antigua – Beyond the Resorts

Call me a little biased here since I did go to Antigua for my own honeymoon, but I love this island!  We stayed at a beautiful resort, BUT, my husband Brian and I spent our time there learning and exploring Antigua inside and out.

Thinking of going sometime in the near future? Here’s a breakdown of what there is to see and do, and who would have a blast there –

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#1. Who should go there? Explorers

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If you have even the slightest adventurous bone in your body, you should rent a car. No, excuse me, you should rent a Jeep!  There are many roads and scenic vistas that you’ll never make it to in a regular car.

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The island’s main roads themselves aren’t that great, so a sturdy vehicle is recommended anyway if you’re going to explore, but there are also tons of what we like to call “curiosity roads” that wind around hillsides and through swamp-sized puddles until you finally reach an amazing stretch of secluded beach.  Like this road shown below –

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Antigua is known for its many beautiful beaches – 365 in all – one for each day of the year!
Sadly, the average tourist never gets to see most of them if they don’t venture very far from their resort.

Speaking of beaches…..

#2. Who should go there? Beach Lovers

That dream you’ve had where you picture yourself as the only two people on a gorgeous stretch of beach that somehow hasn’t attracted 500 other tourists?
Antigua.

We could see a winding road from our room, and went on a Google map quest to follow it and see where it led us.  And here we are!
(don’t mind my “hoot hoot”ing in the video)  Also, if you can’t picture Brian doing a cartwheel, click play now. 

Half Moon Beach is one of the most famous where many tourists do stop to relax.  If you go there, don’t stop after the main beach!  If you follow the rocks down to the left where it looks like they disappear, you can turn the corner and walk for a while on a rocky path next to the waves.

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Also check out Devil’s Bridge, a natural arch carved into the soft part of the limestone as it was eroded away by action of the waves over countless centuries. It’s located at the North Eastern tip of Antigua, in a remote wild area known as Indian Town Point. It’s one of those things you have to see from all sides to really get the full experience – pictures don’t do it justice!

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Watch out for aggressive vendors here, however.  Since it’s a spot most tourists want to see, there are quite a few locals taking advantage of the traffic depending on the time of year.  It doesn’t ruin the experience, just be prepared for it.

If this is up your alley, you’ll also like Hell’s Gate. This rock formation can only be reached by boat via a tour, but once you arrive, walk through its natural cave and tunnel.

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this awesome photo above c/o Robert Pittman.


#3. Who should go there? Coffee Snobs

Spotlight on The Carib Bean Coffee Company.

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This place is awesome and the coffee quality and selection is fabulous. (coffee snob approved) It’s close to one of the main landmarks of the island, Nelson’s Dockyard, (which we’ll get to in a second) so if you’re going there and you don’t stop for coffee at this amazing island roaster, you’re really missing out.  

Tell Tish Staffa Travel sent you! (and bring us some coffee, will ya?) 

https://www.facebook.com/Carib-Bean-Coffee-Company-422030284510355/?fref=ts

 

#4. Who should go there? Street Food Afficionados

Grace Before Meals.

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Best. Burger.  

If you ask a local where to get a good Antiguan meal, they will probably tell you Grace’s. I feel obligated to get a burger everywhere I go just to qualify the place, but you should also try the roti and other more traditional options to get the full experience!  It’s right in English harbor before you get to the Dockyard, and you can’t miss the bright yellow and orange.

There are quite a few other great places in English Harbour to get a bite to eat, and be prepared to pay a pretty penny. (In East Caribbean Dollars) The quality is great and it’s worth it, but the restaurants are definitely geared toward tourists.

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The resort we were staying at had great gourmet cuisine, so we were looking to change things up and get more of an authentic street food experience, hence Grace’s!


#5. Who should go there? History Buffs

While we’re in English Harbour, now is the perfect time to look at Nelson’s Dockyard.

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The Dockyard is Antigua’s largest national park.  Although it serves as active grounds for marina businesses and even a small bakery (which is delicious), it’s still home to beautiful 18th and 19th century buildings and has a museum you can walk through to learn about the area for yourself. (And pose for a picture that in hindsight you may not be proud of..)

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http://nationalparksantigua.com/visiting/nelsons-dockyard/

Let’s stay on history for just a minute.

Antigua was colonized during the slave trade, mostly for the purposes of harvesting sugar cane.  It was used as an important British Naval port for centuries, and many of its ocean facing structures still stand today, providing excellent scenic views and grounds for exploration.

This is Fort Barrington –

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Fort Barrington was probably our favorite spot since it was an historical spot, but it was very secluded and self-exploratory, and made for a little hiking experience too! Not to mention the amazing views and photo ops.

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#6. Who should go there? Soccer/Futball Fans

I must say that our soccer experience in Antigua is tough to beat. We timed our trip with the Antigua vs. USA world cup qualifier at Sir Vivian Richards Stadium in North Sound, and watched what was said to be “the biggest match in the history of this Caribbean island.” Needless to say, it was awesome!

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Overall, we were shocked and impressed by the level of sportsmanship shown throughout the entire arena. Antigua lost 2-1 to the US, but there was no booing, fighting, or violence of any kind. Try to have that experience in Philly – ha!

 

#7. Who should go there? Day trippers & Island Hoppers

With Antigua’s sister island, Barbuda, just a 90 minute ferry ride away, well, WHY NOT??  If you tell me I can explore two islands in one day, I’m all for it.

Referred to as “A to B by Sea,” the ferry from Antigua to the pink sands of Barbuda runs six days a week, between 9am-6pm. Fare for adults is $220 Eastern Caribbean Dollars, which is about $80 US dollars.

Is it worth it? Yes.  The likelihood that you’ll plan a separate Barbuda trip in the future is slim.  The hotel selection is super minimal, and honestly, it’s just more appropriate to see it as a day trip than to stay there for an extended period of time. You’re simply better off staying in Antigua and ferrying it over to Barbuda to see the sights for the day.

The downside? Depending on when you go, the boat itself can get a little crowded.  Arrive early (even thought it won’t leave early or even on time typically) secure yourself a seat on the edge so you can just look off the side, and relax and enjoy each other.

This island has so many things to explore, I promise you won’t be bored.  If you ask me, it’s the perfect combination of experiences for couples who are looking to relax, have fun, enjoy their resort, do a little exploring, have a little history lesson, and eat great food.  And you don’t have to go very far from home!