Have you thought about travelling further than Europe for your summer holiday? Ever considered the Caribbean?
Jacqui O’s Beachhouse, Love Beach, Antigua.
Deciding where to go in the Caribbean can be tough choice but in our case the decision was made easy due to good friends who have holidayed many times in Antigua and suggested that we all holiday together there this summer.
So, in a nutshell, if you are looking to escape the crowds and are wanting a holiday with postcard type, idyllic, sandy white beaches, guaranteed sunshine, constant temperatures between 27 and 33 degrees celsius (no jumpers required!), warm, crystal clear turquoise waters, great snorkelling and some fun places to eat out and you are willing to travel further, then Antigua is definitely one to consider.
Valley Church Beach, Antigua.
Apart from its historical ties with Great Britain (with the first British settlers arriving in 1632 and independence only reached in 1981), Antigua itself is considered one of the world’s number one sailing destinations. hosting a number of well known sailing regattas, including the infamous Antigua Sailing Week. The sheltered waters of the Caribbean Sea and the big rollers of the Atlantic Ocean make ideal conditions for top class international racing.
And yet if you are not a sailor, don’t worry as Antigua has much more to offer than just sailing.
The island itself is alive with colour, right from the brightly painted Antiguan houses to the beautiful jacaranda trees and borgonvelia. During our stay we saw turtles, hummingbirds, pelicans, herons, mongoose, coconuts, pineapples (!!), mangos and so many different types of tropical fish.
British Airways flies once a day to Antigua, an 8 hour direct flight from Gatwick. Virgin Atlantic also flies direct to Antigua 3 times a week.
Views on BA's final approach.
High season is November to May, so by holidaying there in low season the flights are considerably cheaper and the beaches are pretty much deserted. The time difference with the UK is 5 hours, so it means you tend to wake very early and go to bed a bit earlier than at home.
And just in case you are worried about food supplies, you can even buy your Waitrose Essentials from The Epicurean supermarket in Jolly Harbour!
Where to stay
As you can imagine, there is a large amount of choice of accommodation on the island of Antigua.
We stayed at Nonsuch Bay a luxury holiday resort, a 40 min drive from the airport and situated on the Atlantic side of the island. The resort itself has a selection of beautifully appointed 1, 2 and 3 bedroom suites and cottages, as well as it’s own beach, 3 infinity pools and its own sailing club.
A view of the sailing club at Nonsuch Bay from the hotel bar terrace.
With its protected cove and warm winds, Nonsuch Bay is the perfect place for families that sail or want to learn to sail, with its own sailing club, instructors and a variety of sail boats. And for families with young children there is also a kids club which has its obvious advantages for exhausted parents.
Lots of sailing fun to be had at Nonsuch Bay.
The added advantage of staying an Nonsuch Bay is its location opposite Green Island, a deserted island with white sandy beaches and fantastic snorkelling, which can be reached by boat from the resort.
Where to eat
It's worth bearing in mind that it gets dark early in the Caribbean, so in our case we tested out the local restaurant scene at lunch time rather than in the evening.
Both Boom and Sheer Rocks have their own pools which are an ingenious way to entertain young children whilst waiting for the food to arrive!
The pool at Boom restaurant, with great views of Nelson’s Dockyard.
A table with a view at Sheer Rocks.
Relaxing pre lunch in one of the pools at Sheer Rocks.
What to do
A visit to English Harbour is a must. The destination for the world's super yachts in the winter months and home to Nelson's Dockyard. Also has a good selection of restaurants.
A view from the historical Nelson’s Dockyard.
Shirley Heights is another must on a Sunday evening. Not only is the view one of the best on the island, the place comes alive every Sunday evening with steel bands and reggae music.
The view from Shirley Heights.
In terms of beaches, you are rather spoilt in Antigua with its 365 beaches, so one for every day of the year. We visited quite a number of different beaches during our week’s stay, but particularly liked Half Moon Bay (with its great waves for body boarding) on the Atlantic side of the island.
Big wave fun at Half Moon Bay.
And we absolutely loved our day trips to Valley Church Beach and Darkwood Beach on the Caribbean side of the island (a 40 min scenic drive through the tropical forest from Nonsuch Bay).
Jet skiing fun off Valley Church Beach - a teenage boy’s dream.
Darkwood Beach stood out in particular for us due to its fabulous sea water park - a real holiday highlight for our children - as well as incredible snorkelling.
The sea water inflatables park in turquoise warm waters at Darkwood Beach.
How to get around
If you are the type of family who likes to explore, rather than hanging out at just the one resort, then its well worth renting a car. We pre booked our car and picked it up from the airport. Roads in Antigua are mostly fine but a 4x4 would be advisable as some routes do involve a bit of off road. And you are wondering about navigating the island, whilst sign posts are relatively rare, Waze (sat nav) works absolutely fine.
Last question - would we go back?
Yes, in a heartbeat! We absolutely loved it. Certainly one of our best family holidays! With children aged between 7 and 17, there was certainly something for everyone!
The obligatory holiday selfie! 😀
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