I recently had the chance to spend a week visiting Antigua, a beautiful Caribbean island, and my oh my, was it a good time! On the flight over Sam and I were trying to figure out when exactly we’d last been on a Caribbean island and realized it was 4 years ago for our honeymoon! That’s way too long, especially considering how much I love the beach.
This was our first time visiting Antigua and while we were both looking forward to relaxing and alternating between the beach and the pool, we were also pretty excited to explore the island and see what it has to offer. I think we managed to strike the perfect balance!
Mornings quickly became about putting on our swimsuits and running down to the water, and that left us with the afternoons to discover the island’s flavour. I got to enjoy plenty of beach time, but we also managed to take a cooking class, explore the colourful capital of St. John’s, attend the renowned Sunday Barbecue Party, and catch part of Antigua Sailing Week.
Now let’s rewind and take a look back at our week visiting Antigua:
Enjoying plenty of beach time
First things first, let’s talk about the beach! Did you know that Antigua has 365 beaches? That’s 1 for every day of the year!
One week was not enough to explore them all – I think I maybe made it to 4! – but I made it my daily mission to hit the beach every morning. I was basically up at the crack of dawn, grabbing breakfast as soon as the buffet opened, and then running down to the water before any other guest.
Our resort had two different beaches and the main one was set in a cove, so we had super calm waters perfect for kayaking, stand up paddleboarding, and just enjoying a swim.
Learning to cook with rum
I love taking cooking classes wherever I travel – I’ve learned to make pierogi in Poland, pasta in Italy, and curries in Thailand – and in Antigua, I jumped at the opportunity to cook with rum!
I joined a cooking class at Nicole’s Table, which takes place at Nicole’s home overlooking St. John’s Harbour and the Caribbean Sea – a perfect setting to soak in the beauty of the island.
On the menu that day, we had: coconut crisps and plantain chips, sweet potato soup with rum, brown sugar and rum marinated flank steak with onion jam, red beans and rice, plantains, garden salad, and a butter rum cake for dessert. So much food!
We got to help with the cooking, and then halfway through the class, we sat down for a rum tasting with Nicole’s husband, Adam, an avid rum collector. Here we got to sample rums from Antigua and around the world, and I must admit, everyone was feeling pretty merry by the end of it!
Shortly after the rum tasting, lunch was served out on the verandah, and we all sat down to enjoy the meal together. The rum and brown sugar steak was a real highlight – I may have gone back for seconds and thirds! – and the rum cake at the end was just the perfect way to cap off a fun afternoon in the kitchen.
For any other foodies out there, Nicole’s Table offers a few different cooking classes including “All About Jerk”, where you learn the authentic Jamaican way of cooking meat; “Coordinating Curry”, which is all about the influence of curry in Caribbean flavours; and “From the Sea”, focusing on seafood dishes prepared with the catch of the day.
Attending the Sunday Party at Shirley Heights
We were lucky enough to fly into Antigua on a Sunday, which meant we had to attend the Sunday Barbecue Party at Shirley Heights! I mean, how could we not?
Set in the old military fortifications, this party is one of the longest-running events on the island taking place every Sunday without fail.
People begin to gather at Shirley Heights around 4:00 pm to stake their spot and catch sunset over English Harbour. After dropping our bags off at the hotel and freshening up, we made a beeline to the lookout and arrived just in time for the magic.
The sun was just beginning to dip behind the hills, the whole sky was glowing, and the light bouncing off the water made the harbour look like a mirror. It was as postcard-perfect as it gets.
The mood at the Sunday Part was very lively with a steel band, a mouthwatering barbecue, and plenty of rum punch to go around. There were both tourists and locals in attendance, including many yachties seeing as Antigua Sailing Week was in full swing.
Catching Antigua Sailing Week up close
Speaking of sailing, my time visiting Antigua happened to coincide with Antigua Sailing Week, so of course, I had to catch a bit of the action!
Antigua Sailing Week is a yacht regatta that dates back to 1968. It was started by a group of friends who got together to hold a regatta with the objective of extending the winter season and getting people to stay in Antigua just a little bit longer. Today it’s the biggest event on the island drawing participants and spectators from around the world.
One of the best ways to catch the action out at sea is by hopping aboard a catamaran to “chase the race” so I joined an excursion with Wadadli Cats.
We set out from Falmouth Harbour and made our way to the start line to watch the yachts get into position and kick off the race. There was lots of excitement and cheering, as well as strong winds to keep things interesting!
After watching the race in the morning, our catamaran anchored in Carlisle Bay for a few hours. Here we enjoyed a swim in beautiful turquoise waters until we were called back aboard for lunch.
I would have gladly kept swimming all afternoon, but it was time to catch the end of the race and cheer for the last yachts crossing the finish line.
Initially, I had been a bit worried that I wouldn’t enjoy this outing because of motion sickness, but I’m so glad I pushed through because it turned out to be one of my favourite activities in Antigua. Yes, there were some strong trade winds, but I took some Gravol, sipped on some ginger ale, and by the time we reached Carlisle Bay all was tranquil again.
Exploring the colours of St. John’s
Sam and I didn’t want to leave Antigua without exploring the capital, St. John’s, so on our last day on the island we arranged a ride into town.
We got dropped off at Heritage Quay which is where the cruises usually dock. This is a lively commercial area where you can pick up souvenirs and also do your duty-free shopping. I’m really not much of a shopper, so we just walked around snapping photos, because if there’s one thing that St. John’s has, it’s plenty of streets filled with bold splashes of colour.
Sadly, a lot of the places that we had been planning to visit were either closed for renovations or closed for the day (it probably didn’t help that we were visiting on a Sunday), so that didn’t leave us with too much to do in terms of sightseeing, but someone had recommended Big Banana, so we made sure to stop by for some smoothies and super loaded pizzas.
Where to stay when visiting Antigua
And now let’s talk about that resort life because when we weren’t out and about exploring the island, we were hanging out at the Verandah Resort and Spa, sipping on coconut smoothies, and alternating between the beach and the pool.
Our resort was located on the east side of the island and had these beautiful waterfront suites – picture sliding the balcony door to be greeted with turquoise waters and blue skies every morning! – but my favourite part was their main beach, which was more like a cove with the calmest and most crystalline waters you’ve ever seen.
We were sad to leave after a week visiting Antigua. Hopefully, it won’t take us another 4 years to come back to the Caribbean!
Have you been to Antigua?
What are some of your favourite spots on the island?
This trip was made possible in partnership with Traverse and Antigua & Barbuda Tourism.