February 23, 2018 | By Roxane Hudon |
365 beaches for 365 days of sun? It sounds like a fairy tale, but feels oh-so-real the second you land on the sunny shores of Antigua. Named by Columbus, colonized by Brits, inhabited by Oprah, this small Caribbean island shines with a rich and complex history that permeates through its colourful villages and harbours. From kicking back on a beach to kicking around with the kids, here are our top picks for when to go, where to stay and what to do in Antigua.
When to go
Antigua Sailing Week
A major maritime hub centuries ago, the Caribbean country harkens back to its nautical roots with the Antigua Sailing Week, its annual yacht regatta. Join the festivities from April 28 to May 4, when sailors from around the world take on the turquoise waters of the Caribbean for five days of yacht racing. Little ones will love seeing the boats zip past, while grown-ups might prefer the infamous after-parties.
Looking to soak in real Caribbean culture? Better pencil in July 27 to August 7, when the Antigua Carnival amplifies the island’s good-time vibes. With a tagline claiming it as “The Caribbean’s Greatest Summer Festival,” expect calypso dance parties, costumed parades and beating steel drums that keep you moving till morning. Designed for all ages, kids even get a parade of their own, the Children’s Carnival, where they strut in vibrant frocks, evoking the cutest, mini versions of Caribbean icons.
We weren’t kidding about everyday sunshine. Antigua’s constantly balmy climate makes it a year-round destination for beach getaways. Whichever week you book, make sure to save your Sunday for the afternoon BBQ at Shirley Heights Lookout, overlooking the English Harbour on the southern tip of the island. An Antiguan institution ideal for friends and family, it’s the place to be to take in the glorious sunset views, while a reggae band provides the soundtrack.
What to do
Coral reefs bursting with exotic fish surround Antigua, making it popular for diving and snorkelling. The biggest reef, Cades Reef, off the southwestern coast, hosts an eclectic variety of marine wildlife, from parrotfish to (friendly!) sharks. On the island’s opposite end, wade into Stingray City to swim with the most gentle underwater creatures. If you’re travelling with tots, they’re bound to love these unique close encounters with stingrays! For the more adventurous, the mysterious waters of Deep Bay beckon you to discover the shipwreck of The Andes, a merchant ship lying at the bottom of the bay since 1905.
See the Sights
Once a formidable naval base under the command of the British Admiral Nelson, Nelson’s Dockyard delivers a dose of history in a gorgeous setting surrounded by blooming, green hills and turquoise waves. A UNESCO World Heritage site, the 18th-century marina now houses restaurants and shops for you to indulge in. Experience local island life in the capital city of St. John’s where colonial architecture meets modern buildings coloured in vibrant, tropical shades. Head to the Public Market on Saturdays for the best home-grown produce (tiny pineapples!) and authentic arts and crafts.
Where to stay
Family fun awaits at the Verandah Resort & Spa, one of our faves from our Play collection. Kids’ pool? Supervised clubs? Tons of activities? You name it, they’ve got it. Whether you’re joining in on playtime or focusing on me-time, you’ll be doing it in an idyllic, waterfront setting. Imagine a sprawling family resort surrounding a private and peaceful blue cove. Your very own paradise oasis? We think so!
Great for Grown-Ups
A quarter-mile of fine, white sand and acres of diverse, lush gardens make the Pineapple Beach Club, part of our Spotlight collection, our ideal tropical hideaway. Pamper yourself at the spa or take on the sea with complimentary kayaking, windsurfing or snorkeling. If romance is in the cards, honeymooners could do worse than this blissful beach backdrop. Oh, and did we mention happy hour? It lasts all day, served up chilled like your cocktail of choice, at one of the beachfront bars.
Start planning! Oh, and maybe swimsuit shopping? Hot travel tip: check Air Canada Vacations for the best prices on Antigua vacation packages (trust us!).