A holiday in Antigua
365 BEACHES - ONE FOR EACH DAY OF THE YEAR
Photos of the beautiful beaches of Antigua (Jolly Bay, Jolly Harbour, Darkwood Bay, Ffryes Beach, Turner's Beach, Valley Church Bay, English Harbour, Shirley Heights, St John, Deep Bay, Fort Barrington National Park, Devils Bridge, Green Island, Dickenson Bay, Sting Ray City, Paradise Reef, Coco hotel, Sugar Ridge hotel and Carmichael's bar
It is said that Antigua has 365 beaches - one for each day of the year. I am not sure that is entirely true, but one thing is certain: Antigua has dozens - probably more than 100 - beautiful sandy beaches, coves and bays. Some are made of sand, some are made of tiny coral and shell fragments and yet on some others the sand is so soft and lush, your feet actually sink in it. What also impressed us in Antigua is that it's beaches are literally litter-free and cigarette butt-free - in contrast to some European beaches where there are more cigarette butts than sand....
We visited Antigua in November / December 2015 and we explored most major beaches and places of interest: Jolly Bay, Jolly Harbour, Darkwood Bay, Ffryes Beach, Turner's Beach, Valley Church Bay, English Harbour, Shirley Heights, St John, Deep Bay, Fort Barrington National Park, Devils Bridge, Green Island, Dickenson Bay, Sting Ray City, Paradise Reef, Coco hotel, Sugar Ridge hotel and Carmichael's bar.
We also did a circumnavigation of the entire island which allowed as a view, sometimes closer and sometimes more distant, of almost all beaches of the island. However, we did not have all the time in the world and unfortunately we missed among other highlights, Cades Reef, Galley Bay, the forest zip-lining adventure, the Sheer Rocks restaurant and the island of Barbuda. Next time, a visit to those places, plus a helicopter tour are on schedule.
Antigua and barbuda: the "Land of sea and sun"
The weather in November/December is what the locals call "the good season", as it is the cooler time of the year with temperatures ranging from 23-28º Celsius! During our stay (9 days) we had a couple of days when it rained for a few hours, a couple of days with solid sunshine, and plenty of days with intermittent sunshine / cloud cover, which can actually produce either very dramatic or very flat photographs, as you can see below.
Being in Antigua on the intermediate season means that you can enjoy all Antigua has to offer without droves of other tourists, and the associated queues, early pre-booking for activities etc. The high season (the "bad season" for the locals) starts from mid-December and the very hot / very sunny weather can be experienced from March to June. From July to November (the "hurricane season") the weather is still warm / hot and not very rainy, but a hurricane storm may occasionally occur. However this does not happen very often (once every about ten years).
The hospitable people of Antigua make a visit to this island all the more rewarding. Our holiday started in the best note, with a fun Antiguan welcome with steel drums at the modern, brand new and squeaky clean airport.
Antigua's night soundtrack
Antigua's nights are magical, courtesy of the hypnotic music played by crickets in concert with the Antigua tree frogs
OUR ANTIGUAN ADVENTURE
During our stay we visited a few beaches by car and several others by taking part in boat tours - one circumnavigating the entire island by a very powerful large speedboat (the 8-hour Eli's "Extreme Circumnav" boat tour) and one visiting several Antiguan highlights on the Caribbean side of the island by a beautiful and powerful hydrofoil (the 4-hour "Sea Escape" boat tour). We preferred those two companies, as they are known not to cram too many people on their tours, and for their very good overall reputation - and we did not regret it.
During the Extreme Circumanavigation tour we visited Jolly Harbour, St John, English Harbour, Sting Ray City, Dickenson Bay, Green Island, Devils Bridge, Hercules Pillars and got a glimpse of many small islands and countless coves and bays, including the famous Jumby Bay island. During the Sea Escape tour we visited Deep Bay, Fort Barrington National Park, Paradise Reef, Dickenson Bay and also got a glimpse of numerous beaches and bays.
All photos were taken with a Sony A65 and a Carl Zeiss Vario Sonnar 16-80 f3.5-4.5 lens, at 6000x4000px resolution, reduced here to 750x500px for easy loading.
Darkwood beach is one of our most favourite Antiguan beaches: it's long, wide, quiet, clean, with crystal clear waters and served by a small bar which serves anything from ice cold beers to lobster. What else can one ask? As an extra bonus, during our stay we were fortunate to experience on Darkwood Bay and Ffryes Beach millions of butterflies flying from the south side of the beach to the north, throughout the day and throughout the entire week :)
SEA ESCAPE TOURS
A few pics of the marvellous Sea Escape vessel with the glass bottom
Beautiful, quite beach, off to the small but awesome Barrington Fort National Park, visited via Sea Escape Tours). We visited Antigua on a national holiday, and the locals took advantage to enjoy Deep bay, as seen in some of these photos.
On of the best Antiguan beaches, Jolly Bay is wide, long and has white sand and azzure waters. Cocos hotel is on the south part of the beach. Jolly Harbour Beach and Castaway Bar are on the north side of the beach.
Some of the best views in Antigua can be had from the all inclusive Cocos hotel, between Jolly bay and Valley Church Bay. A feast for the eyes!
Devil's bridge is an impressive rock formation on the Atlantic coast of Antigua (visited via Eli's Extreme Circumnav Tours)
Sugar ridge hotel
Beautiful hotel on the hill near Jolly Harbour and free shuttles to Jolly beach, Turner's beach, Ffryes beach, Valley church bay and Darkwood beach :)
Carmichael's bar, restaurant and pool, at Sugar Ridge hotel
In addition to two pools at the bottom of the hill, Sugar Ridge has Carmichael's, a fabulous pool bar on top of the hill, with views to Jolly harbour, the most amazing sunsets and great Pina Coladas. Couldn't ask for more :)
Valley church bay
Beautiful long beach with white sand made of tiny fragments corals and sea shells. Served by The Nest bar. Cocos hotel is on the north side of the beach.
Every Sunday, and during the busy season, every Thursday, there is a party taking place at Shirley heights, with grilled food, cold beers, rum punch, a steel band and live reggae and pop music until late at night. Happy times!
Green island (visited via Eli's Extreme Circumnav Tours)
Green island is one of the several small off shore islands of Antigua - beautiful and unspoilt
Yet another beautiful long beach on the Caribbean side of the island, with Dennis' bar to serve you cocktails and bar food. The week we visited Antigua we enjoyed a beautiful butterfly storm at Ffryes & Darkwood beaches
Jolly harbour is a small cute “village” in the east (Caribbean) side of Antigua, with a port, a large supermarket, restaurants, bars, shops, villas, rooms to rent and the homonymous beautiful beach.
Sting ray city (visited via Eli's Extreme Circumnav Tours)
At Sting Ray City you have the opportunity to swim with sting rays, pet sting rays or simply enjoy the deeply coloured emerald waters. Pure bliss!
Jolly harbour beach
Long, quite stretch of beach, just off Jolly harbour. Served by Castaway bar on it's southern (busier) end.
Rendez-vous beach (visited via Eli's Extreme Circumnav tours)
On Rendez-vous beach your feet will sink deep in the most luxuriously soft sand you've ever stepped on
English Harbour and Nelson's Dockyard (VISITED VIA ELI'S EXTREME CIRCUMNAV TOURS)
English harbour, and the nearby Falmouth harbour) are home to some impressive yachts. English harbour itself is also home to Nelson’s Dockyard, used without interruption for more than two centuries!
Saint John is the capital of Antigua and where all cruise ships dock