Travel: Antigua & Barbuda

Antigua English Harbor

Winter tends to be colder and longer in Maine than in other places where we’ve lived.  We always are well stocked with firewood, food, wine and have indoor projects and books to read that keep us busy.  Still, a warm weather break is something to which we look forward.  Our favorite destination was always St. John, USVI, but the island was devastated by Hurricanes Irma and Maria last year and is still struggling to rebuild.  Thus, we’ve been exploring other Caribbean destinations and selected Antigua for this year’s getaway. Had we known more about the coronavirus situation at the time, we might have cancelled our trip.  Luckily we had a great time and came home in good health.

Fort Barrington

The view from Fort Barrington

Originally known as “Wadadli” by the native population, the island is located in the West Indies and is approximately 11 miles wide by 14 miles long. was renamed Antigua by Christopher Columbus in 1493. In 1632 a group of English colonists left St. Kitts and established the first permanent British settlement in Antigua which rapidly developed into a profitable sugar colony. Betty’s Hope, Antigua’s first full-scale sugar plantation was so successful that other planters turned from tobacco to sugar and imported slaves to work the sugar cane crops. However, the American War of Independence disrupted the sugar trade in the late 18th century and Great Britain abolished slave trade in 1807.  Today, tourism is the primary industry

The irregular shoreline offers over 300 white sand beaches (nearly one for every day of the year) and is ringed by coral reefs which provide excellent snorkeling and scuba diving. Abandoned British forts are scattered around the island (we liked the hike up to Fort Barrington), one of which protected English Harbor, the site of a restored British Colonial naval station. “Nelson’s Dockyard” was named after Lord Admiral Horatio Nelson who made the island his home base in the 1780s. The dockyard houses an excellent marine museum and a marina that caters to super-yachts.  The Antigua Yacht Club nearby hosts “Sailing Week” each year – one of the top regattas in the world.

Antigua Yacht Club

There are numerous all inclusive resorts along the white sand beaches of Antigua, but Craig and I have always enjoyed sampling the local cuisine in small cafes, so we opted for a boutique hotel sans meals.  We stayed at the Buccaneer Beach Club on Dickinson Beach which was set in a tropical garden with a free form pool. The hotel features 16 apartment-style rooms and two larger cottages.  We liked the fact that we had a kitchen and could prepare our own coffee and breakfast each day before setting out to explore a new beach.

Besides spending our time on the beach or exploring the forts, we managed to do a little hiking. There are a lot of hills on the island, with Mount Obama at being the highest at 1,319 ft. The hike from Wallings Dam to Signal Hill (elevation 1,198 ft) was great.  We started at the Wallings Nature Reserve and passed a zip line canopy tour venture along the way – something to try the next time we visit. The views at the top were magnificent!

The highlight of the trip for me, given my interest in food, was on Valentine’s Day when Craig signed us up for a Caribbean cooking class with Nicole’s Table (www.nicolestable.com)  A short drive from Dickenson’s Beach, Nicole and Adam’s house was perched on the top of the hills with views of the ocean. She served us her famous rum punch and put us to work preparing coconut chips, fried plantains, pineapple salsa, a sour cream lime dip, jerk chicken, plantain tostones, red beans and rice and delicious coconut tarts.  In addition, Nicole’s husband Adam gave us an introduction to rum class with tastings of rum from various Caribbean islands.  It was a fantastic experience.

We reluctantly returned after our two week vacation, but vowed to return.  Antigua is highly recommended.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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