Living the life: a guide to Antigua and Barbuda

Along the beaches, the lights of the resorts are coming on, the glasses are clinking, later the dancing will start. And you know at once that this is going to be good. Georgia Popplewell reports from St John’s

The sun is going down as the plane swoops low over St John’s towards the airport. Its golden light washes Antigua’s rolling hills, the brilliant beaches, the mill towers of the old plantations which still stud the landscape, the dramatic slopes of Boggy Peak.

If you had to invent the classic holiday island, it would probably turn out something like Antigua. Magnificent beaches of soft white sand ring the island — someone once said Antigua was a beach with an island in the middle, and that’s pretty much how it is. There’s great swimming and diving, sailing and watersports; there are fine restaurants, many of them on the waterfront; casinos where you can gamble the night away; dozens of outstanding hotels and resorts, from homely comfort to the last word in luxury; a summer Carnival which is one of the liveliest in the Caribbean; and one of the world’s biggest ocean racing tournaments. You can take to the sea in a pirate ship, and to the sky in a hot-air balloon or a helicopter. The north-east trade winds blow steadily to temper the heat; humidity is low. It doesn’t take too long to get there.

It sounds like paradise. Antigua’s visitors — close to half a million a year — think it is.

The largest of the Leeward Islands, Antigua lies on the north-east shoulder of the Caribbean island chain. Christopher Columbus (yes, him again) sailed by in 1493, and named it after a miraculous statue in Seville, but it was the English who first colonised it in the 1630s and turned it into a rich sugar-exporting island. Its gentle plains and low rolling hills are dotted with the old mills that used to service the plantations. In the south-west a steep volcanic ridge rears up, reaching 1,360 feet at Boggy Peak. Just over the horizon to the north is the sister island of Barbuda (with miles of deserted beaches and a unique bird sanctuary), while away to the south-west lies Antigua’s other sister, Redonda, only a mile long and uninhabited except by seabirds (though it has a king).

Antigua has come a long way from the days of sugar. Since the 1960s, it has transformed itself into a vacation haven, a magnet for millionaires seeking serenity under a tropical sun, and a rewarding playground for the rest of us — today, deep pockets are no longer a prerequisite. It has become one of the most popular of all warm-weather destinations: as fast as it can build new hotels and apartments and condominiums, visitors come to fill them up. It must be doing something right.

Great beaches and restaurants you can count on. But Antigua has developed a range of attractions for those who want more than the sun and the sea. Heritage sites like Betty’s Hope Estate, winner of the Islands magazine Ecotourism award, take you straight into a bygone age. In the cricket season, test matches and one-day internationals at the Antigua Recreation Ground excite serious cricket fans and bacchanalians alike (in the Caribbean neither necessarily excludes the other). The sailing season climaxes with Antigua’s biggest event, the renowned Sailing Week, where the spirit of competition and the spirit of celebration combine in seven glorious days of regattas and revelry centred around English Harbour.

There’s more merrymaking at the end of July into early August, this time to the fiery rhythms of soca and steelband in Antigua’s Carnival. In November, water and fire give way to air with the Hot Air Balloon Festival, one of the newest additions to Antigua’s calendar. Casinos and duty-free shopping beckon. Barbuda, a stone’s throw away, is a haven for birders and wildlife-watchers.

When to go?

Antigua receives most of its visitors in the high season between December and April. That’s when the weather is at its finest; it’s the time of the international cricket season and Sailing Week. But Antigua is drier than most other Caribbean islands, and is a good bet in the low season too. There’s a greater risk of rain, but lower accommodation rates, fewer crowds, and the extra greenness of the landscape, more than make up for the occasional shower, and these months have their fair share of interesting activities. Barbuda’s Caribana takes place in late May/early June; Carnival follows in late July. The Jolly Harbour Regatta happens in September, and the Hot Air Balloon Festival in October/November. The season is peppered with sporting activities, not to mention exhibitions at the Museum of Antigua and Barbuda and Harmony Hall.

So when to go? Any time.

There was a fine salty breeze blowing the day I arrived. Next to the airport was a vast construction site, where Texan millionaire Allen Stanford — already a big name in the banking sector — was building a Village Centre, which will incorporate a cricket ground for festival matches, a bowling alley, a multiplex, and a cricket hall of fame. The airport itself was being vastly expanded, with a new terminal and a parallel runway about to start construction. Things were moving.

At the Amaryllis Hotel, on the airport road, a pony-tailed youth in a surfing tee-shirt and jeans turned out to be Cid, my guide for a while. His father, hotel owner Cecil Wade, invited us into the bar for a drink and to watch a TV promotion for a new island beautification campaign.

Cid drove me west through St John’s and along the peninsula to the south, skirting the harbour. (Note to night owls: this is where you’ll find the ever-popular Ribbit Nightclub.) Across the water were the shops and restaurants of Redcliffe Quay, catamarans, a cruise ship, the new vendors’ market. There was a spareness about the landscape that was strangely comforting — large expanses of pastureland with wandering bands of sheep and goats, the Flashes salt pond, ancient sugar windmills. At the end of a road was the Hawksbill Beach Resort, exquisitely manicured and strung with casual grace along the length of its four beaches (one of which is clothing-optional).

Ah, these beaches. You really can’t go wrong in Antigua where sea, sun and sand are concerned. Coral and volcanic formations have endowed the island with reefs and coves to suit every taste. Watersports enthusiasts like Long Bay, on the eastern tip of the island, for its snorkelling and windsurfing, or Colonna Beach; surfers go for Galley Bay, not far from Hawksbill. In the south-east, perennial favourite Half Moon Bay is a breathtaking crescent of coral-white sand and blue Atlantic surf, well worth the circuitous drive, and is treasured for its remoteness and naturalness.

On the west coast, Jolly Beach is an exquisite expanse of pale turquoise, though the same could be said of any inlet along that stretch of coast. The north coast beaches like Runaway Bay, Discovery Bay and Jabberwock offer calm water as well as lively surf; Jabberwock is being outfitted with visitor facilities courtesy of Cable & Wireless.

One of the most popular cruises is aboard the Jolly Roger, a sturdy two-masted wooden schooner with billowing scarlet sails sporting the skull-and-crossbones. This is the biggest ship in Antigua, built in 1944 for the Swedish navy. The latter-day pirates who run the ship today expect you to drink deep of their pirate punch, dance to wild soca music, make short work of the pirates’ buffet lunch, work it off with a spot of rope-swinging, and possibly marry someone before the end of the voyage. Mutineers are expected to walk the plank.

Later we drove the length of the island, down to English Harbour. Along the way, Cid gave a running commentary on his likes (windsurfing, cars, girls, the sea at Long Bay) and dislikes (bad drivers and — uncharacteristically for an Antiguan — cricket). He told me the names of the villages we passed through: All Saints, Swetes, Liberta. Then he slowed down so I could take in the view of Falmouth Harbour as we descended Horsford Hill. Looming headlands, glistening water, a forest of masts.

It would take weeks to figure out everything that was going on in this south coast hotspot. A lot of sailing, for sure, but that was only the start of it. A few days later, for example, I met Louise Sandiford, who came to the Caribbean from London 12 years ago, and from a well-appointed one-room office runs Caribbean Crews, a company offering production and location services to overseas film crews shooting commercials and the occasional feature film. They were preparing to receive the crew of Longitude, a TV film starring Jeremy Irons, about the man who discovered longitude. Antigua was to serve as a stand-in for both Jamaica and Barbados. They wanted forest, and they wanted dry landscape. “People usually come here to shoot things with strong graphic qualities,” said Louise. “Scenes requiring blue blue sky or white white sand.”

Not that there’s much forest left. When Columbus arrived in 1493, he found a well-forested island, populated by Arawaks and Caribs; he named it Santa Maria de la Antigua, after the miracle-working saint of Seville, and went on his way.

It was sugar that made the bare Antiguan landscape what it is today. 139 years would pass before the island was successfully colonised, by Sir Thomas Warner in 1632. Antigua became an official British colony in 1667, and, with the arrival of the enterprising Christopher Codrington in 1684, the island was transformed into one of the Caribbean’s wealthiest sugar economies. 150 plantations, using slave labour, stripped away the forest and cleared the land for sugar cane and pastureland. The island produced bigger earnings for much of the 18th century than Britain’s North American colonies; Codrington could afford to divert some of his profits to endow the library at All Souls’ College, Oxford. Today, almost 100 of the sturdy stone plantation windmills remain standing, some of them transformed into picturesque shops and restaurants.

Betty’s Hope Estate near Pares village, opened in 1995 as a heritage site, was once part of the Codrington family’s vast holdings, and was named after his daughter. It has two mills, one of which has been restored to working order. The rest of the estate is still largely in ruins, though the arches of the boiling house survive, and a Visitors’ Centre offers information about recent activities and future plans. According to Catherine Christiansen, an archaeologist assigned to the project, excavation of 100,000 square feet will allow researchers to trace the evolution of the estate as it passed through the hands of several owners. Visitors can take part in the dig (making the project one of the Caribbean’s first ventures into cultural tourism). The Betty’s Hope “Turn Her In . . . Turn Her Out” Exhibition and Country Fair is held each February to raise funds.

The development of sites such as Betty’s Hope marks a shift in Antigua’s image: it is no longer primarily a sea-and-sand destination catering to the affluent. While the allure of sea and sand are undeniable, and while properties such as the St James’s Club, Curtain Bluff and the exclusive Jumby Bay island continue to attract the rich and famous, the island has developed a solid range of inland attractions, as well as reasonably-priced accommodation, especially on the north coast.

Another decisive change has been the Carnival, a promise of partying that has no connection with sea or sand.

In days long gone, Antigua’s Christmas season was the most festive time of the year. Planters drove into St John’s for the celebrations and dressed up in costumes like John Bull (mimicking an African witch-doctor) or Highlanders in kilts and peacock headpieces. The Christmas characters in time became Carnival ones; moko jumbies prowled the streets on their tall stilts, and the long ghost was so tall he could look into first-floor windows and scare the occupants. The festival absorbed influences from Trinidad (calypso, pan, soca). Several Antiguan calypsonians have made names for themselves over the years, including King Short Shirt, King Obstinate, The Mighty Swallow, Chalice, Onyan.

Now Antigua’s Carnival is held in the summer to coincide with the August 1 anniversary of the 1834 emancipation (Barbuda holds its own Caribana in May). The parade begins in the early hours with J’ouvert, where people can play traditional carnival under cover of darkness. Later in the day, the streets are invaded by bands of brilliantly costumed revellers, tourists and locals alike, and spectators who line the streets. The party goes on till midnight the next day.

Thursday is “touris’ day” in St John’s, when three or four cruise ships nose their way into the sheltered harbour. They dwarf the little town and the waterfront buildings, towering over the narrow streets, like a pod of whales being welcomed by tadpoles. They bring with them a festive air: many stores stay open late, the duty-free area perks up even more than its usual bright and busy self, and hundreds of visitors swarm the streets, searching out the best in restaurants, bars, beach tours and bargains.

St John’s is a small city, with the “Big Church” commanding its heights. Old buildings, many of them 19th-century, line the busy streets. Broad avenues run east to west, and are crossed by narrower north-south streets, many of them one-way to ease the flow of traffic. The streets and sidewalks are full of heckling and fun-talk. “Ay sexy man, where I know you from?” someone calls to a man strutting across an intersection. He grins.

I browsed through the air-conditioned Heritage Quay, strategically placed to attract disembarking cruise-ship passengers with its range of duty-free temptations (it even has a casino), and wandered with the other visitors through Redcliffe Quay, a mix of old and new, with more duty-free shops and a wide range of other goodies on offer. These were the old parts of town — Redcliffe Quay was once a slave-holding area with stone warehouses — now restored and buzzing with little restaurants and boutiques. Later, I strolled around the market, which turned out to be as much of a social centre as a trading place. It was Friday evening, and the place was offering local specialities like goat water, conch and bull-foot soup. Antiguan food is hearty: dumpling, meat and beans are the base of many favourite dishes.

Gwendolyn Tonge’s house on Old Parham Road was one place to understand this. A stream of friends and relatives dropped by as we chatted on the porch about Antiguan food. “Sweet potato, yam — those are the things that are really Antiguan,” she said. “Sunday morning breakfast was saltfish, eggplant, plantain and bakes. Christmas it was stew pork for us, and dumpling. On Christmas morning very early in the villages, you’d hear the pigs squealing.”

Mrs Tonge knows something about Antiguan food. A former Home Economics teacher and government Senator, she’s been hosting Cooking Magic, a cooking show on Antiguan television, for 30 years. She and her sidekick, comedian Clarence Elmes, had dedicated that week’s episode to the memory of Antigua’s first Prime Minister V. C. Bird, preparing traditional dishes like pepperpot, man soup and fungee. “I was brought up to use what was around us,” she said.

That rule holds good in many of Antigua’s restaurants. Home, in Lower Gambles, has the reputation for using only the freshest market ingredients; there’s wholesome Caribbean-style food at the Commissioner Grill, The Hub, and Joe Mike’s. But there is no shortage of international cuisine as well: Europe is well represented by establishments such as Chez Pascal, Le Bistro, and Coconut Grove. Chutney’s has an Indian menu, and the largest selection of vegetarian specialties. Fresh seafood is available almost everywhere.

Africa has a lot to do with Antigua’s cuisine. Most Antiguans are descended from Africans transported across the Atlantic in the 17th and 18th centuries, and it is their character that gives Antigua its special flavour. They love oration, music and sport; their accent echoes the Akan-speaking parts of West Africa.

Look, for instance, at the game of warri (pronounced warree) that is loudly played in bars and on street corners, and by taxi-drivers waiting for business at the airport or taxi-stands. Warri is instantly recognisable by visitors from Africa, where it is usually played in holes carved out of the ground, one player trying to get the other’s seeds. The Antiguan game is played on a wooden board, with the seeds replaced by rounded wooden nichols. But it is the same game. Versions of it are found all over Africa as well as in the Middle and Far East and India. Watching, you soon realise that word-play is as important as tactical skills in winning. Antiguan Trevor Simon is the reigning world champion of warri. He won the title in London in 1998 and retained it at this year’s tournament last August.

It is the flavour of life that matters more than specific attractions in St John’s — but there are some things you should make a point of seeing. Peaceful and cool, the beautiful Anglican cathedral of St John the Divine with its majestic twin towers can be seen from all over the city. “Big Church”, as it has been called by generations of Antiguans, was first built of wood in 1681 on the orders of the inescapable Christopher Codrington, the governor of the day. Here the island’s planters came to pray — slaves were not allowed. The church was replaced in 1722, then destroyed by an earthquake in 1843; the present stone building that went up in its place was consecrated in 1848, and has a fine wooden interior. There are some interesting memorial stones, and the two St Johns (the Baptist and the Divine), stand atop pillars at the south gate.

The Museum of Antigua and Barbuda is in the old Court House building at Long and Market Streets. Also built of stone, this is the oldest building still in use in St John’s (1747-50). The Museum has a permanent collection of artefacts including relics from the original Arawak inhabitants, and stages a series of enterprising monthly exhibitions.

The eclectic interactive displays on the ground floor cram a surprising amount of information into a relatively small space, and cover the country’s history from pre-Columbian times to the present day. The computer records (family history, monument inscriptions) can be searched by visitors.

Elsewhere, the National Archives have useful family and government records. Cricket fans might get a kick out of driving down Viv Richards Street, where the Master Blaster’s childhood home still stands. Just outside the city are the 18th-century ruins of Fort James with its formidable cannons and a good view of the city; Fort Barrington stands on the other side of the harbour. The Cenotaph on High Street is a memorial to Antiguans who died in a later war (1914-18).

It’s impossible to stand at Dow’s Hill or Shirley Heights looking down at English Harbour and Nelson’s Dockyard, and not feel the past all around you.

Two centuries ago, Antigua was a strategic naval base in the struggle between Britain and France for control of the Caribbean. It was one of the most heavily fortified places in the world. Its windward position made it even more important than the other big British base in the Caribbean, Port Royal in Jamaica.

In 1784, a young naval captain called Horatio Nelson was based here, as commander of the Northern Division of the Leeward Islands Station. One of his jobs was to ensure that sanctions against England’s enemies were upheld: it was a task he did all too well, for many settlers preferred to trade freely wherever they liked; Nelson was not the most popular man on the island (though he married a lively young widow from nearby Nevis before going on to glory and victory as Admiral Lord Nelson).

Today, English Harbour and Nelson’s Dockyard showcase both Antigua’s history and its modern status as a yachting centre. The harbour on the south coast remains one of the Caribbean’s finest, and the Dockyard has been lovingly restored. The world’s only surviving example of a Georgian naval dockyard, it is one of the Caribbean’s most complete and interesting historical monuments, incorporating a hotel (the old Copper and Lumber Store), the Admiral’s Inn, an art centre, restaurants and shops. It is also the focal point of Antigua’s two biggest regattas, Antigua Sailing Week and the Classic Yacht Regatta.

High above the harbour and the dockyard are the massive fortifications which the British built on Shirley Heights. On the way up the hill, Clarence House is worth a visit — this is where the future King William IV stayed when he was a midshipman in 1780s. The substantial remains of the 18th-century fort still stand on the hill’s summit; the officer’s quarters now house a restaurant, and the view is one of the best in the Caribbean.

The whole area has been designated a National Park. The Dow’s Hill Interpretation Centre, just off the road approaching Shirley Heights, has an impressive sound and light show that tells the whole story. Things are at their liveliest in the yachting season (November-May) when boating types from the world over moor their vessels in the harbours. Every Sunday evening there’s a public party at the Shirley Heights Lookout: barbecue, live band, and an appealing mix of locals and visitors. Not to be missed.

Out in the Antiguan countryside, time seems to have stood still. Families of sheep, cows and goats wander around, donkeys carry people on their backs or chew quietly on the grass. The old mill towers doze in the sun. You can see an occasional coal-burning oven.

Antigua’s population is only about 67,000, nearly half of which lives in St John’s. Outside the capital, the older villages sprang up after Emancipation, around Moravian and Methodist chapels. And every village name carries a story. Liberta (the largest settlement after St John’s) and Freeman’s Village were the first to be established by ex-slaves leaving the plantations. Bendals and Old Road are the names of sugar estates. Parham was the first English settlement and Antigua’s first port; it still has remnants of Georgian buildings, and its centrepiece is the spectacular St Peter’s Church, dating from 1840s, which has a unique octagonal shape.

Hardly anywhere in Antigua is more than half an hour’s drive from St John’s. Hidden away among the hills of the south-east and overlooking beautiful Nonsuch Bay, Harmony Hall is Antigua’s main art gallery, with permanent and seasonal exhibitions of painting, craft and photographs by local and Caribbean artists. There’s a shop, swimming pool, bar and restaurant beside the old mill tower, and a jetty for those arriving by sea.

Sea View Farm Village is the centre of the Antiguan folk pottery industry, which dates back as far as the early 18th century. The clay is collected from area pits and the pieces are fired in open fires beneath layers of green grass in the yards of potter’s houses. The pottery can be purchased in the village and in stores around the island.

Indian Town National Park, on the eastern extremity of the island, is believed to have been an Arawak settlement. Devil’s Bridge, a natural limestone arch on the shoreline, offers one of the most dramatic sights on the island, especially at high tide, when the lively Atlantic forces spectacular geysers of spray through boreholes in the rocks.

Your drives will also take you around the northern coast with its concentration of hotels; eastwards to Potworks Dam (the island’s main reservoir), Mango Bay and Half Moon Bay, westwards to Deep Bay and Galley Bay, south to Falmouth and Mamora Bay. In the south-west, Fig Tree Drive is a picturesque road running between Swetes and St John’s, hugging the coast as it curls behind the hills (you can hike up Boggy Peak). It passes the Culture Shoppe, a roadside kiosk with crafts and refreshments, and the vast resort of Jolly Harbour, with its Mediterranean-style hotel and apartments, marina and 18-hole golf course, restaurants and shopping complex. Spread over 500 acres, Jolly Harbour is owned by the widow of Swiss entrepreneur Dr Alfred Erhart; the marina has space for 150 boats, the sports centre has a 25-metre pool as well as tennis, basketball and squash courts, and most of the homes, stretching out into the water on long fingers of land, can moor a boat outside their front door.

You can see the whole island in a few minutes, and with a glorious bird’s eye view, if you take a tour with Caribbean Helicopters — they do volcano tours of Montserrat as well as Antigua tours. In fact, Antigua is a great hub for short trips to neighbouring islands — St Kitts, Nevis, St Maarten, French Guadeloupe and St Barths, Dutch Saba and St Eustatius. Not to mention Antigua’s own sibling. Carib Aviation makes day trips to several of these islands and even to Montserrat on volcano sight-seeing charters.

Twenty-seven miles north of Antigua, a 15-minute flight from V. C. Bird International Airport, the sister island, Barbuda, is only 62 miles square, 14 miles by eight, and flat as a pancake. It is one of the last remaining “unspoiled” islands: deer, guinea fowl and wild pigs roam freely among the scrubby vegetation. It is also home to thousands of Frigatebirds that nest in the mangrove of Codrington Lagoon and Man-of-War Island, a few feet from the water — it is easy to watch them up close, since they are not afraid of humans.

Barbuda is surrounded by reefs, on which perhaps 200 ships have sunk over the years; which makes for excellent snorkelling and scuba diving. Palaster Reef is an important marine reserve. But Barbuda’s greatest glory is its 17 miles of beautiful beaches, coloured a delicate pink by the coral; you can walk for hours and barely see another human being. The beach at Coco Point is one of the most beautiful in the Caribbean.

Almost all Barbuda’s inhabitants live in the capital, Codrington, named after you-know-who. Codrington is said to have carried out breeding experiments in Barbuda to produce the tallest, strongest slaves he could engineer. Highland House, now in ruins, is believed to have been built by the Codrington family in the 1720s: there is a large complex of buildings, and the view is breathtaking.

Barbuda has two very exclusive resorts which cater to the rich, the royal and the famous (no casual visitors allowed), but there are also houses for rent and a small hotel in Codrington.

Getting to Barbuda is easy, but it takes a braver soul to reach the smallest island in the Antiguan trinity.

Redonda is a rocky islet 35 miles south-west of Antigua, uninhabited except by goats, lizards and birds (its only natural resource is guano, which an ill-fated entrepreneur tried for a while to trade). Named by Columbus after a church in Cadiz, it remained unmolested until 1865 when Matthew Shiell, an Irish trader from Montserrat, euphoric after the birth of his son, claimed it as his kingdom. Redonda was still seven years away from being annexed by Britain, and Sheill’s claim survived: the title passed in time to his son, who became a mildly successful novelist before he died in 1947, appointing the English poet John Gawsworth to succeed him. Gawsworth enjoyed his monarchy from a distance, and hit on the idea of conferring aristocratic titles on his literary friends; he created a “court” that included the publisher Victor Gollancz, and writers like Dorothy Sayers, Ellery Queen, J. B. Priestley and Lawrence Durrell. This got a bit out of hand, and since Gawsworth died in 1970 the succession has been disputed. But that, after all, has always been the nature of kingship.

Sport of all sorts has become part of Antigua’s attraction. It is a big centre for watersports — game fishing, jet skiing, scuba and deep-sea diving, snorkelling, windsurfing. The Caribbean coast is generally calm, while the Atlantic coast is ideal for surfing. There are barrier reefs around much of the island: the diving is mostly shallow, up to 60 feet, except below Shirley Heights (110 feet) and Sunken Rock (122 feet). Cades Reef, Sandy Island Reef, Horseshoe Island, Barracuda Alley and Little Bird Island are popular dive sites, and there are several wrecks, especially in Deep Bay.

Sailing Week, which has been in existence since 1967, remains one of the most important events of the island’s calendar. Now the fifth largest regatta in the world, it attracts hundreds of yachts and thousands of competitors from around the globe. The partying is as exciting as the racing. Some of the hottest events take place during Lay Day: for the Non-Mariners Race, flimsy vessels whose components must cost less than $100 take to the water — some sink right away, but one eventually chugs its way to the finishing line. There are greasy pole contests, sack and three-legged races; the Week ends with the presentation of prizes and the very grand Lord Nelson Ball.

Antiguans say you’ve never seen cricket until you’ve seen it in Antigua. The game is played in villages and beaches all around the island: children start playing bat-and-ball early. The island has produced great cricket heroes like former West Indies captains Viv Richards and Richie Richardson, fast bowlers Andy Roberts and Curtly Ambrose, Kenneth Benjamin, Eldine Baptiste and Winston Benjamin. International cricket matches at the Antigua Recreation Ground (ARG to locals) are some of the most popular events in the region, with top-class sporting action (Brian Lara scored his world record 375 here in 1994) plus non-stop partying, thanks to deejay Chickie’s Hi-Fi and characters like Gravy, the cross-dressing cheerleader who entertains the crowd during intervals. Chickie even recalls a time when a match was rained out but people went on partying all day.

Cricket has occupied an important place in the life of most of the former British colonies. Antigua’s most celebrated player, Viv (now Sir Vivian) Richards, who in early 1999 was named “best player of our time” by Wisden Cricket Monthly, was one of the most instinctive and flamboyant players the game has ever seen. The bat with which he scored what was then the fastest ever century is immortalised on a wall at the Museum of Antigua and Barbuda. On hand for the inaugural ceremony of the Caribbean Windball Cricket Tournament at the ARG, Sir Viv, true to form, managed to weave into his opening address an anecdote involving a female fan who ran naked onto the pitch and asked him to sign an autograph. After he retired from cricket, Viv went to Brunei to coach the Sultan — the richest man in the world before the rise of Bill Gates — in cricket and tennis. Richards’s son Mali is an up-and-coming cricket talent, and Ridley Jacobs, whom I finally tracked down on the site of the house he was building in his home village of Swetes, is wicket-keeper and opening batsman for the West Indies.

The Caribbean Cricket Centre, which opened at Club Antigua in 1997, is the first of its kind in the region, incorporating a field, changing rooms, and six grass practice nets. A stone’s throw from the Centre’s pitch is Jolly Beach, one of Antigua’s most exquisite expanses of white sand and blue water — not even Lord’s could compete with that. The Centre offers vacation packages and hosts several cricket tours every year, mainly school and club teams from the UK. It’s also the venue for some of the West Indies team’s training camps; Centre Director Mark Harper showed me photos of the team doing sit-ups on the beach.

Antigua is as passionate about music as it is about cricket.

One day I met Oungku (Clarence Edwards), who leads local soca kings Burning Flames. We drove out to The Pitch, a local hangout in Shell Beach, talking about Carnival, music, and his schism with his brother Onyan, who left the group to go solo a couple of years ago.

In The Pitch’s beachside bar area, a group of people looked up from their plates of curry goat. One of them, a man wearing a gold lace top and a stocking cap like he’d had a jump start on Carnival, leapt up and bounded towards us. He grabbed Oungku’s hand and demanded a ball-by-ball on the band’s latest tour (New York, Connecticut, Florida). A man who appeared to be the proprietor approached. “No CDs?” he said. Oungku dipped into my bag and pulled out the CD he’d just given me, promising me another. The man took it and handed Oungku a $50 bill. Oungku refused, some complicated discussion ensued, and finally the man pressed the $50 into my hands. “Use it to buy drinks,” Oungku whispered.

Over Wadadlis and Guinness, I learned the Burning Flames’ story.

They started as a rock band, “four little boys from Potters”: Oungku, his brothers Onyan and Crocus, and their nephew Foxx. “A hard-core rock band,” Oungku said, “smashing the instruments, burning guitars, wigs, tights, pretty jacket. You know, the whole works. People used to say that Burning Flames is good, but we can’t play soca.”

The group recorded its first soca tune, Left To Right Stylee Tight, in 1985, on a 4-track home studio. At the time they were working with Arrow (of Hot, Hot, Hot fame). They went away on tour and, passing back through Antigua on their way to Jamaica, they noticed people pointing fingers at them. “The song was number one,” Oungku said, “but we didn’t know, because we didn’t even know they were playing it on the radio.”

They recorded a second song, Bogle, then a third, and ended up winning the Road March that year. People didn’t believe they could do it again, but they did, in 1986.

It was in 1990, with Workey Workey, that Burning Flames’s fame began to spread across the region. People liked the fast-paced style and high-pitched vocals. “They used to say, soon as they hear about Burning Flames: oh, them music too fast,” said Oungku. “It wasn’t the regular, ordinary, Antiguan-type rhythm, Short Shirt and stuff. There was a lot of rock influence in the melody lines.”

Today, now that soca in Trinidad has picked up the pace, Oungku figures the Flames were ahead of their time. In 1999 they collaborated with fellow hyperactives Machel Montano and Xtatik on Showdown, one of the hits of the Carnival season in Trinidad. At the same time, they have been going back to their roots and exploring some of the more traditional musical styles. In 1998 they did a few songs in the traditional Antiguan benna style, and 1999’s delightful Goat In The Garden is a lilting Dominican-style cadance

The 1999 album is called Hokuspokus. Caribbean competition these days is hot, and Oungku said he designed it specially to help the band recover from the trauma caused by Onyan’s departure. “The future of Flames is to stabilise,” he said. “This is a special magic potion to bring us right back to the forefront of soca.”

I ended my Antiguan sojourn at Mango Bay, on the island’s eastern tip.

There are few pleasures in life which can beat the feel of gliding through the silky azure water of Antigua, the sun on your body. You emerge healthy, strong, refreshed. Perhaps that’s Antigua’s greatest treasure.

As I drove away that morning, past the scrub hedges and low stone walls which conceal houses in this secluded part of the island, I caught a glimpse of a patch of heart-stopping colour. To call it blue would be to miss the point. It was sea the way Antigua knows how to do it: blue blue, and in the distance, the white white sand of the beach.

 


Visitor’s Antigua

How to get there

BWIA flies to Antigua from Miami, Washington, New York, Toronto, London and Caribbean destinations. V. C. Bird International Airport is five miles (8 km) from the capital, St John’s. There is an airport departure tax of EC$25 for Antiguan citizens; EC$35 for CARICOM nationals; EC$50 for non-CARICOM citizens.

Basics

Area: Antigua 108 square miles/442 sq. km., Barbuda 62 square miles/161sq. km.

Highest point: Boggy Peak, 1,330ft/399m

Population: 67,000

Religion: Protestant 74%, Catholic 11%

Currency: East Caribbean dollar (EC$, 2.7 to the US$)

Language: English

Time: Atlantic Standard Time (EST+1, GMT-4)

Per capita GNP: $6,970

Climate: tropical; temperature range 23-30°C; rainfall 45 inches per year, mostly September to November

Electricity: 110 and 220v

History: settled by Siboney c.2400BC, Arawaks 35-1100AD, Caribs. Prospective Spanish and French settlers deterred by lack of water and Carib attacks. Successful English settlement 1632. First major plantation 1674. Administered as part of Leeward Islands until 1959. British Associated State 1967, independent 1981

Government: constitutional monarchy within the Commonwealth, with the Queen as head of state. The Prime Minister (currently Lester Bird) is head of government; parliament consists of the House of Representatives (17 seats) and the Senate (17 seats). The Barbuda Council has 9 seats. Regular democratic elections have been held since 1946, most recently in 1999. The Antigua Labour Party, headed by Vere Bird and (since 1994) his son Lester, has been in office since 1951 except for 1971-6

Economy: based on sugar in colonial times; since 1960 this has been replaced by services, mainly tourism and offshore banking, with some light industry. There is no personal tax, capital gains tax, inheritance or wealth tax. Company tax is 40%, businesses/proprietorships 25.

TELECOMMUNICATIONS

  • Long distance: Antigua has direct dialling worldwide
  • Cell phone activation: to register for local cellular access, call 0 SND from your cell phone
  • E-mail and Internet access: Cyber Hut (behind Heritage Quay, opposite King’s Casino); Internet Connections (Upper High Street, St John’s); Parcel Plus (Redcliffe Quay); Cable & Wireless (Long Street, St John’s, and Falmouth Harbour)

BEACHES

You may not have time to check if there really are 365 beaches in Antigua, but almost anywhere you go, there’s bound to be a gorgeous white-sand beach edging into deep blue Caribbean water. Favourites include Dickenson Bay, Runaway Beach, Turner’s Beach, Morris Bay, Carlisle Bay, Pigeon Beach, Soldier’s Bay, Deep Bay, Trafalgar Beach, Galley Bay, Hawksbill (4 beaches), Half Moon Bay, Galleon Beach, Dark Wood Beach, Ffryes, Fort Beach, Jabberwock, Johnson’s Point, Jolly Harbour. Hawksbill Resort has the only beach on the island where clothes are optional.

BIRDS

There are 150 bird species in Antigua, including the Great Blue Heron, Red-billed Tropicbird and Magnificent Frigatebird. Hawksbill turtles nest on certain beaches.

DRIVING

  • Drive on the left
  • A local driving permit costs US$20
  • There are plenty of car rental companies. Public transport consists of shared taxis, private taxis (agree the price in advance), and limited bus service
  • Road signs: don’t depend on them. Ask directions and take along a map
  • Farm animals: are abundant and tend to jaywalk. Watch out for them on the roads.

FOOD AND DRINK

In addition to a range of fine restaurants (see Eating Out), smaller restaurants in St John’s provide good local cuisine including saltfish, pepperpot, goat water, shellfish, conch stew, chicken and rice. Fresh fruit includes the local black pineapple; there are good fruit juices, coconut milk, rum and rum punches, and local Wadadli beer. The Antigua Distillery produces some fine rums, including Cavalier and the premium English Harbour. Antigua has produced rum for nearly 200 years; Antigua Distillery was created in 1932 from a number of small producers, and plans to open its distillery to visitors in the near future.

FINANCIAL SERVICES

Given its excellent transportation links, sophisticated communications services and convenient time zone, Antigua’s offshore jurisdiction, established in 1982, makes it an ideal location for businesses and individuals seeking to safeguard and manage international assets. Individuals and companies can benefit from Antigua’s zero-tax jurisdiction, where funds can be confidentially maintained in offshore bank accounts. Personal banking is also available, and customers can manage accounts by fax and telephone. There are many benefits to be derived from forming an International Business Corporation (IBC) in Antigua. Swiss American Bank Ltd., Antigua Overseas Bank Ltd., and Stanford International Bank Ltd. are some of the establishments offering full international banking services.

Offshore facilities and international financial services are strictly regulated. There is a sound legal/regulatory environment backed by strong expertise and strict confidentiality. Except for a Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty with the US and UK covering criminal matters, there is no facility for exchange of information. Residency regulations are liberal.

FREE ZONE

The new Antigua Free Trade and Processing Zone, on a 100-acre site at Coolidge, seeks to develop export-led industry, especially high-tech services and light manufacturing. It offers investors preferential treatment and a wide range of incentives. These include 100% foreign ownership, repatriation of profits, no personal or corporate tax, offshore banking and insurance facilities, and exemption from import duties. Access to the international airport and deep-water harbour is easy, and there is high-quality infrastructural support, including telecommunications, local transport, social services and housing. Trade agreements give preferential access to markets in the US, Canada, the EU and the Caribbean. The Free Zone Institute of Training and Technology supplies training facilities.

REAL ESTATE

Antigua has a wide range of properties and developments catering to buyers in all income brackets. Apartments and villas are available in well-established developments like Antigua Village and Jolly Harbour. These offer amenities such as swimming pools and sporting and marina facilities. Residential developments such as The Peninsula and Cedar Valley Springs offer a variety of house layouts to choose from. Time shares remain a popular option, with participants purchasing a number of weeks at a selected property, which may also be exchanged for time in affiliate properties in other countries. If you prefer to buy a plot and build your own dream home from scratch, Antigua is well served with architects and construction professionals ready to offer their services. Property purchases by non-citizens must be approved by Cabinet, which is easier than it sounds — the government encourages investment, and permission is readily given once everything is in order. It takes three to six months to obtain permission to purchase property, though the process can be shortened with the help of a lawyer and a good real estate agent. Antigua has several reliable and professional agencies ready to help; they also offer property management services for owners wishing to do rentals.

SHOPPING

In St John’s: Heritage Quay, Redcliffe Quay, downtown (especially St Mary’s Street). Woods Centre on the outskirts of town is the island’s newest shopping centre, including the largest bookshop (Friars Hill Road). Duty-free items, fashions, crafts, paintings and rum are among the best buys.

TYING THE KNOT

Just think of the wedding photos! Unlike some other islands, Antigua has no waiting period for expatriate marriage licences, so a wedding can be arranged with minimal delay. Many hotels, including Blue Waters, Curtain Bluff, Galley Bay Resort, Hawksbill Beach Resort, Jolly Harbour, Mango Bay, Pineapple Beach Club, Rex Halcyon Cove and Sandals Antigua Resort and Spa have special wedding packages and will undertake all arrangements.

TOP PICKS

  • Florence Milliat (Chez Pascal): Half Moon Bay; boat trip from Harmony Hall for a day out with the family
  • Catherine Christiansen (Betty’s Hope Trust): Half Moon Bay
  • Richard Llewellyn (Chutney’s): trip to Prickly Pear Island; a deep-sea dive; Shirley Heights on a Sunday evening
  • Ridley Jacobs (West Indies and Antiguan wicketkeeper/batsman): his home village, Swetes. “I love it. I’ll never leave here really because everybody around here knows me, and people are really friendly. I feel well comfortable and relaxed right here.”

WEBSITES ABOUT ANTIGUA AND BARBUDA

www.antiguanice.com

www.antigua-barbuda.org.

www.antol.ag

www.interknowledge.com/antigua-barbuda/

www.turq.com/antigua/

www.sailingweek.com

SPORTS AND CRUISES

  • Watersports There’s no shortage of organised water-based activities in Antigua, from deep sea and sport fishing to cocktail and barbecue cruises. Choose from reef tours in glass-bottom boats, sailing, waterskiing, windsurfing, kayaking, parasailing, snorkelling, cocktail and barbecue cruises, catamaran trips, cruises to offshore islands. Regular Thursday racing is staged by the Antigua Yacht Club. Regattas include the Red Stripe Regatta (February), Jolly Harbour Regatta (September), and the Classic Regatta and Sailing Week (April). There are several marinas, charter fleets and fishing charters; watersports equipment can be hired at Dickenson Bay and through leading hotels. Catamaran operators such as Kokomo Cat Cruises and Wadadli Cats offer round-the-island trips with stop-offs at smaller islands such as Green Island and Bird Island.
  • Cricket This is the island that spawned Viv Richards, Andy Roberts, Richie Richardson and Curtly Ambrose — need we say more? Lovingly tended greens are the focal point of many an Antiguan village. The Antigua Recreation Ground has only been attracting Tests since 1981, but it’s one of the region’s best-appointed grounds and certainly one of the most lively venues in the cricketing universe, with a resident deejay and performances on the outfield by zany local characters. The Caribbean Cricket Centre at Club Antigua, a stone’s throw from one of the island’s best beaches, hosts cricket tours and training retreats for visiting teams, including the West Indies.
  • Cycling Bike rental and guided mountain bike tours are available.
  • Tennis Many hotels have tennis courts. At larger hotels (Royal Antiguan, Hodges Bay Club, St James’s Club), and at Temo Sports Complex at English Harbour and BBR Sportive at Jolly Harbour.
  • Golf There are two 18-hole championship courses, at Cedar Valley Golf Club and Jolly Harbour. Miniature golf is available at Putters Bar & Grill in Dickenson Bay. The Antigua Open is held at Cedar Valley in November.
  • Horseback riding Available through some hotels. Also at Spring Hill Riding Club near Rendezvous Bay, Charlie’s Horse Riding at Half Moon Bay, and Wadadli Riding Stables at Gambles Bluff.
  • Drag racing Fast growing in popularity — there’s a new track on which drivers compete with a wide variety of vehicles.
  • Hiking Organised hikes to historic sites and natural attractions can be arranged through the Historical and Archaeological Society. The Hash House Harriers arrange hikes off the beaten path.

EATING OUT

  • Chez Pascal (Galley Bay Heights)

One of the best views on the island, a romantic poolside setting, and exquisite food prepared by Lyonnais chef Pascal Milliat. Wife Florence is the charming host. The rack of lamb is to die for; the speciality of the house is grouper beurre blanc, but you can’t go wrong with anything on the menu, including the desserts (try the three-chocolate cake with raspberry sauce). Haitian President René Preval and James Bond star Timothy Dalton have eaten here. The Milliats have something special planned for New Year’s. Also a bed and breakfast.

  • Chutney’s ( Fort Road)

Proprietor Richard Llewellyn heads the only restaurant serving Indian food. There’s also a good selection of seafood and vegetarian dishes inspired by daughter Lydia, who’s a vegan and an up-and-coming artist. Her works are on display in an adjoining gallery and at other venues throughout the island. The décor incorporates railings and doors salvaged from old churches.

  • Hemingway’s (St Mary’s Street, St John’s)

Situated on the upper balcony of an elegant 19th-century wooden building smack in the middle of the main shopping area, Hemingway’s is the perfect stop for a relaxing meal during your tour of downtown St John’s.

  • Coconut Grove (Dickenson Bay)

It would be difficult to imagine a more perfect setting — among the palms at the water’s edge, Coconut Grove combines Caribbean ambience and fine French cuisine.

  • Le Bistro (Hodge’s Bay)

In business for 18 years, this top-rated French restaurant is located in an unassumin house. Chefs Patrick Gauducheau and Philippa Esposito prepare a tantalising selection of classic French dishes which earn them accolades in publications such as Gourmet magazine. Also featured on the Discovery Channel’s Best Chefs in the World programme.

  • Pizzas in Paradise (Redcliffe Quay)

Excellent pizzas, burgers, salads, subs and other high-quality fast food selections, served in the charming ambience of a rustic 18th-century warehouse. A popular hang-out for both locals and visitors. Live music on Thursday nights. Sister to the Big Banana restaurant at the airport.

  • Mango Bay Hotel (Dian Bay)

The beachside, thatched-roof dining-room is reason enough to pay a visit, but the food is worth it too. Chef Olivier Boucard offers an interesting cuisine combining the best of continental and Caribbean traditions.

  • Hawksbill Beach Resort (Five Islands)

There are two restaurants at this perfectly-sited resort on the Five Islands peninsula. The main restaurant specialises in Caribbean fare, and has both indoor and outdoor seating and live entertainment. The breezy beach restaurant offers daily specials, a light lunch menu and great desserts.

  • Amaryllis Hotel (near the airport)

The restaurant at this new airport hotel has earned itself a reputation for serving excellent down-home Antiguan fare, including the freshest seafood and local vegetables.

ENTERTAINMENT & NIGHTLIFE

The major hotels stage regular entertainment — dancing, calypso, pan, limbo, barbecues etc. — and there are good cinemas, nightclubs, discos and casinos.

  • Lashing’s, Dickenson Bay: on a Sunday, former West Indies captain Richie Richardson might be found playing cricket on the beach in 2his establishment’s informal Sunday league. In the Test season the visiting team can be seen here as well. Also Full Moon Parties with Chickie’s Hi-Fi
  • Miller’s By The Sea, Fort James: beachside bar/restaurant featuring live music nightly
  • Putter’s, at Dickenson Bay, is a pleasant spot for a game of miniature golf or a relaxing evening with friends
  • Ribbit Night Club, just outside St John’s: waterfront disco attracting a young, mixed audience
  • Shirley Heights Lookout: the place to be on a Sunday evening. Live band, barbecue, and a carnival atmosphere. Popular with both visitors and locals
  • Casinos: if gaming is your thing, Casino Riviera at Heritage Quay is the island’s largest. The St James’s Club also has an elegant casino.

HOTELS

The following are members of the Antigua Hotels and Tourist Association

ADMIRAL’S INN, English Harbour, PO Box 713

Tel. 460-1027, fax 460-1534

Ms Ethlyn Philip, Manager

ALLEGRO RESORT PINEAPPLE BEACH, Long Bay, PO Box 2000

Tel. 463-2006, fax 463-2452

Ms Tara Graviss, General Manager (AHTA Director)

AMARYLLIS HOTEL, Airport Road, PO Box 2624

Tel. 462-8690, fax 462-8691, 562-0375

Mr Cecil Wade, Owner (AHTA Director)

ANTIGUA BEACHCOMBER HOTEL, Coolidge, PO Box 1512

Tel. 462-3100, fax 462-4012

Mrs Sybil Walling, Manager

ANTIGUA VILLAGE CONDO BEACH RESORT, Dickenson Bay, PO Box 649

Tel. 462-2930, fax 462-0375

Mr Arthur Edmund, General Manager (AHTA Director)

BLUE WATERS ANTIGUA, Blue Waters, PO Box 256

Tel. 462-0290, fax 462-0293

Mr Keith Woodhouse, General Manager

COCOS ANTIGUA, Jolly Harbour, PO Box 2024

Tel. 460-2626, 464-3933, fax 462-9423

Mr Andrew Michelin, Director

CURTAIN BLUFF HOTEL, Old Road, PO Box 288

Tel. 462-8400, fax 462-8451, 462-8409

Mr Rob Sherman, Managing Director (AHTA Chairman)

DICKENSON BAY COTTAGES LTD., Dickenson Bay, PO Box 1379

Tel. 462-4940, fax 462-4941

Mr Peter Constance, General Manager

DOVE COVE, Runaway Bay, PO Box 2694

Tel. 462-0123, fax 462-5907

Mr Larry Gregory, Owner

Ms Lenora Haywood (tel. 463-8600, fax 463-8601)

FALMOUTH HARBOUR BEACH APARTMENTS, Falmouth Harbour, PO Box 713

Tel. 460-1027, fax 460-1534

Ms Ethlyn Philip, Manager

GALLEON BEACH CLUB, English Harbour, PO Box 1003

Tel. 460-1024, fax 460-1450

Mr Mark Boswell, General Manager

GALLEY BAY RESORT, Five Islands, PO Box 305

Tel. 462-0302, fax 462-4551

Mr Britton Foreman, General Manager

HALCYON HEIGHTS, Dickenson Bay, PO Box 1345

Tel. 462-5012, fax 462-7760

Mr Franklin Benjamin, General Manager

HAWKSBILL BEACH RESORT, Five Islands, PO Box 108

Tel. 462-0301, fax 462-1515

Mr Peter Ramrattan, General Manager

HBK VILLA RENTALS, Jolly Harbour Beach Resort, PO Box 1793

Tel. 462-6166, fax 462-6167

Mr Hans Kupin, Managing Director (AHTA Director)

HERITAGE HOTEL, Heritage Quay, St John’s, PO Box 1532

Tel. 462-1247, fax 462-1179

Mr Daniel Cadet, General Manager (AHTA Director)

JOE MIKE’S HOTEL, Nevis Street, St John’s, PO Box 136

Tel. 462-1142/3244, fax 462-6056

Mr Anthony Michael, Managing Director

JUMBY BAY RESORT, Long Island, PO Box 243

Tel. 462-6000, fax 562-1136

Mr E. David Brewer, General Manager

LONG BAY HOTEL, Long Bay, PO Box 442

Tel. 463-2005, fax 463-2439

Mr Chris Lafaurie, Managing Director

MANGO BAY HOTEL AND BEACH CLUB, Dian Bay, PO Box W1400

Tel. 460-6646, fax 460-8400

Ms Barbel Pfeiffer, Manager (AHTA Director)

MARINA BAY RESORT, Runaway Bay, PO Box 1187

Tel. 462-3254, fax 462-2151

Ms Suzanne Johnson, Manager

PALMETTO HOTEL, Barbuda

Tel. 460-0442, fax 464-0440

Ms Nicola Di Franco, Manager

PELICAN ISLE, Johnson’s Point, PO Box 3181

Tel. 462-8385, fax 462-4361

Mr Michael Westcott, Manager

REX BLUE HERON, Johnson’s Point, PO Box 115

Tel. 462-8564-7, fax 462-8005

Mr Edmund Sidonie, General Manager

REX HALCYON COVE, Dickenson Bay, PO Box 251

Tel. 462-0256, fax 462-0271

Mr Robin Parmenter, General Manager (AHTA Director)

ROYAL ANTIGUAN RESORT, Deep Bay, PO Box 1322

Tel. 462-3733, fax 462-3728

Mr Alistair Forrest, General Manager

ST JAMES’S CLUB, Mamora Bay, PO Box 63

Tel. 460-5000, fax 460-3015, 3142

Mr Anthony Bowen, General Manager (AHTA 2nd Vice Chairman)

SANDALS ANTIGUA RESORT & SPA, Dickenson Bay, PO Box 147

Tel. 462-0267, fax 462-4135

Mr Randall Wilkie, General Manager

SANDPIPER REEF RESORT, Crosbies, PO Box 569

Tel. 462-0939, fax 462-1743

Mrs Avil Charles-Thomas, Manager

Chris Collie, Marketing Representative, c/o Tropical Resorts Caribbean

SIBONEY BEACH CLUB, Dickenson Bay, PO Box 222

Tel. 462-0806, fax 462-3356

Mr Tony Johnson Owner/Manager (AHTA 1st Vice Chairman)

SUNSAIL CLUB COLONNA, Hodges Bay, PO Box W-1892

Tel. 462-6263, fax 462-6430

Mr Roger Smith, General Manager

THE EARL’S VILLA AND EFFICIENCIES, Barbuda, PO Box 3180

Tel./fax 462-5647

Mrs Claudia Richards, Owner/General Manager

THE INN AT ENGLISH HARBOUR, English Harbour, PO Box 187

Tel. 460-1014, fax 460-1603

Mr Paul Deeth, Owner/Manager

THE NEW BARRYMORE HOTEL, Fort Road, PO Box 10

Tel. 462-1055, fax 462-4062

Ms Calvet Ferris-Thompson, General Manager

TRADE WINDS HOTELS, Dickenson Bay, PO Box 1390

Tel. 462-1223, fax 462-5007

Ms Cheryl Carter, General Manager

YEPTON BEACH RESORT, Deep Bay, PO Box 1427

Tel. 462-2520, fax 462-3240

Mrs Gabriela Leury, Vice President, Marketing and Operations

CONTACTS

Antigua and Barbuda
Department of Tourism

PO Box 363, St John’s, Antigua

Tel. (268) 462-0480, 462-0029
fax (268) 462-2483

Overseas offices

  • Canada: 60 St Clair Avenue East, Suite 304, Toronto, Ontario M4T 1N5

Tel. (416) 961-3085,
fax (416) 961-7218

  • Germany: Thomas Str. 11,
    D-61348, Bad Homburg

Tel. (49) 61 72 21504
fax (49) 61 72 21513

  • Italy: Via Santa Maria alla Porta 9,
    1-20120 Milan

Tel. (39) 2 877 983
fax (39) 877 983

  • UK: Antigua House, 15 Thayer St., London W1M 5LD

Tel. (44) 171 486-7073
fax (44) 171 486-9970

  • US: 610 Fifth Ave., Suite 311,
    New York, NY10020

Tel. (212) 541-4117,
fax (212) 757 1607

  • France: (33) 1 53 75 15 71,
    fax (33) 1 53 75 15 69
  • Miami: (305) 381-6762
    fax (305) 381-7908
  • Washington: (202) 362-5122
    fax (202) 362-5225
  • Toll free 888 268-4227

E-mail: info@antigua-barbuda.org

Antigua Hotels and Tourist Association

Island House, Newgate Street,

PO Box 454, St John’s, Antigua

Tel. (268) 462-0374
fax (268) 462-3702

E-mail: ahta@candw.ag

Festivals

  • Antigua Classic Yacht Regatta held in April just before Sailing Week, this gathering of historic boats is a celebration of traditional craftsmanship and one of the season’s most photogenic events. Classic boats compete in several classes, while activities such as the Heritage Day Festival enliven things on terra firma.
  • Antigua Sailing Week Antigua’s premier event, held in late April (in 2000, April 30 to May 6), is the fifth largest sailing regatta in the world. The same conditions that made Antigua a haven for naval schooners in days gone by are today an incentive for nearly 250 yachts and 5,000 crew members from around the world to test their skills in a series of challenging contests. Landlubbers flock to English Harbour and environs to witness the action and to participate in land-based activities, including non-stop partying. Lay Day is a much anticipated day of rambunctious fun at the Antigua Yacht Club’s grounds at Falmouth Harbour. Dockyard Day on Saturday is a family favourite, featuring games, music and performances. The sight of hundreds of white sails against the backdrop of sea and sky is truly exhilarating.
  • Carnival Antigua’s Carnival is held on the first Monday and Tuesday in August. In the preceding weeks calypso shows and high-adrenalin parties featuring live bands such as Burning Flames set the tone. The Antigua Recreation Ground is transformed into Carnival City, with a grand opening ceremony featuring costumes and the children’s Carnival. The actual event begins at 4 a.m. on Monday morning with J’ouvert, when people and steel bands take to the streets. On Monday afternoon and Tuesday, organised bands of revellers in colourful costumes dance through St John’s to the music of steel and soca bands.
  • Hot Air Balloon Festival The Caribbean’s first Hot Air Balloon Festival was launched in 1995 by Todd Challenger, an Antiguan based in England. The November event has grown larger each year, with balloons taking off from launch sites across the island, turning the sky into a kaleidoscope of colour. In the evening the traditional “night-glow” displays are also a popular spectator event.
  • Nicholson’s Charter Yacht Show Agents, press, marine and marine services companies show their wares in this glamorous pre-Christmas event, which has been called “the largest charter yacht show in the world”.

CALENDAR

January

  • New Year’s Day (public holiday) 1
  • Windsurfing Antigua, Winter Competition
  • Start of cricket and netball seasons

February

  • Grand Prix Regatta, Jolly Harbour

March

  • International cricket

April

  • Antigua Classic Regatta 20-25
  • Good Friday 21
  • Easter Monday 24
  • Antigua Sailing Week April 30-May 6
  • Cricket: Pakistan vs Zimbabwe 5

May

  • Labour Day (public holiday) 1
  • Antigua Tennis Week, Curtain Bluff
  • Caribana festival, Barbuda

June

  • Antigua Bodybuilding Championship
  • Olympic Run Day
  • Whit Monday 12
  • Cricket: West Indies vs Pakistan 19-23

July

  • Jolly Harbour Barbuda Race
  • CARICOM Day (public holiday) 3
  • Antigua Carnival begins

August

  • Antigua Carnival culminates 7, 8

September

  • Start of football season
  • Jolly Harbour Annual Regatta

October

  • Independence Bridge Tournament
  • Heritage Day 31
  • Independence Invitational Cycling Race
  • Kite Flying Competition
  • International Hot Air Balloon Festival
  • National Warri Festival

November

  • Independence Day (public holiday) 1
  • Cedar Valley Antigua Golf Open 1
  • Soccerama
  • Hot Air Balloon Festival Nov. 22-Dec. 2

December

  • Nicholson’s Charter Yacht Show
  • Christmas Day (public holiday) 25
  • Champagne party, Nelson’s Dockyard (Christmas Day) 25
  • Boxing Day (public holiday) 25

There are year-round exhibitions at Harmony Hall and the Museum of Antigua and Barbuda. Good Friday, Easter Monday, Whit Monday and Carnival Monday and Tuesday are also public holidays.