Roddy and I just got back from a trip to the Caribbean where we visited the small island of Antigua. It was an amazing trip in itself and also a nice reprieve from traffic and the big city. I highly recommend Antigua if you're ever looking for a Caribbean vacation.
When we began booking this trip, we decided to go the hotel route as opposed to the all-inclusive/resort route. We did all-inclusive on our honeymoon and it was incredible...all you can eat and drink, lots of activities at the resort and parties every night. On this trip we were planning to do a lot of snorkeling, Roddy wanted to take kiteboarding lessons and we had lots of sights we wanted to see, so we wanted a little more flexibility. We figured a hotel and rental car would give us that. Now that we've experienced both, we've decided they both have their advantages, and maybe we can find a happy medium between the two. All inclusive food/drink with a rental car to explore on our own, maybe?
Anyway, here is our lovely hotel. The Copper and Lumber Store Hotel is located in Nelson's Dockyard on the English Harbour. The building was built in 1783 to store copper and lumber for ship building, and then it was turned into a Georgian Inn in 1982. I knew Roddy would love this building, with it's character and history. And he did, and we did. We both fell in love with it immediately. Each morning, we ate breakfast on the patio facing the harbour and soaked up the Caribbean breeze. The view from the harbour was incredible, and there were more beautiful sites within hiking distance.
Then we heard what sounded like a parade coming down the road toward our hotel. We followed the sound and it was, in fact, a parade. About this time, I noticed a woman walking toward me and kind of staring me down. I looked up and it was my co-worked from the University of Houston, who works in the suite next to mine. What are the odds that we'd both vacation to the same island 2300 miles away from home on the same date? Well her son was actually sailing in the Optimist North American Championship that was being held at our hotel...which explains the 150+little boats. After being a little shocked from seeing someone I knew, we enjoyed the rest of the parade, watched a fireworks show at the hotel and ate our first fresh seafood dinner of the week...crab cakes, mahi mahi and lobster.
On our first full day in Antigua, we took a snorkeling trip through Adventures Antigua. This is the view (GoPro photo) from the top of Bird Island where we stopped for lunch. We also visited Hell's Gate and snorkeled along a reef. (The better snorkeling photos came from the last day, so they're at the bottom of the blog.)
After snorkeling, we stopped for dinner at the Crow's Nest in Jolly Harbour. It was a nice little open air restaurant in the harbour. Then on the way back to the hotel, we wanted to check out another beach, so this is the one we found. I don't know it's name, but the view at sunset was beautiful! It's interesting how each of the beaches can be so different from the next. This one had tons of rocks and shells.
On the second day of the trip, Roddy took a kiteboarding lesson that left out of Non Such Bay Resort. This was one of the prettiest resorts I've ever visited, but it took quite possibly the worst roads on the entire island to get there. If we had rented a car instead of an SUV, I'm pretty sure we would've bottomed out before we made it. Once we arrived, it was a beautiful place. Because there was a chance of rain and I had my camera gear with me, I didn't go out to the island where Roddy took his lesson. But once the rain passed, I did get a couple of shots from far off. You can barely see them, but there are a few kites in the air here, and Roddy is attached to one of them.
On the way back to our side of the island, we discovered this abandoned sugar mill. They have them all over the island, because sugar used to be their main industry. This one was right next to the road, so we got to take a look inside.
Before we stopped for lunch at The Roadhouse (not Texas though...), we found a beautiful lookout point. Of course I had to stop for a few photos. After lunch, we drove around for a bit looking for another good beach and ended up stopping for a swim at the St. James Resort. All of the beaches in Antigua are public, so even if you aren't staying at the resort, you can visit the beaches. The St. James was huge and looked like a really nice place to stay.
For dinner that night, we visited the Pillars Restaurant. The pillars used to support a roof, and in the building, they housed sails that were hung to dry. None of this mattered as I was eating dinner though; I was totally focused on my lobster. Oh the seafood... On the third day of our trip, we wanted to do a little hiking so we could get a good view of the sailing competition. Since it didn't start until 11, we did a little sightseeing in the harbour. This building, where they currently make and repair sails was previously a saw pit. Men would roll logs up the inclined ramp into the building, then cut the logs into planks for use in building ships.
As it got closer to race time, we began hiking out to Fort Berkley. Along the way, we met this goat...and quite a few more. There were free range goats all over this island. I think they use them for lawnmowers.
The building behind the large sailboat is our hotel.
Fort Berkley was a pretty good lookout point as the kids made their way out into the ocean.
This photo was taken close to where the cannon was mounted (three photos before this one.) but facing the opposite direction. From that point, we could look up and see people hanging out at the tiny little tree on the hill. So we hiked to the top of that hill next. The bottom right photo in this set was taken about halfway up the hill.
And this was the view from the top of the hill. I could live there! That water is so incredible!
On the last full day of our trip, we took another tour with Antigua Adventures. This time it was the Xtreme Circumnav. We rode around the entire island (about 50 miles), bouncing through the waves of the Caribbean and Atlantic. We stopped to swim with stingrays (and an unexpected barracuda), ate lunch at Green Island, snorkeled at the Pillars of Hercules and then relaxed at Rendezvous Bay. I wish we had known about Rendezvous Bay earlier in the trip, because it would've been a really nice beach to visit. If you visit Antigua and do one thing, book this tour or charter a boat to go snorkeling or diving at the Pillars. I could've spent all day snorkeling there.
After soaking up sun and snorkeling all day, we headed back south and enjoyed our last dinner on the island at Life on the Corner Cafe. I really enjoyed my fried brie followed by a fish kebab. It was not at all what I pictured. I was thinking it would be like a shish kebab, but it was more like a pita filled with salad and topped with fish. Either way, it was amazing! (On a side note, a cat walked through with a bird in it's mouth during dinner.)
The following morning didn't leave a lot of time for sightseeing. We ate a good breakfast on the porch or our hotel, somewhat somberly. Then stopped back by Pidgeon Beach so I could make a few nice photos and then headed toward the airport. It was no fun leaving paradise.
(Editor's note: I know this isn't like my usual blog posts, but I thought you might enjoy the photos. And hopefully if someone out there is searching Google for recommendations for things to do and see and places to eat in Antigua, it will help them out a bit.)