What to do in Antigua

For the most part those of you heading to this haven are dreaming of sipping piña coladas on one of the 365 beaches, taking strolls at sunset and lounging on your deck chair -all of which, we agree, is the fantasy.

However, there is actually a lot more to Antigua and so, if you feel like getting about, we have some of the islands secrets to share with you- We don't blame you if you don't get through them all – just another excuse to visit again!

With a rented car, or taxi, take a ride down Fig Tree Drive (the best time is in the summer months when the trees are in bloom). The drive is particularly scenic, spot the weird banana flowers along the roads and the canopies alive with colour and noise. Along the way you should see the “Antigua Black”, the islands’ pineapple, the sweetest pineapple in the Caribbean. Also Rainforest Canopy Tours, zip lines taking you through the landscape (take insect repellent) and have a swing at re-enacting Tarzan. If you love nature and a bit of an adventure, have a go!

Following the islands coastal road for white beach and dramatic views. Stop off on your way and grab a drink at one of the many beach restaurants. If in this area make sure you head to Sheer Rocks, an independent restaurant found in CocoBay Hotel resort. As the road continues its way to the capital of St johns you will see the outline of the Sleeping Indian, an awark legend.

Fancy staying in the water and exploring the exotic array of marine life? Then head to Jolly Dive, based in the south west of the island at Jolly Harbour, they normally take two dives out a day. You’ll never get bored as they have numerous dive sites around the island, one with an extremely friendly nurse shark who comes up and nuzzles you! Jolly Dive also have lessons for beginners and PADI course.

Across from The Great House bay you can swimwith Sting-rays for US$50 per person, the company take you out in a group of boats to a nearby reef. You are able to swim in the middle of the ocean surrounded by sting-rays, they swim up to you allowing you to ‘hold them’, stroke them and have photos. A surreal experience at most!

Shirley Heights, is one not to be missed. Drive up to the high point, there is a seasonal entry charge. Take your time and make sure you get out of the car and explore the ruins that remain. Shirley Heights is an old military base for the 54th Regiment (2nd Battalion Dorset) from 1840 to the 1850s.

Feeling adventurous? Take a pair of long trousers and boots and walk through the bushs to find undisturbed ruins. Otherwise head to the lookout point and grab a very strong rum punch while looking out over English Harbour, you are 490ft above sea level. There is a BBQ on Sundays with live bands, make sure you stay until sunset and get a taxi if your hotel mini bus is leaving earlier.

Devils Bridge – this is one of our favourites. Located on what feels like the edge of the world, an experience not to be missed. Some hotels nearby recommend a walk to Devils Bridge, we really don’t advise this- IT’S A VERY LONG WALK, only do it if you have suitable shoes, determination and are able to head out very early. Be prepared to get wet with the numerous blowholes and crashing waves. Everything in Antigua has a story and the history of Devils Bridge is one of misery. It is said that escaped slaves would jump into the sea from this point, to try and swim back to Africa.

If you are interested in the history of the country check out Betty’s Hope, the only sugar mill on the island, which has been restored with a museum attached. The work that has gone into excavating the mill and surrounding plantation grounds is fantastic. The museum captures the basic history of colonialism, slavery and the impact on Antigua. Alternatively, the Great House has its own sugar mill, still standing, all for your private viewing.

 St. Johns, Antigua’s city centre is a wonderful place to explore, but to get a real feel for the island stay away from the port end of town as it is full of tourist stalls. Instead, either discover the capitals Cathedral (Church Street), Antigua’s national museum (Long Street) or the market where you get caught up in the hustle and bustle of daily Antiguan life. St Johns is a very small capital city, as you can imagine, so have a good look around the shops and restaurants. We recommend visiting Hemmingway’s, located on St. Mary’s Street, with balcony seats overlooking the busy street below, which makes for a great break from the heat of town. The lobster, jerk chicken and banana splits here are delicious!

Finally if you want to experience Antigua’s colourful past while escaping your every day hustle and bustle make sure you visit us at The Great House Antigua. The 400 years old former sugar plantation has been converted into a wellness sanctuary retreat. The only Great House left on the island of Antigua, with others being destroyed by past hurricanes or simply disappeared into the bush. For those of us who want to swap the 24/7 rush hour for hummingbirds and sea island breezes of the Caribbean stay at The Great House.

Set in the sweeping 26 acres estate of Mercers Creek, the Great House boasts stunning sea views amid swaying palm trees. The health, fitness and wellness retreat on this magical island includes experienced staff of, nutritionists, fitness instructors, masseurs, yoga and meditation experts.

The history of The Great House is varied, from one of the sugar plantations which survived through the use of slaves, to a mystery and exuberant period of opulent parties and  famous guests. Family lore recalls secret visits by the Kennedys, Greta Garbo, HRH the Princess Margaret and Humphrey Bogart amongst others.

The combination of colonial elegance and privacy amid the beautiful surroundings will work to rid you of the stresses and strains of everyday life and with our Revitalize programme we will help you unwind and recharge your body and mind.

Come to Antigua, visit the beauty of the island, and stay at the one and only, Great House Antigua.