Travel review: Antigua and Barbuda

Carlisle Bay was built to lend the typical feel of a Racquets or Country Club.
Carlisle Bay was built to lend the typical feel of a Racquets or Country Club.
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Looking for an island escape? Try Antigua and Barbuda says Adam Jacot de Boinod.

Easily confused with either Barbados or Bermuda, the island of Barbuda is flat and under-populated. Most attractively it’s still mainly untrod by the feet of Caribbean’s sunseekers. There is the option of a ferry but I was lucky enough to get a little eight-seater ‘islander’ plane, 15 minutes across from Antigua, on a flight that followed nicely on from my long haul from Gatwick.

Reuben picked me up. My host in his outboard motor. We blithely sauntered along the mangroves for a further 15 minutes before arriving at Barbuda North Beach (barbudanorthbeach.com). Sometimes it’s worth going the extra mile. As its title suggests, this guesthouse is set in the north of the island overlooking the breaking reefs that define the junction of the Caribbean Sea and Atlantic Ocean.

It’s not so much a getaway as a hideaway. Lady Diana hid on the south of the island where Robert de Niro has similar aspirations. The island has similarities with Little Cayman in its rustic simplicity and as a smaller sister island. It’s truly “fly and flop” as they say in the travel brochures. One of the top suggestions is to collect shells. At last I could drift mentally and physically in the lapping water and breezy wind while schools of stingrays and mullet flitted across me amongst the translucent shallows.

I had the run of the place. The idea and ideal here is to hire the whole resort. It sleeps a mere 12 guests. It’s perfect for true rest, seclusion and adventure. With its northern light it would definitely attract watercolourists alert to the vivid sunsets and shades of blue water.

Pink sand is what Barbuda is famous for. I spent the most relaxing day possible on the western shore decorated by the crushed pink shells. It is reputedly the longest stretch in the Caribbean (17 miles) and known to the locals as ‘The River’. It has the purest of waters and is utterly deserted but only mad dogs and Englishmen would try to walk it all.

With such extremities it only took a couple of days to feel well rested and I flew back across to Antigua, ‘home to 365 beaches’. Ever since Admiral Nelson spent three years here, the island has had a strong nautical tradition and yachting is what lures many to her shores. From the vantage point of Shirley Heights are the classic looping bays of the English Harbour.

I moved nearby to stay at Carlisle Bay (carlisle-bay.com). I met John the manager who said it was built to lend the typical feel of a Racquets or Country Club complete with nine tennis courts and a specialist tennis shop.

In a sheltered bay and surrounded by forested hills the trees virtually cover the architecture to show only the white umbrellas. The Garden and Beach apartments are as well catered for families as they are for couples. I drew my curtains to enjoy the full intimacy and immediacy of the sea only yards ahead. The décor was a combination of wicker, wood, cotton and pebbles.

I went on an amazing guided hike up through the neighbouring hills. Among the eucalyptus was bamboo and a pop-pop bush and mistletoe. I also liked Sixty-Six, which clears the stomach from fever. “It operate you” as they say on the island. With health very much on my mind, I reached the beautiful and hard-to-reach Rendez-Vous Bay to sample the freshest of contents of a green coconut. Drinks really do grow on trees!

Onto my third resting spot, Keyonna Beach (keyonnabeachresortantigua.com ). Set on Antigua’s south west coast is this wonderful stretch of four beaches (Turners, Darkwood, Ffryes and Valley Church Bay).

A local car plate simply stated “land of sea and sun”. The world of boats was soon upon me as I reached my final destination at Nonsuch Bay (nonsuchbayresort.com). The lounge area has an infinity pool that implored me to elbow my weight over the edge and fixate upon the Small Bird Island directly ahead. A dinghy ride to Green Island opposite and I was left alone for the morning to play out the desert island dream.

Then to return to collect me safely for a most delicious lunch!

GETTING THERE

Adam travelled via Gatwick Express with The Holiday Place. Their holidays range from luxurious to adventurous and cater for all budgets and requirements.

The Holiday Place is offering packages to Antigua from £889 per person for a seven night stay, including accommodation, flights and all taxes.

To book call 020 7644 1770 or visit www.holidayplace.co.uk