Travel: Seeing the Whole of Antigua
Antigua lets you in slowly. It reveals itself cautiously, at its own unhurried pace. You’ll miss it if you turn away too quickly.
I saw what many people see when I awoke the first morning of my trip there this summer. The pale light of dawn was seeping into my room, and the tiny yellow and black birds flapped their wings as they made their way through the thick grove of palm fronds, bougainvillea and banana trees outside my balcony. Then came the swish of the gardener’s broom on the paths below and the steady roll of the sea a few yards away. Not much later, I was trudging on sole-burning sand and standing at the cool water’s edge, squinting at the blazing sun.
This is what draws thousands of visitors to Antigua year after year — the sybaritic resorts and the 365 brilliant, largely pristine beaches, sheltered bays, harbors and coves. The island, a 9-by-12-mile speck of hills with a jagged coastline, claims famous residents and visitors (Eric Clapton has a home here, Oprah visits), multimillionaire manors like the Mellon estate at the exclusive Mill Reef Club, and a world-class sailing regatta at English Harbour, home of the 18th-century British Navy station named after Horatio Nelson.
Caribbean connoisseurs can tell the difference between Antigua (pronounced An-TEE-gah) and Anguilla, St. Lucia and St. Barts, but many tourists who only want an island getaway fly in, drive from airport to hotel, visit a few historic sites and socialize mainly with fellow like-minded guests.