With a fourth pandemic wave building, pre-COVID-19 sojourn memories will have to suffice. My girl getaway is chiselled in mine.
The balmy island air embraced us, as we disembarked at CV Bird airport, named after Sir Vere Cornwall, the first Prime Minister of Antigua. Known by the indigenous as Wadadli, this bijou Eastern Caribbean island about the size of Quadra Island has 365 beaches. We didn’t waste any time in exploring a few.
A short taxi ride landed us at Sugar Ridge Resort. Nestled in 43 lush acres near Boggy Peak, the highest island apex. After we checked into our Caribbean vista room, we grabbed a quick chicken salad lunch at Sugar Club. Covey, the shuttle driver, zipped us down to Valley Church Beach. The soft golden sand felt splendid between our toes, and our work and family obligations dissipated in the crystal-clear Caribbean Sea.
We strolled off resort for dinner. Miracle’s, a casual homestyle restaurant, swelled with white table-clothed tables, handcrafted wooden chairs and friendly staff. The local mahi-mahi, steamed veggies, rice and beans washed down with Red Stripe beer was delish. The clear star-filled night reverberated with whistling frogs saluting us into island serenity, as we sauntered back to our room.
Roused by dove coos, and after some morning coffee, fresh melon and pineapple, we cruised up to the resort’s “Yoga Shed,” an outdoor covered space with a stunning harbour view. Most of the yogis were locals. It was apparent that we had scored with an experienced instructor named Liz.
We traded our yoga gear for bikinis, sunscreen and sunglasses. Covey shuttled us to OJ’s Bar and Restaurant on the south end of Love Beach with a seashell, rope and local artwork decor. We opted for a toes-in-the-sand table, as the upper deck, Tittle Lounge, was closed. The mango daiquiri and the fresh caught snapper satisfied our appetites, as the waves strummed ashore. By foot we drifted south along the pristine sand of Turners Beach for the remainder of the afternoon. The only visitors we stumbled upon were brown pelicans and red-billed tropicbirds.
Carmichael’s, the highest point of Sugar Ridge, is a favoured cocktail locale with an extraordinary sunset panorama. We hiked up the pathway and plunged into the infinity pool to cool off from the 30-degree Celsius sun. We ordered an appetizer, but dismayed by the small portions we slipped on sundresses and sashayed down to Jolly Harbour for dinner.
Chef Michele Giordano’s Basilico was a scrumptious and scenic discovery. Prosecco, homemade ravioli stuffed with shrimp, tagliatelle with lobster, and tiramisu transported us to Italy for the evening, and was worth every Eastern Caribbean dollar.
Sugar Ridge recommended Von Johnson, a local guide, to explore the island. As we drove to the Wallings Nature Reserve, we learned that in 1493 Christopher Columbus named it after the Spanish Church, Santa Maria de la Antigua. The British colonized Antigua in 1632 and partook in the barbaric sugar trade until the 1834 emancipation of the West African Antiguan slaves. Independent since 1981 Antigua is currently home to 80,000 people, and is a sustainable destination that is plastic bag and Styrofoam free.
Von trekked us through a lemon grass, tamarind, and citronella filled rainforest to the pristine Rendezvous Bay Beach teeming with land crabs, queen conchs and sea urchins. Before we climbed the ridge bursting with barrel and candelabra cacti, we dipped into the refreshing turquoise sea. We continued to Carlisle Bay Beach, and then zagged to Fig Tree Drive back to Von’s car.
On our way to Catherine’s Café on Pigeon Beach overlooking Falmouth Harbor, we breezed along the local roads peppered with Antiguan homes and cricket matches—a favoured island sport. We splurged on champagne, gazpacho, yellow-fin tuna tartare and spiced rum roasted pineapple in the shade of cinnamon and neem trees. Von gifted us with a memento, a seed carving he’d crafted along our hike.
Inspired by the sailing culture, we booked a day on Eolia, a small yacht, docked at Portofino Marina in Jolly Harbour. Our skipper, Guilliame, and first mate, Shama, glided us along the southwestern coastline to Cades Reef, where we snorkelled with barracuda, Christmas, and sergeant major fish. Antigua is part of Green Fins, a UNEP program to preserve ocean reefs, so we were eco-conscientious. Then we tacked north to Deep Cove’s 1905 shipwreck that now brims with rainbow coloured wrasse and squirrel fish, while Italian designer Giorgio Armani’s cliff side villa stood on watch.
For our final sunset we wandered to Cocobay Resort Beach. With classic rum punch, atop Rafters Bar overlooking Little Ffryes Beach we toasted to landing eight beaches on this alluring Leeward Island—and above all, we were rejuvenated mamas.