So, you have some precious time off while your yacht is in Antigua and perhaps the usual cocktail (pardon the pun) of all-day drinking / eating / dancing doesn’t really appeal, so what do you do? Yes, you could sit on the beach again, swim in the crystal clear waters again, snorkel, dive.. blah blah blah. Or, you could get away from all the usual things and do something a bit different; experience the other face of Antigua, away from the 365 beaches and the lure of ice-cold espresso martinis at Duggies.
Antigua has a tumultuous and interesting history, that few yachties seem to discover, which is a shame. There is nothing like gaining a sense of place like understanding its history, walking its paths and occasionally dipping into the culture and food. Examples of the island’s heritage are dotted all over, mostly in the form of ruins, but also in splendidly preserved form, such as Nelson’s Dockyard. However, if the past isn’t what interests you, there are also plenty of non-historical ways to pass the time in Antigua. Listed below are some slightly more cultural and active ways to spend your free time whilst on this beautiful island:
Take a Hike.
There are many stunningly scenic trails on the island and it’s simply a case of deciding how energetic you’re feeling on the day and how hot you want to get. A lot of hikes start either in Falmouth or English Harbour, so there’s no need to hire a car. For a short hike, you can follow the coast round from Falmouth to Rendezvous Beach, enjoying great views from the path and a swim before heading back. Or you could do a longer trail and strike out for the iconic Pillars of Hercules – an amazing limestone rock formation just outside English Harbour that most only see when arriving for the season having flogged across the Atlantic. Start at Galleon Beach and follow ‘The Jones Trail’ up though jungle, past some historic sites such as a ruined cistern and a large graveyard, then out onto the coastal cliffs for some awesome views before ascending to The Pillars. Take your snorkelling gear as there are some fantastic corals and fish to be found here. If you want, you can join the 5am walking club that hike every Saturday at, you guessed it, 5am.
More info can be found at www.antiguaoutdoors.com/hiking or on www.antiguanice.com.
Go for a Ride.
I can think of few nicer places to explore on horseback than Antigua. You can even fulfil the movie fantasy of cantering along a white sand beach at sunset if you want to. The Antigua Equestrian Centre / Springhill Riding Club is not far from the harbours, and offers private lessons and trail rides (for one or two hours), and best of all, a Swim with the Horses ride where you and your four-legged friend can enjoy cooling off in the sea after a good trek. They cater for different abilities from novice to experienced. Definitely a great way to see some of the island and relax away from boat life.
For more information about riding in Antigua – www.antiguaequestrian.com.
Take a Cooking Class
Wouldn’t you like to learn how to cook some authentic Caribbean food while you’re there? While it’s never dull being cooked for by an amazing chef every day on board, you might be a foodie and want to learn some tricks for yourself. If so, you could spend a delicious afternoon at Nicole’s Table learning to cook traditional recipes, or favourites with a ‘twist’ in her beautiful home in Cedar Valley, St. Johns. Each class includes starter, main and dessert, along with drinks. Tuck into delights such as ‘sticky jerk salmon with mango slaw’, or ‘rum and brown sugar marinated steak’, or maybe even ‘fresh lobster spring rolls’ – all prepared by your own fair hand. Sit and eat with your classmates, meet some new people and take the recipes home with you to give your chef a run for their money.
For more information about cooking class at Nicoles Table – www.nicolestable.com.
Visit Betty’s Hope
I would hope that most visitors to Antigua would be vaguely aware of it’s long history with sugar and slavery, and Betty’s Hope would be a good place to start if you want to get a feel of what Antigua used to be about. Betty’s Hope was Antigua’s pioneering sugar plantation, and was founded in c.1650.
Left ruined for years, in 1987 the site was earmarked for preservation and development due to its historical importance, and the role it has played in the lives of many generations of Antiguans. There is a trail that will take you around the fantastic remains of the Still House (where rum was made) and the Cistern complex (a water catchment and storage system that actually still works!), and to the twin windmills that used to be the heart of the plantation; one of which has actually been restored to working order. There is a small visitors centre in a former cotton house storeroom, and information displayed about the site and the continuing work being undertaken to preserve this amazing piece of Antiguan history. Take a picnic and enjoy the beautiful site and its history.
Take to the Skies.
If you can feel your tip money burning a hole in your pocket, you could really splurge and join up with some friends to take a helicopter tour. Seeing the Caribbean from the sea is one thing, but how about from the air in a snazzy Bell Long or Jet Ranger helicopter?
Now, this isn’t going to be cheap, but Caribbean Helicopters Ltd. offer a great choice of tours and trips and there will certainly be something you are happy to spend your cash on. You might just want to fly over Antigua itself and get a different view of the island you probably know quite well, or you could take the Montserrat Volcano Tour and fly over the sparsely populated island, buried in ash in many places thanks to the Soufriere Hills volcano. You aren’t allowed to access the volcano on the ground as it falls within the large exclusion zone, but CHL will fly you straight over it, 3000ft above sea level!
Or, if you want to go further afield, you could dig deeper into the tip jar and take a trip to St. Kitts, Nevis, St. Barth’s, St. Maarten, Anguilla or Guadeloupe for a change of scenery. They also can arrange custom tours if you want to design your own trip – www.flychl.com.