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Patrick Bennett

AFAR Ambassador

AFAR Ambassadors are in-the-know bloggers who have a passion for experiential travel.

New York, New York, United States

www.uncommoncaribbean.com

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Shirley Heights

Saint Paul
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Shirley Heights, Saint Paul, Antigua and Barbuda
Take a Stand at Shirley Heights
Shirley Heights is less a fort to explore and more of a sprawling military complex. Named after Sir Thomas Shirley, governor of the Leeward Islands and credited with strengthening Antigua's defenses in 1781, Shirley Heights was Britain's last stronghold in the Americas, along with Barbados, after they'd lost every other colony in the new world. In those tumultuous times, Shirley Heights' formidable fortifications protected Antigua's large sugar-producing estates and the all-important dockyard where war ships and trading vessels docked, restocked, and left to sail the Caribbean for Britain's interests. Today, the majority of the complex has long crumbled away, but it's definitely worth the visit. The main lookout is now a restaurant hosting a large weekly sunset party on Sunday as well as concerts, but beyond that history buffs walking these walls can come in contact with Antigua's rich history.
Take a Stand at Shirley Heights

St. Barnabas Anglican Church

Liberta
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St. Barnabas Anglican Church, Liberta, Antigua and Barbuda
Being Green Isn't Easy at St. Barnabas
You run across a lot of churches while driving around Antigua. Modest, majestic, and everything in-between, there’s a house of worship to suit most every style. Then, there’s St. Barnabas… Upon first seeing St. Barnabas, though, I just had to stop. It’s just so… umm… striking. Yes, that’s the word: striking, both in its seemingly random mishmash of structural additions and its color *ahem* scheme. It’s the green that really struck me the most; a most unnatural hue (or so I thought) that called to mind the horror of Frankenstein, or the slime from that old Nickelodeon slime. At least that would be someone's first impression. Upon learning a little more about the structure, you're bound to hear about something called Antigua green stone. Indeed, the structure and its color are as natural as can be! The unique stone comes from the Liberta area of Antigua, where the Church is found. All around here you see homes, walls, and other buildings sporting the same green hue.
Being Green Isn't Easy at St. Barnabas

Fort Berkeley

Saint Paul
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Fort Berkeley, Saint Paul, Antigua and Barbuda
See Nelson's Dockyard from a Whole New Vantage
English Harbour is one of Antigua's crown jewels, so it should be no surprise that Fort Berkeley was erected to protect this excellent protected bay. Placed on the peninsula on the western entrance, this fort has been enforcing entry to the anchorage for nearly 300 years. Today, the fort is mostly ruins, but it still supplies visitors with stunning views of the harbor. From Nelson's Dockyard it's a fairly short 10-minute stroll to the ramparts and well worth the walk. From here you can see the dockyard's waterfront, every boat that enters the bay, and beautiful Galleon Beach on the opposite shore.
See Nelson's Dockyard from a Whole New Vantage

Fort Barrington National Park

Saint John
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Fort Barrington National Park, Saint John, Antigua and Barbuda
Fight for Your Right at Fort Barrington
You see it while dodging massive potholes on the dirt road just a bit past the entrance to Coconut Beach Club; looming atop Goat Hill. Fort Barrington was one of the first lines of defense for St. John's reporting ship movements to nearby Rat Island via flag and light signals. While just a lookout station, being on the front lines wasn't easy. Fort Barrington likely saw the most action of any fort on Antigua, being captured and liberated from the French going back as far as 1652. The fort as it stands today was built in 1779 and is one of the best ruins to explore. Not only does its position atop Goat Hill provide a short but invigorating climb, there are also several rooms to explore, and the view from the top is unmatched for its sea view — blue stretches for miles.
Fight for Your Right at Fort Barrington

Fort James

Saint John's
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Fort James, Saint John's, Antigua and Barbuda
Travel Back to 1739 at Fort James
What must life have been like back in 1739. That was the year the foundation stones were laid for Fort James on the northern entrance to St. John's Harbour. Upon completion of the fort, it became customary for every vessel passing to pay a fee of 18 shillings to the captain of the fort or risk a shot being fired across its bow! With 10 cannons capable of firing 24 lb balls for over a mile on the ramparts, as you can imagine, ships generally paid the fee. Today, Fort James still sports its signature cannons pointing menacingly out into the harbour. Most of the other structures within the fort though, have crumbled. In their place, at least on the north side of the fort, is a quaint restaurant: Russels. There you can cap off your trip back in time with "old-fashioned rum punches", fresh fish, peas and rice, and other traditional fare... Something like they must have eaten back in 1739.
Travel Back to 1739 at Fort James

Shirley Heights

Saint Paul
DrinkDo
Shirley Heights, Saint Paul, Antigua and Barbuda
Come Ashore for Some Fun During Sailing Week
Antigua Sailing Week is about more than what happens out on the waters surrounding the island. Some of the hottest action actually occurs on terra firma. In 2013, after a day rocking on the water under the sun, watching boats of all shape and size skim back and forth along the Antigua coast, I was super psyched to be climbing the rise to Shirley Heights just after sunset. Locals were strolling up the hill and in the distance music was thumping out of the darkness. Our destination was a concert with Mr' Lova Lova himself, Shaggy. It seemed like half the island had come out, plus practically every Sailing Week visitor. The atmosphere was light, the English Harbour Rum was flowing, and the Wadadli's were tinkling. In the end, I couldn't tell you what was more special about my Sailing Week day, the sailing or the Shaggy.
Come Ashore for Some Fun During Sailing Week

Antigua Yacht Club

Saint Paul
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Antigua Yacht Club, Saint Paul, Antigua and Barbuda
Learn Sailing and Give Back to the Community
Antigua is a world class destination for sailing. During Antigua Sailing Week, mariners flock here for a week of feting and falling off, but you don't have to wait for May to get out on the waves. There are numerous sailing schools on island that can give you the skills you need to ply these famous waters. Try checking in with the folks at the Antigua Yacht Club at English Harbour. Their school on the street side of the building is the spot where not only can you learn to sail, but you can also give back to the community by supporting the National Sailing Academy. They offer the opportunity for Antiguan school children to learn swimming and sailing completely free of charge.
Learn Sailing and Give Back to the Community

Cloggy's

Saint Paul
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Cloggy's, Saint Paul, Antigua and Barbuda
Take a Break from Sailing at Cloggy's
In between Sailing Week action, one of the best places to refuel is Cloggy's in English Harbour. Located on the second floor of the Antigua Yacht Club Marina Building, Cloggy's has stunning views over Falmouth Harbour where you can watch regatta participants prep for their next race or just zone out. Grab some grilled prawns starters, smoked salmon with garlic mayo sandwiches, or smoked salmon with their famous potato salad. The menu is simple and that's perfect. A great atmosphere awaits with comfortable seating, a few TVs generally with soccer or sailing playing in the background, and a pleasant staff ready and waiting with ice cold Wadalis.
Take a Break from Sailing at Cloggy's

Antigua Yacht Club Marina Resort

Saint Paul
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Antigua Yacht Club Marina Resort, Saint Paul, Antigua and Barbuda
Get to the Heart of Antigua Sailing at The Antigua Yacht Club
The Antigua Yacht Club is the center of so much of Antigua's world-class sailing experience. Right in the heart of English Harbour, this prestigious yacht club has been serving the island for over 40 years. It hosts the Classic Yacht Regatta, the RORC Caribbean 600, Sailing Week, the National Sailing Academy that serves the community with free watersports education, and even the Caribbean Dingy Championships. This is the place to stock up on last-minute supplies at the shop, or grab a bite at Cloggy's or Club Sushi. Yeah, The Antigua Yacht Club is a hub for sailors of all stripes to talk shop whether coming in or leaving for some time on the water.
Get to the Heart of Antigua Sailing at The Antigua Yacht Club

VC Bird International Airport

Osbourn
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VC Bird International Airport, Osbourn, Antigua and Barbuda
Make Your Trip Last With a Tiny Taste of the Caribbean
Okay, this may not really qualify as a "must do" activity in Antigua for most, but I've never ever seen this ingenious invention before in all my Caribbean travels, so for me grabbing a couple mini rotis from the snackette at the airport is a unique Antiguan treat! Roti may have been borrowed from India, but it was perfected in Trinidad, and now Antigua shows me that great meals can come in small packages. Once you pass security and enter the waiting area, take a right and walk toward the windows. There, on your right will be the blue counter to the snackette. If you're there in the morning just wait a bit, the delivery comes at noon. You may want to give the nice young lady behind the counter a moment to get her delivery organized, then order up this tiny tasty treat for your flight. There's nothing quite like savoring moist curry goat wrapped in a not too thin, not too dry roti skin. It's the perfect last taste of Antigua to tide you over until you return.
Make Your Trip Last With a Tiny Taste of the Caribbean

Montserrat

Saint Peter's
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Montserrat, Saint Peter's, Montserrat
To Montserrat for Something Completely Different
How can a "must do" experience on an island be leaving the island? When it's visiting the one-of-a-kind, totally off-the-beaten-path island of Montserrat. A modern day Pompeii, Montserrat used to be an emerald gem in the crown of the Caribbean. Rock royalty such as the Rolling Stones, the Police, and Dire Straights frequented the island to record at the legendary Air Studios. The rich and glamorous flocked to see and be seen in the capital of Plymouth. Then the island was devastated by a hurricane in 1989, but the knockdown blow didn't come until 1995 when Montserrat’s Soufriere Hills Volcano suddenly erupted, burying Plymouth under several meters of ash and turning nearly half of the island into an exclusion zone. The Montserrat that has emerged in the years since is a very different destination. Gone is the celebrity cache that came with the jet-set days of the 1970s and '80s. Now expect an overabundance of quiet, lush green hills, and pitch-black sand beaches all to yourself. Day trips from Antigua are easy to book, so definitely don't miss sampling this curious neighbor.
To Montserrat for Something Completely Different

Public Market Complex

Saint John's
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Public Market Complex, Saint John's, Antigua and Barbuda
Shop Simple at the Public Market Complex
Markets have traditionally been central to life on the small islands of the Caribbean, so it shouldn't be a surprise that one visit to Antigua'a new Public Market Complex could transport you back to a simpler time before impersonal supermarkets, processed foods, and GMO produce concerns. Mingle among stalls offering fresh fruits, vegetables, curative roots, local drinks, and more — all at proper prices. Looking to pick up something to take home? Right next door is the Craft Market area where local artisans produce hand made goods from leather, shell, and even fish scales. Look for soaps and fragrances made from local West Indian ingredients. Personally, I'm not much of a shopper, but just milling around the market is a treat. Antiguan life fluidly bustles all around you, the air fills your nose with the smell of a real market, and for a moment you can forget the less-than-desirable side effects of life in the 21st century.
Shop Simple at the Public Market Complex

Stingray City Antigua

Saint Philip
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Stingray City Antigua, Saint Philip, Antigua and Barbuda
Get Pushed Around by Giant Portobello Mushrooms
I'd never touched a stingray before. I'd never wanted to. It went against everything I believe about interactions with wildlife: look, but don't touch and certainly don't harass. Yet there is something undeniably magical about motoring out to a shallow, off-shore location, hopping in the water, and finding yourself surrounded by huge, fear-inducing, stingrays — thanks to guides with pockets full of raw squid. The five foot wide, dark, rays resemble giant portobello mushrooms in look and feel. And should you visit Stingray City, you'll definitely feel them. The rays aren't shy about forcibly muscling against visitors as they swim around in search of a squid handout.
Get Pushed Around by Giant Portobello Mushrooms

Shirley Heights

Saint Paul
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Shirley Heights, Saint Paul, Antigua and Barbuda
Sundays are for Sunsets at Shirley Heights
No visit to Antigua is complete without taking in the sunset atop Shirley Heights Lookout at its weekly Sunday sundowner party. The view from Shirley Heights is without a doubt the most famous, most photographed, most celebrated vista gracing Antigua. Immediately below, English and Falmouth Harbours clutch their bays. On clear days you can see Guadeloupe to the south and Montserrat with it's still active volcano to the south west. It does get busy, so expect a crowd and while there might be a couple locals sprinkled in here and there, it's mostly visitors. Around 7ish, the tunes crank up with either some reggae classics, some pumping soca, or even live a steelpan band. Smoke from a collection of barbecues compete with the music to fill the air and stimulate your senses. Expect chicken and ribs slathered in local flavors, plus burgers for the less adventurous. I did have some trouble getting grilled fish on my last visit, but once I found some, it was charred to perfection.
Sundays are for Sunsets at Shirley Heights

Antigua

Buckleys
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Antigua, Buckleys, Antigua and Barbuda
Balance Temps and Taste with Susie's Pepper Sauce
I HATE TOBASCO! Yes, I wrote that in all caps, because I feel this so powerfully, that all caps was the only way to concisely express my position in type. Yes, I hate it, but don't get the wrong idea, I LOVE hot sauce — or as we call it in the West Indies: "pepper sauce." What's the problem with Tobasco? Basically, it boils down to the balance these type of sauces much juggle between flavor and heat. Tobasco is all empty heat (and not even a lot of it) with zero flavor. Susie's on the other hand is a completely different story. This Antigua native has been providing a well balanced mix of flavor and heat since 1960. Sure, I've irked my Antiguan friends in the past when I've complained that Susie's isn't spicy enough, but what it lacks in heat, it more than makes up for in flavor. This stuff tastes good! If you're in Antigua, you should be able to find Susie's at any and every eatery from the most expensive to the roadside BBQ's and it's just what the doctor ordered to add a little kick to anything from fish to ribs.
Balance Temps and Taste with Susie's Pepper Sauce

Roti King

Saint John's
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Roti King, Saint John's, Antigua and Barbuda
Revel in Local Eats at Roti King
What’s a roti? The simple answer is the ultimate comfort meal of curry wrapped in a thin dough—borrowed from India and perfected in Trinidad and Tobago. You have to understand — making roti is not an easy task. Like many other traditional Caribbean foods, it takes a lot of time and effort to make something this comfortingly delicious… And perhaps those hours of anticipation actually added a little something to the flavors when you finally got the finished, hot roti in between your hands. It starts with the “skin” or roti (officially, only the skin is called roti, but in the Caribbean, we apply the name to the whole package). This is where a roti becomes a success, or literally falls apart. Any time you buy a roti, this is always the thing most people comment on. “Skin’s too thin.” “Skin’s too thick.” “Skin’s too dry.” Etc. The roti skin has to be just right, or the whole thing will fail. My favorite type of skin is dhalpuri which is just what you'll find at Roti King — now just ask them to fill it with goat, chicken, or shrimp and you in business!
Revel in Local Eats at Roti King

Buba's

Saint John
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Buba's, Saint John, Antigua and Barbuda
Roll the Dice with Rice and Peas
Rice and Peas are a staple throughout much of the Caribbean from Spanish, to French, to English speaking islands. The only thing to consider when ordering this authentic Caribbean side is that us West Indians can be a little lax with names. So, when we say “peas,” we really mean practically any legume — actual peas like pigeon or cowpeas, plus kidney beans and everything in between could make the cut. Whatever you get, it’s sure to be a better choice than a burger and fries! Basically, any time you order a "plate" in a local eatery you can expect to receive this filling and fantastic side, just don't be surprised if it's different every time you order it!
Roll the Dice with Rice and Peas

Gemma's

Saint Paul
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Gemma's, Saint Paul, Antigua and Barbuda
Goat Water: Eat Goat Like a Man
Goat water is basically a thin soup. Swimming in its brown depths you’ll find lumps of practically any part of a goat (usually bones and all), there’s clove, thyme, plus some other assorted herbs and spices, and depending on what island you find yourself sampling goat water, don’t be surprised to find some additional items in there like small dumplings, yams, and potatoes. You can find goat water on many islands in the Caribbean from Antigua, Grenada, St. Kitts, Nevis, and many more. It’s even the national dish of Antigua’s neighbor: Montserrat! On islands like Jamaica, expect a cousin of goat water to be served at weddings… Especially to the grooms. Why? Well, that version also goes by the name "mannish water" so can imagine what the expected results of slurping up a bowl!
Goat Water: Eat Goat Like a Man

Antigua Distillery

Buckleys
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Antigua Distillery, Buckleys, Antigua and Barbuda
Pair Your Beach Going With This Local Lager
The local beer of choice in Antigua & Barbuda, Wadadli is also the original Amerindian name for Antigua. The beer was launched in 1993 by Antigua Brewery Ltd., which also produces the twin-island country’s supply of Red Stripe, Carib and Guiness, as well as a variety of soft drinks. Wadadli, though, is the most cherished among the lot by local residents and most beer-loving visitors to the island. Wadadli is the quintessential Caribbean beach beer. An easy-drinking champagne colored lager that refreshingly finishes light and crisp. You probably can't throw a stone on Antigua without hitting someplace that sells this national treasure, so stock up, grab some ice, and hit one of the islands 365 fabled beaches! Just remember, Antigua and Barbuda are the only places to get Wadadli, so when you're heading home, the party's over.
Pair Your Beach Going With This Local Lager

Bushy's

Buckleys
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Bushy's, Buckleys, Antigua and Barbuda
Taste Antigua's Rarest Rum
You could travel to Antigua a dozen times and never know about Bushy’s 1 & 9 Best Matured Rum, but you would be missing one of the island's most treasured spirits... and now perhaps rarest. Made by one man: John Gonçalves, better known as Bushy, this rum begins life as an overproof base obtained form Antigua Distillers Ltd—the folks behind, among other things, English Harbour Rum. After a bit of aging in oak barrels and the addition of several secret ingredients and blending techniques Bushy would never reveal, you get a rum that's surprisingly smooth, dry, and even a little spicy with vanilla and nutmeg coming through. That explains why it's treasured, but why is it rare? Well, that's because Bushy passed away back in 2013 leaving no one to follow in his spirited footsteps. Should you find yourself in a proper local bar, try asking for Bushy’s, or, if you’re really in tune with the local scene, simply 1 and 9. If you're lucky, you'll get a last taste of an Antigua classic.
Taste Antigua's Rarest Rum

Antigua Distillery

Buckleys
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Antigua Distillery, Buckleys, Antigua and Barbuda
Step Up to English Harbour Rum
Produced by Antigua Distillery, the same company that also makes Antigua and Barbuda’s most popular dark rum, Cavalier, as well as Nut Power (a peanut-flavored rum cream made with the tree bark and reputed sexual stimulant known as bois bande), English Harbour 5-Year Reserve is that special kind of rum that delivers delightful drinks above its price range. No, it's not the most expensive rum Antigua Distillery makes, not even the second most expensive, but it is a polished copper colored, easy-drinking rum that rewards drinkers with hints of coconut, cinnamon, spice and smoke all wrapped up in this mature spirit.
Step Up to English Harbour Rum

Antigua Distillery

Saint John's
Drink
Antigua Distillery, Saint John's, Antigua and Barbuda
Real Men Drink Wadadli Gold
Wadadli Gold is the stronger, somewhat meatier version of Antigua’s national brew. I say somewhat as its 5.6% alcohol by volume is only .6% beyond that of regular Wadadli. Wadadli Gold is decidedly more robust, potent, and cockier than its older sibling. The consistency is a bit thicker, perhaps more malty as well, filling your mouth and your belly like a boss. No, it’s not a great option for a day at the beach, but out at the bar, or at a cricket match, it’s mantastic! Look for Wadadli Gold in cans (it’s not available in bottles) all over Antigua… if you dare!
Real Men Drink Wadadli Gold

Antigua Distillery

Saint John's
Drink
Antigua Distillery, Saint John's, Antigua and Barbuda
Taste Cavalier 5-Year-Old Rum—an Antigua Original
Going all the way back to 1934, the Antigua Distillery has been producing some of the most popular flavors on the island. Back then, the fledgling distillery bought a number of estates and a sugar factory. This sugar, named Mucovado, was a favorite among Antiguans. In the early 1950s the molasses byproduct went on to become Cavalier Muscovado Rum—a hearty, full-bodied, black rum. As rum tastes evolved toward lighter-bodied expressions, so did the Antigua Distillery; refining their lineup to eventually include Cavalier 5 Year Old Rum. This amber spirit is just the thing for accompanying lazy days on Antigua's many beaches, visits to local BBQs, some light sailing, or taking in spectacular sunsets at Shirley Heights. Perfectly fine on its own over ice, expect a medium-bodied, fairly dry rum with a pleasantly long smokey finish.
Taste Cavalier 5-Year-Old Rum—an Antigua Original

Cavell's

Saint Mary
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Cavell's, Saint Mary, Antigua and Barbuda
Go Undercover for Authentic Antiguan Eats
Cavell’s Cook Shop hides in plain sight along the road that hugs the shore on Antigua’s southwestern coast. Its humble, nondescript outward appearance bears every likeness of a simple storage shed or roadside workshop. Thick, encroaching foliage on either side further suggest its owner might prefer his or her place to maintain a low profile. The long line of cars regularly parked astride the road outside Cavell’s at all hours of the day, however, tells a different story. So too do the savory aromas emanating from beneath her galvanize roof, and the smiles on the faces of her steady stream of people filing in and out of here. You see, small and simple though it may be, Cavell’s is the prime spot for real local food in Antigua. The sun pounding down on the galvanize roof combined with the heat put forth by the various cooking apparatuses maKe standing inside Cavell’s feel like limin’ in an oven. No one was complaining, though. Cold Wadadli’s and good company have a way of keeping things cool here. Come to Cavell’s with a smile, some patience, and an open mind and you’ll make friends of the broad swath of local Antiguans, representing all walks of life, easily.
Go Undercover for Authentic Antiguan Eats

The Buzz

Bolands
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The Buzz, Bolands, Antigua and Barbuda
Get Loud With Locals Over BBQ at The Buzz
Loud, local, and right along the road, The Buzz embodies many of the choice characteristics to look for in an authentic West Indian watering hole. The Buzz is probably most beloved for its BBQ chicken, but for that, you'd need to get there fairly early in the evening before it's long gone. But don't worry if you miss the chicken, their pork is smoky, saucy, grease-filled and messy – the perfect late-night munchie! The staff is also pretty cool, though not overly chatty. (There isn’t much talking with all the loud music that makes a night at The Buzz a night at The Buzz.) Like most places, everyone was plenty friendly and welcoming when approached with a smile. The Buzz is located just a few minutes north of Sugar Ridge right on the side of the road. It’s seriously impossible to miss, and well-worth a stop for great late-night BBQ.
Get Loud With Locals Over BBQ at The Buzz

Darkwood Beach

Saint Mary
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Darkwood Beach, Saint Mary, Antigua and Barbuda
Pull Up to a Roadside Beach Worth a Visit
I generally have a thing against beaches next to the road. Usually, they're unfortunate victims to automotive pollution: obnoxious noises, exhaust fumes, and sneaky greases seeping into everything. Darkwood Beach is different. Sure, it's right on the road on the southwest coast of Antigua, but somehow it escapes the usual woes of roadside sands. Maybe it's because the road is fairly quiet. Or maybe it's the persistent onshore trade winds. Or maybe it's because people care enough to keep the beach clean. Regardless, what you, the traveler, get is a great beach with good swimming and snorkeling, plus a beach bar serving rum and traditional West Indian eats — complete with white plastic chairs in the sand.
Pull Up to a Roadside Beach Worth a Visit

Bush Bay

Saint John
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Bush Bay, Saint John, Antigua and Barbuda
Hideaway at Bush Bay
Completely off-the-beaten-path and almost totally secluded in the northwest of Antigua is diminutive Bush Beach. I was staying at Blue Waters Resort when I felt the need for a little exercise, so I swung by their water sports shed to check out a kayak. I asked where I should go, to which the guy answered: "You should really stay in the bay here where I can see you... but if you want, you can try going around the bluff. There's a beach back there no one goes to." A beach no one goes to? Sign me up! Kayaking around the bluff wasn't too difficult and the reward? Well, you're looking at it. An untouched bush-lined beach all to myself! For those not staying at Blue Waters, there's a slightly hidden path down to the beach from the road... Just don't tell too many people about it!
Hideaway at Bush Bay
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