What to do in and around The Galley Bay
Antigua (pronounced An-tee’ga) encompasses 108 square miles of coastline and 365 white sand beaches between the Atlantic Ocean and the Caribbean Sea. For an uncommon, all-inclusive Caribbean holiday, stay at The Galley Bay Resort and Spa. In and around the property are ruins of forts hundreds of years old, wrecks for snorkeling, a spa with tree houses for treatment rooms, plenty of authentic dining options, and even world-class sailing opportunities.
Five Islands Village, St John's, Antigua & Barbuda
Soaking tubs big enough for two and double walk-in showers provide a clue that this beachfront all-inclusive, located less than 20 minutes from the airport on a peninsula just to the southwest of St. John’s Harbour, encourages families to look elsewhere. And while only the Premium Beachfront Suites have those particular romance-inducing amenities, there are other features, such as hideaway tropical dining, that will convince honeymooners and other couples that they have stepped into their own Gauguin landscape. Hence, the most secluded rooms, each with its own plunge pool, are called the Gauguin Cottages. Even among Antigua’s 365 beaches, Galley Bay’s is a visual standout that is longer and less crowded than most. The ocean here can get too rough for swimming, but the beach seldom fails to please for sunsets. Guests with limitless energy can choose from complimentary activities such as tennis, sailing, and stand-up paddleboarding. Or they can save their energy for honeymooning.
No trip to Antigua, the “Land of Sea and Sun,” would be complete without spending quality time on one (or two, or three) of its fabled 365 sugar-white, sparkling beaches and the Galley Bay Resort and Spa sits on one of the best of the bunch. Galley Bay Beach is graced with three-quarters of a mile of quintessential Antiguan beach. Perfectly sized sand won’t blow in the breeze, palm trees dot its length providing natural shade, beds and hammocks dare you escape their relaxing embrace, and the water… Well… The water looks like you see above. Immaculate. Turquoise. Radiant. In the distance, you can see Nevis and St. Kitts on the horizon almost close enough to touch adding to the impossible perfection.
P.O. W2025, Five Islands village, St John's, Antigua and Barbuda
Islands of the Caribbean with historically strong ties to Great Britain aren’t exactly known for letting it all hang out but just to the south of Galley Bay Resort and Spa, is Antigua’s one-and-only clothing-optional stretch of sand: Eden Beach. Intrepid (or maybe a little fool-hardy) travelers can borrow bikes from Galley Bay to make the trip, but be warned: there are several steep hills standing between you and taking it all off, but, as I found out on my last visit, that just makes the payoff that much sweeter! The beach is much larger than you might expect with lots of private nooks. There’s even an exotic mini-islet within swimming distance from shore. The place is positively picturesque. But you’ll have to show some restraint. There’s a strict “no cameras allowed” policy out of respect for your fellow nude neighbors.
Old road, Antigua and Barbuda
Opened in 2003, Carlisle Bay is set on a lush, isolated section of Antigua’s south coast and has a 21st-century design that feels more contemporary than Caribbean. With muted shades of grays, whites, and greens, the hotel projects an uncluttered, understated luxury. Its most remarked-on feature, though, is the way it appeals to both couples and families by keeping the two separate. Each group has its own cluster of rooms at its own end of the beach, and never the twain have to meet, except perhaps for lunch at Ottimo, the poolside Italian restaurant. The crescent of beach is tucked into a sheltered bay, so the waves seldom do more than whisper up onto the white sand, against a backdrop of forested hills. It’s all very restful, but the long list of free non-motorized watersports and the extensive kids’ club ensures everyone has plenty to do.
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.
St John's, Antigua and Barbuda
The moment you walk into Buba’s, you feel like family. It’s easy to understand why when you consider that surrounding this blink-and-you’ll-miss-it hillside restaurant are Buba’s house, Buba’s sister’s house, and Buba’s Brother’s house across the street. Buba’s own two daughters, nephews, cousins, and other miscellaneous family either host, help in the kitchen, play dj, man the bar, or simply greet visitors from their porches with welcoming, West Indian waves. This homegrown approach extends beyond hospitality to deliciously impact the food as well. Nearly every fruit, vegetable, and herb used in the dishes at Buba’s are all grown on the sloping overgrown gardens surrounding the restaurant. The result is a quintessential island restaurant with no real set menu. Instead, expect the freshest ingredients of the day lovingly coaxed into a collection of authentic Caribbean fare like rice and peas, stew chicken, steamed veggies, salad, and more.
Deep Bay Beach, Antigua and Barbuda
Just to the north of Galley Bay Resort, you’ll find one of my favorite beaches on the island and maybe even the entire Caribbean: Deep Bay. The ruins of Fort Barrington keep watch over this incredible, crescent-shaped slice of paradise, just adding to the beauty of its turquoise, flat waters. Swimming here is like splashing in the largest, most pristine, natural pool you’ve ever imagined. As an added bonus, there’s a hundred-year-old sunken wreck, a barque from Trinidad named the Andes, out in the middle of the bay. It’s an easy swim from shore and accessible to snorkelers. Beaches really don’t get much better than this... anywhere.
Five Islands Village, St John's, Antigua & Barbuda
My first night at Galley Bay, I decided to take in their signature dining experience at Ismay’s. This is their top-of-the-line restaurant. Menu items include baked escalope of mahi mahi with olive and pine nut crust parsley; roasted cherry tomatoes, chilled caponata, sweet potato wafers, and balsamic reduction; and gratin of shrimp, crimson grapes, fresh dill, and champagne cream. Certainly impressive names, but perhaps the most impressive is the name of the restaurant itself. You see, when the then unnamed restaurant was being built in 2008, employees overwhelmingly suggested it should be named after one of their own: Ms. Ismay Mason. Ismay had been with Galley Bay for 45 years at that time during which she’d never called in sick and was a steadfast member of the team and community at large. Five years later, when Ismay finally retired, the tribute to her contribution toward the exceptional vibe of Galley Bay continued with the formation of The Ismay’s Foundation which provides for further career training and education within the community. Incidentally, I had the grilled beef mignon and sauté of shrimp, fondant potato, lemon, parsley and white wine emulsion.
Dickenson Bay St
At Pappa Zouk’s rum bar in Antigua the truest path to happiness is through a mix of rum, fresh fish, new friends, and zouk music. First you should know that Pappa Zouk’s is not a restaurant. It’s a rum bar with a dizzying array of rums, rhums, and rons from across the Caribbean and beyond. Yes, lucky rummies can supplement their rum intake with a full menu of authentically prepared fresh fish and other seafood delights, but first-and-foremost this quirky little space is dedicated to drinking and being merry. Secondly, you should know Pappa Zouk is not the mad German owner and bartender. No, that curmudgeon with a penchant for abruptly ending the night’s festivities with a hearty “Get the f**k out!” is Bert Kirchner. He named his place after a deaf, dumb, old man he met on Dominica who would transform from a shuffling ancient to a lithe dancer with pure joy radiating from his gap-toothed smile down to the tips of his barefoot toes any time zouk music was played. He couldn’t hear the music, but he certainly felt it. And his pure happiness in the face of his meager existence was something that always stuck with Bert. Now he spreads happiness his own way — with rum, fresh fish, and zouk playing in the background.
Old Road, Antigua and Barbuda
All across Antigua you can find what may, at first glance, appear to be regular pineapples, but if you pass up on sampling the Antigua Black Pineapples, or just Antigua Blacks for short, you’d be missing what many call the sweetest pineapple on the planet. It’s said that Arawak Indians brought the first pineapples to Antigua’s shores more than 1,000 years ago. Upon cultivation in the island’s unique environment, these early pineapples soon adopted the distinctive flavor, appearance, and make-up of the Antigua Black we know today. The flavor being crisply sweet, not cloying, thanks in part to the Antigua Black’s low acidity. The appearance is so diminutive that you may think these pygmy pineapples aren’t ready for primetime compared to their oversized cousins from Hawaii, but one taste and you’ll change your tune. Check out Cades Bay Agricultural Station down south on Old Road to learn the history and explore the Antigua Black’s cultivation first hand.