I just spent a fabulous week in Antiqua with my husband and three other couples we’ve known and traveled with for the better part of almost 2 decades. We went the first week of November, which some may say was gutsy because it is technically still hurricane season. But what we were surprised to learn was that it is still low season, and we were practically the only ones there. At most restaurants we were one of only two or three tables there. So odd, but also nice when vacationing and trying to relax.
We hear that island is getting ready for high season and that in a month or so the beautiful and mostly empty cove behind our beautiful house will be filled with boats. It is hard to imagine. And while the locals tell us t is not high season yet like they’re apologizing, we think this seems like the perfect time to be here.
Kasey, my friend and the most organized person I know, found our gorgeous house on VRBO and this may be the first time that a house is as gorgeous in person as is it in the photos. And the views! Unbelievable. The house is located in Jolly Harbour, has four private ensuite bedrooms, two large interior living rooms, and a large gourmet kitchen. Then there’s the large outside space with a covered dining area for 8, a large sitting area, 4 chaises and a pool table, a horizonless pool, private access to the beach, and kayaks and SUPs at your disposal. As you can see from the pictures, it is gorgeous. The house also came with two “buggies” (golf carts) that made it easy for us to get to some of the local restaurants, and to the market. Jolly Harbour turned out to be a great home base for us.
We arrived mid-day on a Saturday, so we made a market run to stock the house but decided to go out for dinner. We landed on Akropolis Greek Restaurant in Jolly Harbour, and it was perfect. Perched at the water’s edge with exposed beams and a large outdoor area it felt like Greece. Their pizzas were a big hit with our group, as was the seared tuna. We started with a few of the mezze plates and I could have just eaten those all evening -they were that good. And the tzatziki was perfect! The portions were large, and the chicken gyro fed me for two days.
Sunday: After spending a day relaxing, reading, and exploring Jolly Harbour, on Sunday night we went to Sheer Rocks for dinner, which is a restaurant located inside the Cocobay Resort, and is perched on the cliffs overlooking the water. Once we arrived, the journey through the darkness to the restaurant itself made us feel like we were exploring an unknown world. We followed the hostess from the main lobby through a labyrinth of narrow stone pathways and oceanside huts as we continued towards the ocean and down the hill to the restaurant. The food and the ambience were terrific. Their cocktail list was expansive and creative. I had a drink from the gin cocktail list (things like a cocktail list specifically for gin make the island feel even slightly more British, if there was a doubt) called a Dragon24 with Elderflower Tonic and Dragon Fruit. For my appetizer I had the King Scallops, and for dinner I had the Roasted Artichokes. The presentation and the flavors were Ah-mazing.
Monday: After a morning full of SUP-ing and exploring the mangroves, we wandered down the beach a bit to Sandra’s Beach Shop. This little outpost on the beach reminded me of one of our favorite little beach bars on the southern tip of Cozumel. Good food, nothing too fancy, and cold drinks with a great view. There is plenty of seating around to linger once you’re done eating. It was here that I discovered the local drink known as the Antigua Smile (dark rum, pineapple juice, and crème de banana, shaken).
Tuesday: Tuesday we had a full day. We circumvented the island with Antigua Adventures Extreme on a 38ft center console boat with three Yamaha 250hp engines on the back. We picked up the boat in Jolly Harbour, then started to make our way around with a stop at Sting Ray City, lunch on the beach, and a stop at English Harbour.
After a full day we decided to treat ourselves to dinner out, so we went to the highly recommended Papa Zouk, Antigua’s #1 Fish and Rum spot. We were greeted like old friends when we arrived, and the service was great. Soon after arriving their signature rum tea was somehow at each spot, and it was a hit with all. The fish was fresh and the food was great. We started with some conch fritters and shrimp fritters, and the conch fritters may be the best ones I’ve ever had. The lobster was incredible and beautifully presented, and the snapper was awesome. We loved it.
Wednesday: Since we did so much yesterday, Wednesday was a lounging beach and pool day. Which also means that we got to use the kayaks and the SUPs. It was a great way to spend the day. And despite the workout from paddling, I tried to keep it a chill day. As evidenced that I only had 905 steps for the day. Vacay accomplished.
Which we capped off our lazy day with dinner at Ffryes Beach Bar/Dennis Restaurant. This is located near Sheer Rocks, and we hear that during the busy season the cruise ships will bring tons of people into this area and to the beach, and then the restaurant is crazy busy. We enjoyed sharing the restaurant with only one other group, and the owner’s sweet dog “Shy Girl” (who was not shy, and was super sweet). While we could not see the view from the restaurant, we could hear the gentle lapping of the waves very close by. We all got a variety of fish and curry dishes, and there was nothing left on anyone’s plate. I had the Coconut Shrimp and it was very tasty. We learned that they are famous for a Pig Roast that they do every Sunday, and that people come from all over the island for it. I guess we’ll just have to add that to the list for when we come back.
Thursday: Thursday we headed into St. John’s for a food tour with Kadisha of Eat and Lime Food Tours which we booked through Viatours. Kadisha is only 19, and founded this company to show off the variety of food in Antigua. Our first stop was Anette’s, where we had a classic Antiguan breakfast of some saltfish, hard of a hard-boiled egg, some lettuce, a slice of tomato, and small sweet roll and some “chop up” (okra, eggplant, spinach and pumpkin – yum!).
The second stop was for a smoothie from Smoothie Palace. Eddie is a former resort bartender opened his own business after years of being asked by resort guests for custom smoothies and hangover remedies. He was very knowledgeable about fruits, vegetables and key ingredients like turmeric. The pineapple smoothie he made for us was yummy and refreshing. Plus we loved hearing how proud this dad was of his children were in the US studying at Georgia Tech, the University of West Georgia and Washington University in St. Louis.
The third stop on our tour was Roti King, which was in a historical old bungalow, and is run by the founder’s children. We learned that there is a rich history of Indian heritage and cooking in the Carribbean due to the large numbers of Indians that started coming to Trinidad in 1845 as indentured laborers for the sugar cane plantations, and eventually earning their freedom. Today , 42% of the population of Trinidad and Tobago is either full or partial Indian descent. Over many decades of course their customs and recipes have comingled with the other Carribbean islands, and that is why you’ll see curry dishes on many menus throughout the islands. Here at Roti King we had the Chicken Roti, which was on a thin bread cooked with butter, and inside was the tender curry chicken, potatoes and peas. I could have eaten just the potatoes and peas win the curry sauce it was so good.
The fourth stop on our tour was for an Old Fashioned Rum Punch class, and tasting. This was very informative and interactive. We also learned about making infused simple syrup with cinnamon and lemon rinds, and about the two distilleries on the island (one for rum and the other for gin). We also enjoyed their local market for soaps, hot sauces, and salts.Our favorite was the "Good JuJu" and the "Bad JuJu."
The fifth stop on the tour was to sop up the alcohol, or so we were told. We went to Brownies Bakery and had a very dense cinnamon sweet bread with American cheese on it. This was not the favorite stop for us, but appreciated the experience and the interesting location.
The sixth stop on the tour was at Patty Delight, were we had a beef patty not unlike a Jamaican beef patty, but with tomato, lettuce and cheese added in. This was very yummy, and for me is a great improvement on the Jamaican beef patties that always seem a bit flavorless to me.
The seventh and final stop of the tour may have been my favorite. It was at One Stone Ital Shack for a vegetarian appetizer and some juice. I had the soursop juice and it was sooo good. But I always like vegetable fritters. These were spinach and broccoli and were perfect.
FRIDAY: Our last day in paradise. Strictly a pool day.
All in all, I would recommend the Food Tour, and it was a lot of fun to do it as a group (there were 8 of us). But you’ll definitely want to start with an empty stomach. And for those that are curious, my step count for the food tour was 6,504 steps.
Overall, Antigua was gorgeous, the weather was perfect (especially for "low season", and it felt a little bit like Bermuda.
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Kris Delaney is a marketing executive, foodie, travel enthusiast, and book nerd based in Atlanta, GA.