I’m an island woman at heart. And, I’ve been fortunate to visit many. But, none makes me long for as quick of a return as the country of Antigua does. While the country and the resorts are stunning, the people are what I am most fond of. They are peaceful and joyful not only with guests but also with one another.
We recently spent 7 nights there, celebrating two special occasions. Here is what you need to know about the country and the culture before going.
Read on to learn about Galley Bay Resort-one of the island’s finest-and where we stay. Check out the website before booking your vacation.
Ask your questions on the form below. Share your trip experiences with me upon return. I’d like to hear about it.
Antigua, the largest of the English-speaking Leeward Islands in the Eastern Caribbean, is roughly 17 degrees north of the equator. To the south are the islands of Montserrat and Guadeloupe, and to the north and west are Nevis, Saint Kitts, Saint Barts, and St. Martin. Antigua whose twin country is Barbuda, is 108 square miles and has 365 white sand beaches, all open to the public. Its capital city is St. John’s where the majority of the country’s permanent population of 81,800 (2015) live. Notable island residents include Giorgio Armani, Richard Branson, Robin Leach and Eric Clapton.
Antigua and Barbuda became independent states within the Commonwealth of Nations on November 1, 1981. It is a member of the British Commonwealth under a Parliamentary system with a Prime Minister as its head. Elizabeth II is the first Queen of Antigua and Barbuda and its first Prime Minister was Vere Cornwall Bird, Sr. The airport, located in the northeast corner of Antigua, is named after him. The currency is the East Caribbean dollar; however, most prices are shown in US dollars.
There is little seasonal temperature variation in Antigua. Temperatures range from the mid-70’s to the upper-80’s, making it always feel like summer. The country’s low humidity makes it one of the most temperate climates in the world. Surprisingly, the country often experiences drought and has no waterfalls.
Tourism leads Antigua’s economy. It is its main source of both income and employment. The island is promoted as a luxury Caribbean vacation and has many resorts on the coastline. Investment banking and financial services contribute to the economy as does the growing medical school: American University of Antigua-Caribbean Medical School.
The major sport in Antigua is cricket. Sir Vivian (“Viv”) Richards is one of the most famous Antiguans who captained the West Indies team. (Antiguans play for the Leeward Island team in domestic matches and the West Indies team internationally.) Rugby, Association Football (Soccer) and basketball are becoming popular; many follow the NBA. There are several golf courses in Antigua.
Sailing has been one of the most popular sports for years with Antigua Sailing Week and Antigua Classic Yacht Regatta being two of the region’s most reputable sailing competitions. Hundreds of yachts from around the world compete around Antigua each year.
The island is a must-see destination for scuba divers and snorkelers, who come from around the globe to explore the breathtaking nearly unbroken wall of coral reef that surrounds the island.
The Antiguan Carnival, billed as the Caribbean’s greatest summer festival, was traditionally celebrated during the Christmas season. It switched in August 1957 to a summer festival. Antiguans and visitors celebrate the emancipation of slavery annually from the end of July to the first Tuesday in August. Music (Calypso, steel drums and soca) and dance are key elements of the celebration.
Shirley Heights located at the southern tip of Antigua is a restored military lookout (490 ft) and gun battery. It provides a spectacular view over English Harbour and Falmouth Harbour.
The buildings now serve as a restaurant and bar and host the ever-popular Sunday evening party (4-10 pm) complete with Caribbean music played on steel drums. The area provides some of the best sunset views around.
Nelson’s Dockyard in English Harbour, Antigua is part of the Nelson’s Dockyard National Park, which also includes Clarence House and Shirley Heights. It is a cultural heritage site and marina, including shops, hotels and marina businesses. Nelson’s Dockyard hosts many sailing and yachting events and is naturally well-suited to protect ships and cargo from hurricanes because of its deeply indented shoreline.
Devil’s Bridge is a natural rock area (geologic formation) on the Atlantic coast in eastern Antigua. Legend has it that slaves went here to commit suicide. It has the most dramatic coastal scenery on the island. Care must be taken while walking the uneven, slippery area.
Swimwear is frowned upon in public places. Shorts are generally not accepted attire for evening dining anywhere on the island. Military-type camouflage clothing is strictly prohibited by law and anyone caught wearing it can be arrested.
Driving & Shopping
Driving is on the left in Antigua. Most vehicles have the steering wheel on the right. You must get a temporary license to drive in the country. You may obtain one from the Transport Board, car rental agencies and police stations. The island-wide speed limit is 40 mph and 20 mph in urban areas.
Duty-free shopping is abundant in Antigua. Take your resort confirmation or flight information and a photo ID to qualify. Passports work just fine.
Sheer Rocks Dining
Many dine at Sheer Rocks- a popular Antiguan restaurant known as much for the dining experience as the food, provided by local farmers, fishermen and artisan food producers. One can lounge on a day bed while eating next to the plunge pool. Every table offers sensational views from the tiered wood decks carved into a sheer cliff side.
Galley Bay Resort an all-inclusive, adults only beachfront resort on the Caribbean coast 10 minutes west (sunset side) of the capital city of St. John’s-is the perfect location for those seeking a quiet, restful vacation.
Galley Bay has 98 guest rooms, including the Gauguin Suites, with private plunge pools, nestled among the well-manicured gardens along the bird sanctuary lagoon.
Galley Bay has:
- 3 open-air restaurants
- 3 lounges
- A near-perfect spa
- Nightly live entertainment
- Private beachfront dining options
- A turtle nesting site
- A well-stocked library and coffee/tea shop with pastry offerings
- A well-appointed gift shop
- Sea grapes, figs (bananas), mangoes growing on site. Staff pick flowers/greenery daily to adorn tables
- Covered outdoor table tennis (ping-pong) and pool tables
- A well-maintained tennis court
- A free-form pool with plentiful shaded seating and always-available towels
- Croquet lawn
- Golf clubs and fishing poles available for use
- A jogging and biking trail with complimentary bicycles and helmets
- Complimentary water-sports and lessons with friendly staff
- A fully equipped air-conditioned fitness center with towels, a shower and water station
- Stocked mini-refrigerators in guest rooms
- A Rum Shack
- Golf cart transportation from room to dining, if needed
- An office area near Guest Services that has Internet access
- Bed notes placed on pillows daily
- A Weekly Activity Sheet detailing daily tours, entertainment, restaurant hours, etc. Don’t miss the Tuesday Garden Tour.
- A Manager’s Cocktail Party where the management team actually interacts with guests
- A Caribbean Barbeque Buffet night with a relaxed dinner dress code
- The most gracious, hospitable, well-trained staff
What Galley Bay is not is a destination for those with American Spring Break mindsets. There’s no swim-up bar and raucous music. It is a reserved setting where travelers go to unplug and unwind. It provides a natural, relaxing setting on ¾ mile of white sandy beach front. A well-advertised dress code is strictly followed for meal services and a guest orientation on the day after arrival informs guests of available excursions and onsite offerings.
Dining at Galley Bay is an event.
Plan on 90-120 minutes to complete the five-course gourmet-style meals. There is also a Barefoot Grill for those wanting a quick bite at lunchtime. Intimate dining on the beach with private wait service is available at Ismay’s-the only restaurant not included in the all-inclusive rate.
The grounds of Galley Bay are noteworthy.
They are well-manicured. Register for the Tuesday Garden Tour to learn more about the “Master Plan” and about what it takes to maintain the immaculate landscaping.
Guest service at Galley Bay is superior, top to bottom. Arriving, one is greeted and then presented with a cloth to cool off and handed a refreshing beverage before checking in. After, you are driven by golf cart to your accommodations. All dining and lounge staff are friendly without being intrusive. Everything is done to please guests and to encourage them to have a memorable, pleasant stay. Need something. Ask.
The Resort is a special occasion destination for many.
Anniversary and birthday guests receive a complimentary bottle of chilled champagne, as do returning guests. Resort staff seem encouraged to remember guest names and one frequently sees interactions between staff and guests that looks more familial than business. It’s a warm, welcoming site. Many guests arrive as strangers and leave as friends, it’s that kind of setting.
Helpful Tips while planning for your stay at Galley Bay Resort
- The resort does not accept American Express.
- Take insect repellent for evening walks and activities. They spray the resort but repellent is helpful.
- You are not required to tip. The service is so good, you will want to. Have cash. If you run out, you can get some at the front desk and will be charged a service fee.
- Pack your patience, meal service is long, but worth the experience.
- If you stay in a cottage, bring the lounge cushions in overnight to keep them humidity and rain free.
- Leave the umbrella and books at home. Plenty are available at the resort.
3 notable locals who added to our remarkable visit:
- St. James Travel & Tours Jason Mannix reached at Jason.firstname.lastname@example.org was assigned as our Delta Vacations “on the ground” guide. His service was simply outstanding.
- Gloade’s Limousine & Transportation Service Gregson, Owner, (268)720-5727 chauffeured our all-day, all-island culture and photography tour. He provided a safe, well-appointed vehicle and took us to locations we’d never have discovered on our own. A former high school teacher, Gregson is one you should meet and spend a day with exploring Antigua.
- Joe from Photogenesis Imaging
We documented our 25th Wedding Anniversary by hiring Joe from Photogenesis Imaging. He made us feel comfortable in front of the camera and was very familiar with Galley Bay Resort. He took photographs to cherish for a lifetime. We were even able to create a canvas from his photographic work.
SHARE with those planning a honeymoon or other special occasion AND those in need of unplugging and re-charging. Let Galley Bay Resort know I referred you. [I am not paid for endorsements and receive no commission for the referral.]
More information can be found by clicking Best Antigua.
What questions do you have before booking a vacation to Antigua? Ask me.
Linda Leier Thomason is a former CEO who writes freelance business and travel stories, along with feature articles. Her work experiences include a Fortune 500 corporation, federal government, entrepreneurship and small business. Find out more about Linda by clicking the “Meet Linda” tab above. Interested in working together? Complete this form below.
Fashion art products created from photographic images taken in Antigua can be found at the “Linda’s Store” tab above under #1 Vida Design Studio. Thank you for your support of my small business shop.
©Copyright. July 2017. Linda Leier Thomason