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Travel Antigua: Resorts, beaches and sightseeing

Tracy E. Hopkins is an accomplished writer, blogger and editor living in New York City. She has expertise covering travel, fashion, health and entertainment.

Antigua travel tips

Everything in Antigua is about a 20-minute drive away, or at least that’s what locals will tell you. They just don't tell you it can be a bumpy, winding ride -- not fun for this car-sick prone New Yorker. But despite that rocky beginning, a trip to Antigua is well worth the journey.

Antigua

Antigua resort: Sugar Ridge

Sugar Ridge

Nestled in a lush green hillside on the island's west coast, bordered by sugar cane and native plants, Sugar Ridge has 60 large rooms with panoramic views of the Caribbean and nearby islands. This Antigua vacation resort immediately felt more Miami Beach chic than Caribbean kitsch. When my husband and I stepped into the dark wood- and cream-accented lobby, we were greeted with warm hand towels and welcome cocktails. After a speedy check-in, we were escorted by golf cart to our deluxe room.

Plan a romantic Antigua vacation

Sugar Ridge's upscale décor and modern amenities make it ideal for a honeymoon or romantic getaway. Every modern, airy room has a large veranda with a dining area and day bed. Carmichael's, the resort's open-air fine dining eatery atop the hillside, is the best spot to sip a cocktail and watch the sunset. Before dinner, take a dip in the secluded infinity-edge freshwater pool adjacent to the restaurant.

Book a fitness getaway in Antigua

During the peak winter and spring seasons Sugar Ridge offers fitness retreats to kickstart your new year's resolution. The eight-day FitEscape program's activities include hiking, kayaking, yoga and Pilates classes, scuba diving, and a zip-line tour through Antigua's lush tropical rainforest. After working up a sweat, guests can choose from four special spa treatments at Sugar Ridge's tranquil Aveda Concept Spa, and take healthy cooking classes. Rates start at $3,329 per person based on double occupancy in a deluxe room with a private plunge pool.

Bask on Antigua's many beaches

Antigua's motto is "The beach is just the beginning." But with 365 beautiful coves – one for every day of the year – you can easily spend your entire vacation lounging on one of the island's pristine white sand beaches. All of the island's beaches are public, but with so many options, it's possible to find a private patch of sand. Local favorites include Darkwood beach (about a five-minute drive from Jolly Harbour), Turner's beach (on a clear day you can see neighboring island Montserrat on the horizon), and the snorkeling-favorite Pigeon's Point beach (about five minutes from the English Harbour).

We spent an afternoon splashing in the clear blue water and collecting seashells and coral on the powdery white sand at Fryes beach, about a five-minute drive from Sugar Ridge. If you park your beach chair at Fryes, be sure to stop by Dennis Cocktail Bar and Restaurant, a favorite hangout for tourists and locals alike, to take in the view and munch on tasty seafood.

Sightseeing in Antigua

The 108-square-mile island of Antigua has several highlights that shouldn't be missed:

Nelson's Dockyard St. John's

St. John's is the capital and business center of Antigua and Barbuda (Barbuda is Antigua's less developed, scenic sister island). Visit bustling St. John's to pick up souvenirs, leather goods, natural soaps or have a dress made for you on the spot in the Arts and Crafts Market. Go for an early-morning visit on Fridays and Saturdays to sample unusual fruits and vegetables like the famous Antiguan black pineapple in the Public Market.

Nelson's Dockyard National Park

Named after Britain's Admiral Horatio Nelson, Nelson's Dockyard National Park is the only existing Georgian naval dockyard in the world. By the end of the 18dth century, Antigua had become an important strategic port and commercial English colony. The museum and surrounding restored buildings are a memorial to Nelson and the Royal Navy that used the dockyard during the Caribbean wars with the French, Spanish and Dutch in the 18th and 19th centuries.

Even if you aren't a history buff, Nelson's Dockyard is a relaxing place to enjoy a view of the English Harbour and the tradewinds breeze. On Sundays visitors and locals come to enjoy barbecue and live reggae and steel band music at the dockyard's bar from 3 to 9 p.m.

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