A made-in Antigua breathe easy few days
By Caroline Tapp-McDougall
Chic, unfussy, low-key luxe on a canvas of palm trees, white sand and clear turquoise waters.
Eat your heart out, forest bathers; we’ve come to try the latest wellness experience on an uninhabited island off the coast of Antigua. Surrounded by ocean waves and fragrant warm breezes. I’m here on the beach at sunrise. My mission: to see how the negative ions, created by the pounding waves, will affect my mood, well-being and ability to “switch off.”
Columbia University researchers are heralding these invisible little ion-guys that come from the waves, as powerful mood enhancers. They claim to have research that proves they’ll stimulate the senses, increase oxygen absorption and boost resistance to disease. A tall order, but considering the fact that the creators of the Carlisle Bay’s Island Bathing experience have given me the zen-ist wellness master ever, a beautiful private beach on an island and crashing surf to listen to rather than my cell phone, even I might start to chant.
On a peaceful note, the Island bathing experience is $725, which is good for transporting two people by private launch to their own island at sunrise or sunset for a truly unique meditative two-hour reboot.
Meanwhile, back in a secluded cove on the south coast of Antigua, surrounded by lush rainforest, white sand and plenty of pristine blue sea, the team at Indigo on the Beach is preparing our breakfast, al fresco. Sweeping ocean views and warm sea breezes provides top marks for causal dining with atmosphere.
Our home base, for a few days, Carlisle Bay is a holiday favourite for multi-gen families. Many tell us they return year after year to enjoy the island’s consistently wonderful weather and the hotel’s laid-back luxe.
One gregarious British gent, who talked up a storm with everyone he met, claimed he was on his 13th solo visit and still loving every moment. Others kept to themselves at the adults only or kids pools, went hiking in the hilltop rainforest or took part in a variety of water sports: sailing, kayaking, snorkelling or paddle boarding lessons from onsite experts. Motorized activities are run out of the cove next door where, for a fee, wake boarding, water skiing and tubing can be experienced. Antigua is also well known as a sailing lover’s paradise with everything from learn-to-sail classes to boat charters on offer.
A spa called Blue
A member of the Leading Hotels of the World, the 82-suite Carlisle Bay resort blends urban chic design and Caribbean charm with a 17,000 square foot spa, “Blue,” and a purpose-built Cool Kids Club. Located in a shady garden, the clubhouse has a special jungle gym, sandpit, paddling pool and even a mini-tennis court.
Attracting guests from all over the island, Carlisle’s hallmark reservation only evening dining restaurant is East. Entered via tall Indonesian carved doors its magically romantic fuchsia and dark wood décor sets the mood for a delightfully eclectic mix of Asian fusion. Japanese, Thai, and Indonesian dishes all appear on the tasting-style menu: sushi, sashimi and Balinese specialties are among the main draw. Great to share!
Barefoot elegance Beyond East for dinner and Indigo on the Beach, which seemed to be the go-to for breakfast and lunch during our stay, there are several other well run restaurants on the property and plenty of relaxing bar lounge areas. Each boasts its own distinct vibe and opening hours. Choose from a relaxed barefoot lunch or afternoon tea at Coconut Grove, or an elegant pre-dinner thirst-quencher at the Pavilion Bar, where the shutters open up to the rainforest and the sounds and scent of the sea.
And, when beach time is over or on an infrequent rainy afternoon, there’s even a 42-seat screening room and an ultra- chic library/reading room.
Live and learn
Also on our agenda is a private cultural excursion, arranged by the hotel to Nelson’s Dockyard, a newly named UNESCO World Heritage site in Antigua’s English Harbour. Getting there and picnicking/snorkelling on the way back is half the fun on Carlisle Bay’s 36-feet Fjord cruising yacht.
A visit here is an educational sail back in time, albeit a little touristy, the exhibits are well done. The best part is the chance to explore the Dockyard’s restored Georgian-style navel buildings, original iron structures and artifacts. For the mariner in all of us, there are fascinating models of cutter ships, brig-sloops and British naval frigates and plenty of navy pictures and tales of invading forces, European powers and the hundreds of men who maintained the Royal Navy Warships.
Come sail away Today, private boats and their crews come to the island by mooring at St. John’s Harbour, English Harbour, the St. James Club or Crabb’s Marina. As we discover during our sail, Antigua’s docks are a feast for the eyes, even for non-sailors, when the season is in full swing and the slips are full. Masts rattle, seagulls coast and the warm trade winds blow. It couldn’t be nicer. And, one last thing … don’t forget to pack your boat shoes and sailing gear. Time on a yacht here is bucket-list material.