We arrived at the stunning Carlisle Bay resort after a short taxi journey from Antigua's VC Bird International Airport. Greeted with cooling moist towels and an ice-cold pineapple and ginger mocktail, our foggy London start to the day was soon a distant memory. The luxury resort on Antigua's South Coast is situated in a secluded bay with crystal water and backed by lush green rainforest, the resort is comprised of 82 suites all of which benefit from stunning ocean views. A combination of active adventure and sheer relaxation makes the resort perfect for couples and families alike, featuring four restaurants and bars, spa, tennis courts, swimming pool and Kids Club. I was lucky enough to be hosted in one of the palatial Beach Suites, which looked out onto my private terrace with its daybed, petal-strewn footbath and direct access to the beach.
After a restorative bath, we had dinner at the resort's main restaurant, Indigo on the Beach, which opens out onto the bay for stunning sunset dining. The menu showcases fresh produce with a local flavour, my red snapper with garlic spinach was divine accompanied by a perfectly chilled rose and followed by an irresistible creme brulee. I fell into my fabulously comfortable bed and slept soundly all night.
The next day dawned bright and clear, and we were ready to greet it with sunrise pilates on the resort's jetty. As we stretched, to the relaxing sound of gently lapping waves, we felt the warmth of the sun as it rose over the lush backdrop of mountains. At the end of the session, we were even joined by five large inquisitive fish who swam up to investigate us in the calm bay.
Breakfast was served in Indigo on the Beach, where the view of the morning horizon was unrivalled. Each day the restaurant offers a different fresh fruit juice and smoothie such as the refreshing 3 melon medley juice or a delicious berry smoothie. We feasted on eggs hollandaise, avocado toast, pastries and of course lots of juicy fresh fruit.
The day promised to stay beautiful as we boarded the resort's private cruising yacht for an adventure on the high seas! We sped away from the resort passing secluded beaches and stretches of lush vegetation. Our guide, Marvin, informed us that Antigua has 365 beaches- one for every day of the year!- all of which are public.
We soon arrived at English Harbour ready to explore Nelson's Dockyard- a UNESCO World Heritage site and the island's most famous National Park. It was here that British fleets sheltered from hurricanes, maintaining their military advantage under Admiral Horatio Nelson during the 18th century as we learnt from a local guide and the harbour's fascinating naval museum. The Park also contains Clarence House, where Princess Margaret honeymooned with Lord Snowdon (before being chased away by the paparazzi!). Today this majestic landmark is a popular wedding venue.
We boarded the boat again and dropped anchor near the Pillars of Hercules - an impressive rock formation carved by the wind and waves over hundreds of years. We donned snorkel masks and flippers and jumped in! It was my first time snorkelling and I can honestly say I'm hooked. Seeing so many fish up close - Atlantic blue tang, banded butterfly fish, and even some large surgeonfish - was indescribable. Back on the boat, we sped along the island's coast and dropped anchor once more near a secluded beach with crystal clear blue water. We had a luxurious swim and ate a delicious lunch of grilled fish burgers and chilled rose before setting off back to the resort.
After a quick shower and change of clothes, it was time for tennis! Carlisle Bay is one of a small handful of Caribbean resorts to offer nine tennis courts. My companions and I were a bit out of practice but our wonderful coach put us through our paces and soon had us vollying up a storm surrounded by breathtakingly green mountains and beautiful palm trees. That night we ate at the Jetty Grill, an adults-only venue where the restaurant opens onto the beach and jetty. After rum cocktails, we enjoyed fresh fish and grilled meat serenaded by a first-rate steel band - it doesn't get more Caribbean than this!
Waking up to an ocean view is an incomparable pleasure, I leapt from my king size bed into the bath-warm bay for a pre-breakfast dip. We tucked into omelettes and fresh fruit, readying ourselves for our morning rainforest hike at Wallings Nature Reserve. Our guide took us on a leafy trail up past a reservoir and through groves of trees such as hog plum and strangler fig. We paused at our first break to incredible views of the resort's crystal blue bay visible below us and the delicious scent of wild lemongrass. Hiking at any pace is such a wonderfully mindful activity; the sights and sounds of nature and one's own footfall soon create a peaceful internal rhythm and before we knew it we had arrived at Signal Rock, the highest point of the hike, to be rewarded by the stunning sight of the island laid out around us.
Back at the resort, tired but exhilarated, we enjoyed a light lunch followed by the ultimate luxury of a 90 minute Espa Inner Calm massage at the resort's wonderfully tranquil Cara Spa. Muslin curtains billowed in the breeze as my fantastic masseuse, Eve, worked miracles smoothing out the muscular tensions of city life. Sheer heaven! I thought I couldn't get any more relaxed but I was proved wrong as we rounded off this incredible day with yoga on the jetty, the sun sinking into the sea in front of us, any residual stresses floating away on the tide.
Our final dinner that night was at East, the resort's atmospheric Asian fusion restaurant. Just entering through the carved Indonesian dark wood doors feels exciting, and we feasted on sushi and thai food.
We spent the next day relaxing poolside and on the beach, Carlisle Bay offers complimentary watersports such as sailing, kayaking and paddle boarding - but we decided we'd earned a little bronzing time with iced water always at hand from the resort's attentive staff.
Our evening flight home and the resort's proximity to the airport meant we had time for one final adventure- the weekly barbeque at Shirley Heights Lookout! This restored military gun battery sits at a height of 490 ft with unsurpassed views over English and Falmouth Harbour, especially as the sun goes down and the harbour lights come up. This is the ideal vantage point for photography enthusiasts to recreate the iconic image of Antigua, or try to capture the elusive jet of green light which appears for a split second at sunset. The Flora and Fauna here is also not to be missed, I was lucky enough to spy a tiny hummingbird drinking from one of the bizarrely shaped cacti - blink and you'll miss it! Every Sunday, locals and tourists alike gather for a joyful party with a steel band followed a live band, delicious rum drinks and of course the famed barbeque. Dancing, eating and drinking as the sun lowers into the Caribbean Sea - what a very special end to a very special trip.
This was a hosted press trip - find out more about Carlisle Bay on carlisle-bay.com.