AN­TIGUA A DAY AT THE BEACH

Drift away at Jumby Bay. By Christina Reynolds

Elle (Canada) - - Escape -

Just re­lax. That’s all it takes to float in the sea. Lie back in the wa­ter, watch puffs of clouds pass over­head and go with the flow—un­til you are blown back to shore. Then re­peat.

This be­came my rou­tine: I’d swim out and then let the balmy teal wa­ters of the Caribbean Sea lap around me and slowly carry me back to Jumby Bay Beach. The only thing that oc­ca­sion­ally in­ter­rupted my rhythm was a de­tour to my um­brella-topped lounge chair on the soft, warm sand for a sip of some­thing icy and a mini-siesta.

I never thought I would spend my time here like this—as crazy as that sounds. I was first at­tracted to Jumby Bay, a 121-hectare pri­vate re­sort that takes up all of Long Is­land, which is just three kilo­me­tres off the north­east­ern coast of An­tigua, be­cause of all there is to do here: kilo­me­tres of bike paths, snorkelling ex­cur­sions to nearby reefs, cooking classes, day trips to the his­toric English Har­bour on An­tigua’s main­land and jaunts to ex­plore the caves and pink beaches of nearby is­land Bar­buda. Top­ping my must-do list was a he­li­copter ride to Montser­rat, which be­came a mod­ern-day Pom­peii af­ter a 1995 vol­canic erup­tion cov­ered two-thirds of the is­land in ash.

So when the Montser­rat trip turned out to be full (tip: book far in ad­vance!), I won­dered what I’d do in­stead. It turns out I wasn’t dis­ap­pointed with my beach day—which was capped off by an evening boat cruise around Long Is­land. This is the best way to get a peek at the 50 or so über-ex­clu­sive pri­vate homes and vil­las (in­clud­ing those owned by Oprah Win­frey and de­sign­ers Domenico Dolce and Ste­fano Gab­bana, to name but two) that cir­cle the is­land as well as the 40 luxe Rose­wood Re­sort-man­aged bun­ga­low suites set along the main beach.

The cir­cum­nav­i­ga­tion was also a lovely way to see some of the is­land’s nat­u­ral won­ders: Pas­tor Bay Beach, which from June to Novem­ber is a pro­tected nest­ing ground of the crit­i­cally en­dan­gered Hawks­bill sea tur­tle, and Flinty Bay, where, around 3000 BC, Amerindian peo­ple were drawn to set­tle be­cause of the rich flint de­posits. “In that bay, there are flint stones cov­ered in seaweed on the beach,” is­land res­i­dent Beryl Jones ex­plained to me later. “When they get re­ally hot, they give off sparks. It’s one of the few places in the Caribbean where you can see this.”

On my first night on the is­land, I got a very kind in­vi­ta­tion to join lo­cals Ge­orge and Jayne Dion­i­siou and some of their friends for din­ner at their home. Over a de­li­cious al­fresco Asian-Caribbean-fu­sion meal pre­pared by their pri­vate chef, Baggy Evans, the Bri­tish cou­ple ex­plained how they first came to the is­land six years ago. “I had de­fib­ril­la­tions it was so beau­ti­ful,” joked Ge­orge. They promptly bought L’Ac­qua, their grand home with its own pool and beach (and an im­pres­sive view). They divide their time be­tween the is­land, the United King­dom and Spain. (Like many of the is­land’s res­i­dent own­ers, they rent out their es­tate when they are away.)

“Ev­ery­thing is re­laxed here. If we feel like go­ing out, we’ll have a ‘date night’ at the Es­tate House Bar,” said Jayne, re­fer­ring to the re­stored 17th-cen­tury sugar plan­ta­tion that is now one of the re­sort’s restau­rants. Ge­orge ex­plained how they re­cently bought a fish­ing boat and of­ten ex­plore lo­cal islets where they fish for their own din­ner. “Last time we caught snap­per,” he said.

For my tour of the main is­land the fol­low­ing day, they both in­sisted that I “go and meet Cecilia,” a for­mer model who shot with Hel­mut New­ton and used to live on Jumby with her now ex-boyfriend Robin Leach (of Life­styles of the Rich and Fa­mous). “She has her own restau­rant right near where the Jumby ferry docks [on the main­land],” said Jayne. “You must stop in.” I did. (See “Is­land Hop,” be­low.)

I also got to know my next-door neigh­bours Beryl Jones and Yvonne Jac­ques, re­tired busi­ness own­ers from the United King­dom—who can’t be missed as they zoom around in the is­land’s only pink golf cart. (They started a trend: You can now spot cus­tom pur­ple and blue ones as well.) The two friends lived here years ago and re­cently came back, buy­ing and ren­o­vat­ing Jab­ber­wocky, the three-bed­room villa where I was stay­ing, be­fore sell­ing it, as well as the sim­i­lar Caris­brooke prop­erty right next door, which they kept and now rent out. In both spa­ces, they have cre­ated a re­laxed beach-house vibe where the creamy pal­ette has pops of turquoise (to match the pool and the sea views). Fan-coral-pat­terned pil­lows and ac­cents in even more blue hues also dot the homes. I was tempted to never leave the house.

Yet, with all there is to do on the is­land (and I highly rec­om­mend a visit to the re­sort spa, where they of­fer a mas­sage that is done with a nau­tilus shell), if I had an­other day, I would most likely spend it on the main beach, look­ing out across the wa­ter to An­tigua’s main­land. De­spite the fact that the re­sort was at ca­pac­ity when I vis­ited, I felt like I pretty much had the place to my­self, no mat­ter what time of day.

It’s that ul­ti­mate luxury that I thought about as I spent some of my fi­nal is­land mo­ments back on that beach. And tucked away on lounge chairs a few um­brel­las over, the Dion­i­sious seemed to be do­ing the same thing. We just smiled at each other and waved know­ingly. h

Jumby Bay Beach; one of the dozens of grand es­tates on Long Is­land (be­low)

The Jab­ber­wocky villa’s pri­vate pool

Vis­cose caf­tan, Heidi Klein ($288, at mytheresa.com); ny­lon and span­dex bikini, Guria ($215, guri­abeach­wear.com. br); polyurethane san­dals, For­ever

21 ($10.90, for­ever21.com)

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