Luxury Explorer Review

Luxury Explorer review

Carlisle Bay

Caribbean

A backdrop of rolling hills, lush rainforest and sweeping crescent sands

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Carlisle Bay

Location

Antigua's south coast

Travel Information

Direct flights to Antigua's V C Bird International Airport from London, New York, Miami and Toronto with direct seasonal routes from Milan, Frankfurt and Atlanta

Top Tips

A wonderful family retreat, with plenty to keep the children occupied or, at the other end of the resort, a couples-only romantic escape

X-Factors

White sand, palm trees and turquoise waters and no noisy motorised sport in the bay - heaven!

A bay to remember

It wasn't that long ago that Antigua was considered one of the weaker luxury links in the Caribbean chain. That was until 2003, when Gordon Campbell Gray of One Aldwych in London created the discreetly uber-chic Carlisle Bay, in the south of this often underated island with its 365 beaches and safe, calm Caribbean waters.

It was the school half-term, and we set off with two of our tribe for a week's r&r. Our expectations were varied, except that we knew Tatler had voted it 'Hotel of the Year'. The flight from London was direct, yet the airport was anything but. However, we, and four other Carlisle Bay guests, were whisked off, sidetracked and speed-linked to our driver, leaving behind rows of confused, hot, and flustered arrivals.

Our luggage was swiftly brought to us, and, no sooner had we started commenting on the wonderful, balmy heat, when a crazy large air conditioned black V12 BMW opened its doors. We were driven to our week of paradise by the amazing Anton a treasure trove of Antiguan information. En-route, while passing some classic Caribbean scenery of familiar wooden pastel painted houses and banana plants, we discovered that only a few weeks before, John Travolta had been sitting in this very car and Boris Becker not long before that.

Beyond chic

It's true that Antigua isn't really mountainous or terribly lush, but it does offer beautiful beaches and there is certainly a touch of the tropics here. So, after a short drive, and with pelicans flying overhead, we turned into the palm-lined drive of Carlisle Bay. 

From here on in, you do not need to leave the hotel. The enormous reception area reminiscent of Kenya's colonial days, with exposed beams, chunky wooden furniture dressed in pristine plump calico cushions and a grand mahogany Steinway was literally large enough to park two 777 jets. Somewhere in the far end of this tropical arena is a groovy bar mixing up your rum punch.

The hotel caters perfectly for both couples and families. We stayed at the far end of the hotel in a two-bed Beach Suite with its own terrace, which dropped down onto a powder soft beach with palm trees for shade above lingering loungers, and folded fluffed-up white towels. Our sea-facing room was extremely stylish with a large marble-clad en-suite bathroom. The terrace had a chill-out eastern day bed with soft cushions and a dining area for our sensational breakfasts.

The boys had their own bedroom with child-friendly mini-bar and accessories. These villas were all occupied by families and we were fortunate enough to have a rather famous and totally fabulous footballer en-famille next door.  

There are also four Carlisle Suites each with three bedrooms and large beachfront private terraces making them perfect for families of six, or two couples sharing.

At the other end of the crescent beach the accommodation is exclusively for couples. Watersports are enjoyed away from the hotel's beachfront, making swimming stress-free and the views far more peaceful. The pool area is tasteful and serene and, if the heat is getting you down, you can slip into the air-conditioned cinema to watch a film with a bucket of popcorn while reclining in one of the large black leather seats. 

Casual or formal?

There are four restaurants: Indigo on the beach is more casual, with great variety to choose from and the kitchen is extremely accommodating, catering for off-menu requests if required. Its capacious open dining area is well set out, with a fabulous and funky live reggae band in the evenings.

There is also a more formal Thai-Japanese fusion restaurant called East, situated near the reception, with an outstanding selection of sushi and a great wine list, while the Steinway, just beyond its doors, kicks in after sunset. In the evening, the jetty is lit up by candles and couples can enjoy grilled prawns under Caribbean skies overlooking hills and sea. Ottimo and the Jetty Grill complete the restaurant offering.

You can slope off to Blue, the impressive spa, wellbeing and fitness centre, which has many tennis courts and quality coaches (but book them in advance). There is a super cool library, an incredible boutique (small but the buyer has excellent taste), and if you really do want to travel around the island, there is plenty to discover.

We had lunch nearby on one of the most spectacular beaches I have ever caressed. We also went diving with stingrays and took a couple of trips through tropical forests. The hotel has chauffeurs on hand and there are also some extraordinary luxury yachts for day trips and fishing but, again, book these on, or prior to, arrival. 

Carlisle Bay is a discreetly chic luxury resort that offers everything families or couples require for a Caribbean escape and, fortunately for everyone who's been, put Antigua on the luxury map.

Sophie Marchant
Sophie Marchant


Luxury Explorer