Every curve of Antigua and Barbuda's coastline is swathed in silky sand. You'd be hard pressed to find more attractive shores anywhere else in the world from the South Pacific to South-east Asia. These aren't just your run-of-the-mill white sand beaches either. From ebony to ivory, peach to cream, the palette of sand on these Caribbean islands is particularly colourful.
With a rumoured 365 beaches, you could spend an entire year exploring a different one each day and never visit the same stretch of sand twice. With that in mind I've put together a little guide for those who want to seek out Antigua's rainbow of beaches.
Cedar Tree Point - Pink
Barbuda's candy-striped shore is a wonder to behold, even if you're not into beaches. At the northern tip of Low Bay, which hugs the 11-mile long spit of land skimming Codrington Lagoon, Cedar Tree Point is the best place to see this natural phenomenon. Produced by millions of tiny pink iridescent shells washed up from the thriving offshore reef, the beach blushes brighter depending on the time of year, currents and tides. Even if you're not staying on Barbuda, it's definitely worth taking a trip over from sister-island Antigua in the tiny toy ABM aeroplane to spend the day in pink paradise.
Darkwood Beach - Peach
Antigua's west coast is where you'll find a string of stunning beaches from Turner's Beach all the way to Hermitage Bay with the calmest clearest waters, the softest sand and an attractive backdrop of rugged green slopes. Darkwood's peach-tinged shoreline and fine shelving sand make it one of the island's most enchanting beaches but its opal-tinted waters show it's not just sand that can shift colour in Antigua. The water is variously teal, turquoise or sapphire depending on where you are.
Owing to the large lagoon behind the beach, Darkwood is free from hotel development. But if you want to make a day of it, there are some basic facilities such as changing rooms and a beach bar. This beach is long enough to never be crowded, and it was virtually deserted when I visited on a bank holiday Monday. But at the time of writing there was an inflatable water playground erected just offshore for the cruise ship crowd, though the tourist board say this may soon be removed.
Half Moon Bay - Cream
From the air, Half Moon Bay looks like an abstract canvas - a backwards ‘s' of cream highlighted in green, turquoise and ochre. It's achieved almost fabled status as one of the Caribbean's most beautiful beaches perhaps partly because of its unspoilt quality. Backed by lush foliage it was once home to a luxury resort that got blown away in the nineties hurricane, though there are now plans for another resort on the site. On the south-eastern corner of the island, its turquoise waters are largely protected by a fringing reef but the full force of the Atlantic can be experienced from the rock shelf to the north where the seaspray is welcome on a hot day. Here, you can have a natural spa experience, slathering your skin in the clay deposits as and washing it off in the calm rocky shallows behind the curve.
East of Rendezvous Bay - Ebony
The south-west chunk of Antigua was forged in the fires of ancient volcanoes, though there is little evidence of this today other than the hilly topography and high ridge that runs diagonally across the island. One exception is the curious glittering black cove to the east of Rendezvous Bay. It's so little-known that it doesn't have a name so we'll just call it Black Beach. Wander around the left corner across the rough dark volcanic rocks and you'll see this ebony beach created by the gradual erosion of Antigua's backbone.
Ffryes Beach - Ivory
A local beach of extraordinary beauty, Ffryes beach is a perfect crescent of bleached sand and calm shimmering water that dips deeply from the shore, making it ideal for swimming. One of many coralline beaches created by Antigua's ringing reef, there's always a quiet spot on the wide sands. It gets slightly busier on weekends when islanders hit the beach for games, picnics or swimming club. Perched on a little bluff at one end, Dennis' Beach Bar is one of the island's most pleasant waterside boltholes serving imaginative cocktails and tasty Caribbean grub.
Jolly Beach - Platinum
From out on the water, streaks of blinding platinum skim the south-west shore of Antigua, and the high green hills make this stretch of coastline all the more beguiling. The long sliver of land that shelters Jolly Harbour from the ocean is known as Jolly Beach. Bordered with palms and sea grapes, the pale sand feels like flour under your feet and the shimmering opalescent water seems to glow in the sun. With the shops and restaurants of quaint Jolly Harbour nearby, this is a good place to spend an afternoon. There's a resort complex behind the beach but a public access path runs down the side of the hotel.
Galleon Beach - Gold
This southern beach skims the concave sides of English Harbour and has both heritage and allure. Archaeologists have literally dug for buried treasure here and colonial coins have been found washed up on the beach. The golden palm-tufted sands of Galleon Beach look across the emerald humped hills of this picturesque area to the now UNESCO-listed Nelson's Dockyard. At the south end of the bay you can hike round to the Pillars of Hercules - curious stacks of wave-cut rock that appear to be holding up the cliff face.