Carlisle Bay

Rating: 

On a curving crescent of white sand in Antigua, stylish Carlisle Bay is a wonderfully laid-back hotel that’s fully family focused yet grown up enough to be truly spoiling. The beachfront hotel has thrown away the usual Caribbean design book and introduced a cool palette of soft greys and creams matched with simple but supremely comfortable furnishings to appeal to a contemporary, design-savvy audience. The hotel is closed from 25 August to 12 October 2018.

Information & Facts

Accessibility

Access is good with much of the resort’s facilities on one level and ramps in use where necessary. Some ground floor rooms have been adapted to improve accessibility.

Activities / Excursions Outside the Resort

The hotel will organise island tours by car or helicopter. Among the most popular excursions are complimentary snorkel trips, private charters from $600 for up to six people for two hours or a tour of Nelson’s Dockyard (the oldest working Georgian dockyard in the world) by boat for $135 per person.

Best Bits for Kids

A long, long list of activities including boat trips, snorkelling and sailing lessons, tennis sessions, art and craft classes and cookery competitions are watched over by qualified Caribbean staff. There’s an air-conditioned indoor cinema and a well-equipped games room and always a friendly face at the bar willing to whip up a customised mocktail.

Best Bits for Parents

Extensive facilities for children coupled with dedicated adults-only areas provide parents who want it with a reminder of pre-children holidays. Relax in the calming spa, sip cocktails on the super-soft sandy beach, work out in the gym or dine a deux under the stars.

Best Family Beaches

All beaches in Antigua are public but Carlisle Bay’s location means their lovely beach is as good as private and never crowded. Outside of the resort you will need a car or taxi to reach other beaches. Beautiful and undeveloped southwest coast beaches nearby include Ffrye’s, Darkwood and Crab Hill Bay where you can find some good low-key beach bars.

On the east of the island Half Moon Bay, a good 45 minutes away by road, is spectacular and often totally deserted.

Digital Detox / Digital Overload

There’s free Wi-Fi throughout the resort and TVs in every suite with an extensive DVD library to call on. In the public areas teens seemed more digitally detox than overload thanks to the number of activities on offer.

Endorsement Quote

I have stayed at Carlisle Bay six times since it opened in 2003 with my husband Charlie and our daughter Molly who was 6 on our first visit. We generally visited in July and August, low-season in the Caribbean when humidity is higher and short, sharp rain showers are more likely.

Family Traveller's Recommended Family Rooms

Carlisle Bay say that they will not confirm individual room numbers to guests before they arrive but it’s worth making them aware of any preference you may have, for example a suite opening directly to the beach or one closest to the main restaurant.

Food & Drink

The quality and choice of food is a major reason to love Carlisle Bay with an emphasis on fresh local produce and Caribbean flavours in the four restaurants. Indigo on the Beach is an airy and spacious beachfront open-air dining room where breakfast, lunch and dinner are served. At busier times families can choose to sit together in a section close to the buffet and children are always able to jump down and play safely in the sand beside the tables. Ottimo! is another casual family favourite, adjacent to the swimming pool and serving tasty wood-fired pizzas. Choices for dinner include adults-only Jetty Grill at the end of the beach and the fabulous East, an indoor air-conditioned restaurant specialising in delicious Asian cuisine. 

With notice the hotel will also organise picnics or private dinners on the beach with a bespoke menu arranged with the chef.

The four bars range from Jetty Bar where fresh coconut, beers and rum punches are served around a firepit on the beach, Indigo Bar by the sea, Coconut Grove on the beach and the Pavilion Bar where local artists play live music.

Getting There

Antigua’s roads are not built for speed, especially on the twisting, turning drive through the rainforest. Carlisle Bay is thirty minutes by taxi or private transfer across the middle of the island from Antigua’s recently upgraded international airport in the north.

Hotel Shop

Carlisle Bay’s compact Boutique offers floaty white kaftans, Vilebrequin swimming shorts and delicate beach bags. Essentials on sale include postcards and suntan lotion while pretty locally made jewellery are among the mementos that might make it into your suitcase to return home.

Hotel Vibe

The vibe is sophisticated yet laid-back, elegant but deliciously casual. Carlisle Bay attracts a stylish crowd who love its combination of beachfront luxe, standout menus and emphasis on top service – sometimes a battle in the Caribbean.  Thoughtful design includes pale grey plantation shutters, hammocks strung between palm trees and artfully landscaped gardens.

Kids Clubs

Children receive a welcome pack on arrival and have three clubs to choose between. The Kids Clubs for under sevens are open daily from 8.30am to 4.15pm apart from a one hour lunch break at 12.30 and are complimentary for over twos. Under twos pay $15 a day. Kids High Tea is held daily at Indigo on the Beach - again complimentary - from 5 to 6pm with pureed baby food available on request.

The Cool Crèche takes babies from six months up to three years and the Cool Kids Club takes children from four to six which both have qualified childcare staff. The daily programme includes indoor and outdoor activities, singing, painting, musical games and nature strolls for the under fours and ten pin bowling, pool fun, football camps and mini spa treats for older children.

Crew Club is aimed at children from seven to 13 with activities from 9.30-12.30 and 2 to 4pm each day throughout the major UK and USA school holidays. Kayaking, raft building, sports games and leaving the resort to go zip wiring or visit Stingray City are among the choices. Children can dip in and out as they wish.

Location

On an island famed for its wonderful beaches – 365 of them, one for each day of the year - Carlisle Bay has bagged one of the best on Antigua’s southern Caribbean coast. The deep sand is backed by the rainforest and faces the distant island of Montserrat across a wide bay where herons swoop and dive. Inside Carlisle Bay’s gates the resort is all peace and privacy yet it’s only a short drive to some good beach clubs and tourist attractions.

Pools

One of your first views on arrival is across the curves of the swimming pool, beautiful enough to make travel-weary guests want to dive straight in. Less than 100 paces from the beach at the centre of the resort, the pool is rarely crowded and caters for both toddlers and adults with a large, separate shallow section.

Rooms

The 84 suites all face the gardens or the sea and fall into six categories. Ocean Suites face the sea with one large bedroom where they can add a bed for children aged 12 and above.

 

Family accommodation is centred on Beach Balcony and Beach Terrace Suites, identical ground or first floor accommodation with two bedrooms and direct beach access or a sea-facing balcony. There’s a master bedroom with king-size bed and a second bedroom with twin beds designed for children up to 15. Spacious Carlisle Bay Suites have three bedrooms sleeping up to six with private decks or terraces.

Spa & Pampering for Adults

Carlisle Bay set a new standard for Caribbean spas when it opened the Blue Spa. The six treatment rooms include one for couples and there’s a wet room, sauna and a nail and hairdressing studio. The extensive treatment menu uses organic brand VOYA and includes calming, detoxifying or energising massages, scrubs and facials. Therapists are experienced at helping with jet-lag or sun-burn. Manicures and pedicures are expertly done but the choice of varnish can be limited so consider bringing your own.

Spa & Wellbeing for Kids

Teens up to 16 years old have the choice of specially designed facials, massages, pedicures and manicures at the Blue Spa.

Sports

Budding tennis players will be in heaven thanks to the five tennis courts, three of which are floodlit. Private tennis tuition is available and the hotel organises informal tournaments. There’s a much-used gym, table tennis and bikes to borrow. Guests can try sunset yoga and Pilates on the jetty, go to classes in the yoga hut or work out with a personal trainer.

Most interest focuses on the water sports centre at the far end of the beach where there is complimentary kayaking, windsurfing, paddle-boarding and snorkelling. Long-serving staff members Prince and Marvin - possibly the coolest and most popular people on resort -  know exactly how to interest thrill-seeking teens or gently encourage hesitant children to try something new.

Room Service

Room service is offered around the clock with an extensive menu available up to 11pm and salads, burgers and desserts from 11pm to 5am. The children’s menu includes seared mahi-mahi, bacon burger, salads and BLTs with dishes including nuts well signposted. Lunches and dinners include a $10 tray charge.

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