Anguilla is blessed with 33 silken sand beaches and 100 restaurants. The 25-kilometre long island is home to fewer than 17,000 people – and just six stop signs. What you won't find: gated communities, brand-name stores, neon signs or casinos. Interested? Thought so. Here are 10 more reasons to plan your trip now.
"I'm Gorgeous. Welcome to Scilly Cay."
That's how Eudoxie Wallace, a.k.a. "Gorgeous," greets visitors to his family owned island haven, literally within waving distance of the IsIand Harbour dock on Anguilla's northeast coast. Its open-air restaurant has lured A-listers, including Robert De Niro and Sandra Bullock, for private afternoons of rum punches and succulent shellfish. I sat under a thatched tiki hut with an eclectic group of travellers, savouring a tender and sweet grilled lobster and crayfish medley laced with a secret sauce courtesy of Sandra, Wallace's truly gorgeous wife. Bring your bathing suits for a refreshing dip in the sea before or after the feast, unless, of course, you've had too many of Scilly's legendary rum punches. scillycayanguilla.com
Anguilla is a British Overseas Territory, part of the British West Indies. But Arawak-Amerindians, migrating from South America around 2,000 years ago, were its first settlers. Now, archeological sites and petroglyphs are all that remain of these people. The Big Spring site, part of Anguilla's extensive Heritage Trail, was established in 2003 to protect a cave etched with dozens of rock carvings: The ceremonial faces are memorable for their haunting, deeply gouged eyes. aahsanguilla.com
Not-so ancient history
The Heritage Collection Museum, near East End Pond's bird sanctuary, is curated by its founder, Colville Petty. As one of the island's leading writers and historians, Colville has amassed artifacts and memorabilia that are a microcosm of Anguilla's intriguing history: shards from ancient pottery, documents detailing the slave trade, remnants of the lucrative salt and sugar trades. One room is devoted entirely to the 1967 Anguillian Revolution and its aftermath of civic pride and stable government. 264-497-5123
Beach-side treats bistros
After hours in the sun at Meads Bay, cool off with ice cream and smoothies at Blanchards Beach Shack, a recent addition to the renowned Blanchards restaurant. blanchardsrestaurant.com
On Shoal Bay, heralded as the No. 1 beach in the Caribbean by the Travel Channel, imbibe an ice-cold brew at the well-loved Uncle Ernie's beach bar. 264-497-3907
A staple of the island's cuisine. These ubiquitous deep-fried dumplings taste and look like a cross between a doughnut and a bagel. Each eatery that I visited claimed to have the best Johnny cake (originally called journey cakes as plantation workers consumed them on their long trips to and from work). Each is slightly different. Finding your favourite is worth the pursuit.
At the buzzing Firefly restaurant, the aroma of West Indian food mingles with the rhythmic performance of Mayoumba, an acclaimed local folklore troupe. Sue and Robin Ricketts, my charming and delightfully eccentric hosts created this space "for artists of all disciplines," and are legendary figures in their own right. Decades ago, they put this speck of an island on the high-end tourist map with their inspired Cap Jaluca and Malliouhana hotels.
A cluster of diverse shops displaying the work of Anguilla's artists is nestled in the Valley, the capital city. I dare you to come out empty-handed. My hands came out bearing rings crafted by the delightful owner of the Uhuru Art Gallery, (264-772-4100) and silky smooth heart-shaped wood sculptures from the Devonish Art Gallery (264-497-2949).
Bouncing for joy
You can sail, snorkel or scuba dive along limestone cliffs, but for something different, try a water trampoline. A four-square-metre trampoline is anchored in the sea near the Viceroy Hotel on Meads Bay. After a slow swim up to this rubber island, I then had to climb up an attached rope latter . As I bounced high above the water, the cerulean sea seemed to belong just to me.
The Pumphouse, in the village of Sandy Ground on the northwest end of Anguilla, was used as a mill to refine nearby mined salt. During the salt trade in the 1700s, many a boat from Nova Scotia returned to Canada with salt from this very spot. Today, the place pumps out music, beer and light fare into the wee hours. pumphouse-anguilla.com
The iconic Dune Preserve beach bar/live music spot in Rendezvous Bay is literally home to one of the Caribbean's best known recording artists, Bankie Banx. (His private space on the property is built from driftwood and old boats.) From March 13 to 16, it will also house Moonsplash, Anguilla's annual music festival. thedunepreserve.com
Viceroy Anguilla Resort and Residences
This 14-hectare five-star property graces two bays (Meads and Barnes). Spacious rooms feature plunge pools and terraces. Rooms from $600 (U.S.). viceroyhotelsandresorts.com
Cap Juluca Resort
This resort's recently renovated 67 guest rooms – housed in 15 villas – all face the ocean. Room from $495 (U.S.). capjuluca.com
Anacaona Boutique Hotel
Room and villas at this charming hideaway are awash in Caribbean colours. Lush tropical gardens lead to Meads Bay. Room from $160 (U.S.). anacaonahotel.com
The writer travelled courtesy of the Anguilla Tourist Board. It did not review or approve this article.