The Caribbean island of Antigua is upping its game and developing some impressive high-end property projects
Boating types have been long been drawn to the hospitable shores of Antigua. Back in the 17th century, warships sought shelter from hurricanes in English Harbour and, as the ‘gateway to the Caribbean’, it controlled sailing routes between the colonies. Nelson’s Dockyard remains a monument to this illustrious era, but is also pivotal to Antigua’s future plans to reposition itself as the yachting centre of the Caribbean.
This year saw crews from 21 nations compete in its 48th annual Sailing Week, the longestrunning regatta in the Caribbean, yet it’s a shadow of its former self. Like a lot of things on this shabby-chic island, it needs a little bit of a turbo-boost. Antigua’s ambitious new Minister of Tourism, Asot Michael, knows this and is working hard to reposition the island as a high-class destination.
‘We want to become the economic powerhouse of the Caribbean again,’ he explains. ‘There are discussions with Monaco’s yacht club to partner with it, English Harbour is going to be a duty-free port for yacht owners and we are also going to lower the taxes and duties on fuel and spares to encourage them to come here.’
But yachting is only part of the picture in Antigua, a small island of fabulous beaches —reportedly 365 or one for every day of the year—around every facet of its twisting coastline of inlets and peninsulas. A vast array of new beachfront hotel and resort projects and infrastructure improvements is in progress, including the new terminal at V. C. Bird International Airport and a new cargo and cruise port in the capital, St John’s.
All this is much needed. Last year, 71,193 visitors out of a total of 249,316 arrived from the UK; the corresponding figures for Barbados are 186,858 and 519,639. After an era of political mismanagement characterised by the rise and fall of the Texan billionaire Allen Stanford, who controlled great swathes of the island before being jailed for fraud, and then the global downturn, Antigua has had a tough 10 years.
However, the new government is proving adept at attracting investment from overseas (especially by the Chinese) and by last year introducing the Citizen by Investment Programme, offering citizenship to those who spend at least $400,000 (£260,000) ‘into approved real estate’). In fact, all of the 12 buyers at a new resort project on the west coast’s Pearns Point—among them, Ondine de Rothschild of the banking dynasty—have so far applied for citizenship through this programme.
Although there might be more high-profile projects being planned on the island, including one by Robert de Niro and James Packer to redevelop the K-Club on Barbuda, Pearns Point is a relatively modest-sized yet high-end project on a striking peninsula fringed by several crystalline bays and eight white-sand beaches.
Spread over 141 acres, the undulating outcrop offers 59 plots on which homes designed by the Dutch architect Piet Boon will offer privacy and superb sea views; it will be completed in mid 2017. The developer, Orange Ltd, has partnered with the Miami Setai Hotel & Resort to provide a hotel with 50 serviced suites, 70 apartments and 50 hotel two-/three-bedroom cottages and a beach club.
The prices for plots on the estate start from 0.7 acres at $2.14 million (£1.39m), with the build cost for a house being about $2 million (£1.3m). Several owners, such as Miss Rothschild, have bought several plots and the quality of the properties is ‘even higher than those on Jumby Bay [the private island off the west coast, where properties average $5 million (£3.25m)],’ says Rene Boon of Orange. ‘They will be some of the best in the Caribbean, low-rise, in a uniform vernacular, in the style of Aman resorts.’
Pearns Point will be a fillip for west Antigua, suggests James Burdess of Savills, who is marketing the project. ‘It will compare with the west coast of Barbados in terms of price per square metre.’ He adds that, outside Pearns, properties in Antigua tend to cost 25% less than in Barbados and, although interest has picked up markedly this year, many resale properties are still down by 30% from the peak.
Take the rather rundown Jolly Harbour nearby, a well-established and popular marina resort that’s now being upgraded by new owner Orange Ltd, with new condos, restaurants and facilities. ‘There’s a good case for long-term investment: buy now, while prices are still are low and let someone else invest in the infrastructure,’ suggests Mr Burdess.
Two-bedroom, two-bathroom town houses with their own sundeck and 30ft dock are now selling for less than $300,000 at Jolly, but rent for $1,000 per week for 20–25 weeks a year, according to Nadia Dyson of agent Luxury Locations. ‘The below $1 million [£650,000] and the ‘silly money’ sector are both moving strongly, with the $1.5 million to $2.5 million [£975,000–£1.625m] properties being the hardest to sell,’ she says.
‘Overseas buyers—predominantly the British, French or Italians—tend to prefer the security of a resort property and the other most popular examples are Sugar Ridge—which has no beach, but amazing elevated views —where a three-bedroom furnished house will cost about $1.4 million [£910,335], and Tamarind Hills—which is currently Antigua’s only ultra-modern-style resort—where seafront, three-bedroom town houses sell for about $1.3 million [£845,300].’
Alternatively, there is Nonsuch Bay Resort on the less-developed and breezier east coast, another resort that stalled during the downturn, but whose expansion has restarted this year.
Phase two of this beachfront development will include a mega-yacht marina, helipad, sports centre and 188 furnished one-bedroom hotel suites from $400,000 (£260,000), three-bedroom town houses for $1.195 million (£777,000) or resale villas at up to $6 million (£3.9m).
‘We will offer warehousing for yacht captains, a chandlery and a Port of Entry,’ says Cameron Fraser of Nonsuch Bay. ‘Sailing is helping to drive our business.’
Our pick of the best houses and villas to buy on Antigua
Occupying 17 acres in the Mill Reef Club, the Mellon Estate offers a two-bedroom main house, three-bedroom guesthouse, pool and pool house in British-colonial style. Christie’s International Real Estate (00 1 561 805 7327; www.christiesrealestate.com)
Plots on the pristine peninsula of Pearns Point in the northwest of the island will offer houses designed by the Dutch architect Piet Boon (build cost from $2 million). Savills (020–7016 3740; www. savills.co.uk)
On a three-acre peninsula in the south of Jumby Bay, this is a three-bedroom beachfront villa with a pool and superb sea views and it comes with great potential for expansion. Knight Frank (020–
7629 8171; www.knightfrank.com)
One of the finest properties in the resort of Nonsuch Bay, this is a five-bedroom hilltop villa with a wraparoud verandah, plunge pool and views of Green island and Ayers Creek. Nonsuch Bay Resort (00 1 268 562 8000; www.nonsuchbayresort.com)
Galley Bay Heights $9.5m
Enjoying panoramic views across to St Kitts and Monserrat, this is a sevenbedroom villa set within tropical gardens in the gated community of Galley Bay Heights, where Giorgio Armani is a homeowner. Savills (020–7016 3740; www.savills.co.uk)
** This article first appeared in Country Life International Autumn 2015. Buy your digital issue here.