Visit Anguilla! If you’re looking for white sandy beaches, a diversity of food, wonderfully welcoming people, a history you can grasp, and an absence of over-the-top tourist attractions put Anguilla on your countries to sail to list.
Being the most northerly Leeward Island in the Caribbean, Anguilla is the last stop, heading north, before hitting the Virgin Islands.
When choosing where to stop on our way to the Virgin Islands and then to the States, my husband and I surveyed the map discussing our options.
For as long as I’ve known my father-in-law, Keith, he has told us stories about his role in the Anguilla Revolution. Keith was a policeman in the Metropolitan Police Force (London).
In 1970 Keith was offered a three-month position in Anguilla to help keep the peace.
When Britain decided to decolonize, the government lumped Anguilla in with St Kitts and Nevis. Anguilla was not happy being lumped together with an old colony – they wanted to be free and independent.
In 1969, Britain sent a gunboat and some assault troops. Fortunately, the revolt was bloodless. After a UN intervention, in 1971 Anguilla became an Autonomous Crown Colony and then, in 1980, a British Dependent Territory.
Anguilla now has its own constitution, an elected assembly, and an island government.
When Simon asked a historian what he thought of the ‘British Invasion,’ he explained that Anguilla was happy that the British were there but they were not happy how they came. Apparently troops invaded Anguilla on boats – there are pictures of paratroopers jumping off the boat and running up the beach with riffles.
Interestingly, before Anguilla became ‘free’ there was no electricity or water running to homes. They had nothing.
The revolution caused many changes for the people providing an opportunity for a much higher quality of life.
Simon, our daughter, Sienna, and I toured the Heritage Collection Museum to get a full understanding of the island’s turbulent history.
I couldn’t help but feel terribly sad for the Anguilla people. It seems as if the island has been hit with a wide variety of tragedies. They’ve had hurricanes destroy everything time and time again. A massive drought caused most of the people and animals of the island to starve to death. Furthermore, most of the crops that were used to create an income eventually failed – there was either a lack of demand, the crop simply failed to grow, or after the abolishment of slavery the income produced couldn’t pay for the labor.
The Heritage Collection Museum is small but it packs a punch.
We anchored in Sandy Ground, or Road Bay Village, and hired a car for $40 USD to drive the 15 to 20 miles over to the museum. There are only five or six small rooms with pictures, artifacts, and explanation plaques.
Nothing is behind glass – everything is out in the open to be admired. The exhibition shows information about Amerindians or the first inhabitants. It then goes on to talk about the British acquisition, attempts by the French to take the island, the various industries that were attempted – cotton, Tabaco, and sugar were mentioned.
Also on display are items that show what life was like. I really enjoyed how those in the past used reef for a flour sieve and an eggbeater. There’s a wall with all the centurions and pictures of influential people in Anguilla.
And there’s a whole room about the revolution and Anguilla’s ties with Britain.
We spent around an hour at the museum reading the information and taking in the sights. It’s wonderful to spend time in small museums! Whenever I went to one in London I’d feel completely overwhelmed thinking that I just couldn’t take anything in.
At the Anguilla museum you can read almost everything there is, take in all the artifacts/pictures and walk out feeling like you have a solid grasp on the history of the island.
Keith, my father-in-law, often recounts stories of playing with the children on the beach, catching lobster, and doing lobster grills for everyone around and enjoying his co-workers and the local people.
Not once did Keith experience any adversity during the ‘troubles’.
After our trip to the museum, we drove to Shoal Bay on the East End to enjoy a wonderful lunch and a picture-perfect beachline. We played 18 holes on a new miniature golf course (I won!) and then went to The Valley, or main town, to locate Keith’s old Police Office.
Simon found the current Police Office and went inside to enquire where his father was stationed. The old Police Office was literally across the road and up a bit further. It’s currently the Chamber of Commerce. When we knocked on the door a lovely woman answered and gave us a tour of the building. It was great to finally step foot in the office where Keith recounts some of his best memories.
Other points of attraction on Anguilla…
The whole island is filled with amazing white sand palm tree-lined beaches, top-notch resorts, boutique villas, and loads of restaurants.
Whether you want Mexican, English, Italian, Chinese, Asian, French, Seafood, Grill, or Caribbean cuisine, you’ll have an excellent amount of restaurants to choose from.
Just in Sandy Ground, where we anchored, there are around seven cute restaurants.
Additionally, there are local art galleries dotted all over the island. Living on a boat, Simon and I shy away from galleries in case we see something we like. I must spend hours a month trying to offload things – the last thing I want is added weight (it slows us down and clutters the boat)!
Otherwise, there’s one lovely new 18-hole miniature golf course (mentioned above), a PGA standard Golf Course, Dive Centers, horseback riding, nature explores offering, one waterpark (floaty things in the water for children to jump on, over, etc), watersports and boat trips to the many tiny islands around Anguilla. Furthermore, there’s a ferry terminal to St Martin’s. The island also has many natural salt lakes so if you’re in need of some sea salt, this is the place to stock up!
That might seem like a lot of offerings but so far in our journeys, this island is the least spoiled by cheesy touristy things.
What about the Road Bay or Sandy Ground anchorage?
The anchorage is a bit flat. I prefer a backdrop of lush tropical forest, some mountains, a volcano, perhaps a waterfall, turquoise waters, no other boats, and enough breeze to keep the bugs away and my family and I cool.
Am I spoiled or what?
Road Bay has a lovely white beach lined with beautiful palm trees dotted with restaurants and homes. There’s a fantastic dingy dock that leads you right up to the Customs and Immigration Office. Alongside the office are loads of rubbish bins (no recycling). And WIFI is not only available at most restaurants, it comes without a passcode.
Using our WIFI bat, or a booster hooked to a router, we got WIFI in Anguilla on the boat!
From the anchorage, you can also take a boat over to Sandy Island to enjoy lunch, snorkeling, diving, and kite surfing. It’s a lovely little island on a white sandy reef with some palm trees. It’s paradise.
The downside to this bay is that there’s no store – not even a quickie market and no vegetable stand. No one comes to the boat offering food. There’s simply no services at all. There’s also a commercial ferry terminal in the bay. It’s not large but it comes and goes with large containers that are loaded and unloaded.
Another downside is that this is the first any only bay where we’ve ever been poop bombed!
I’m not sure if it was a boobie or a pelican but something darn near whitewashed our entire sprayhood, bimini, sail cover, and one side of our boat! The smell was disgusting and it took hours to clean up!
What about provisioning?
If you do get a car there’s an EXCEPTIONAL grocery store called Best Buy. If you take the road out of Road Bay/Sandy Ground and take a right at the roundabout, you’ll find it down the road about 15 minutes away. The selection was fantastic and the prices were very good. The grocery store also had the hardware, plumbing, and electric side to it. There’s also a Best Buy heading towards the East End of the island also.
Other interesting notes about Anguilla…
When we hired a car, a lovely woman at Roy’s Bayside Grill ordered it for us. When the car came it was left-hand drive however we had to drive on the left side of the road. Considering that the island only has a few paved roads it wasn’t too difficult to deal with. If, however, you’re nervous about driving in a foreign country, make sure to request a car that at least puts your body in the correct place (in the middle of the road rather than along the side of the road).
Being the passenger where the steering wheel should have been I kept pushing my foot on an imaginary break!
I found it interesting that there are no signs saying ‘to the beach’ when you drive around. We simply looked on the map for a restaurant near the location we wanted to end up and simply headed for the restaurant. I suppose that the beach is everywhere so they don’t have signs.
Most of the beaches we stopped at have public bathrooms that are really good.
If you go to Roys’ Bayside Grill get the Lobster Bisque. After I raved about it to our waitress she responded, ‘well, that is what this place is known for.’ Thankfully I ordered it because the menu didn’t point that out! The chunks of lobster were plentiful, the soup base was creamy and the extras fit in perfectly.
When you walk around Anguilla, every one that passes you in a car waves at you. Be prepared to wave back.
When you enter the bay there are two large shipwrecks on the beach – don’t let that scare you. The holding is excellent in the bay – it’s sand and weeds. Just make sure to drop your anchor on the sand patches.
All the tourists that we met have been coming to this island for years
Many come year after year and stay in the same villa or apartments. One couple we met were married here 24 years ago, visited the island 6 years ago, and came back again this year. They explained that it’s their favorite Caribbean Island.
So…Anguilla is definitely worthy of a visit!
Have I missed anything that you’d like to add? Do you have any questions? Use the comment box below 😉
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If you’d like an overview of all the places we’ve visited in the Caribbean please read our destination overview: Caribbean