Jumby Bay feels like that summer house you never want to give up to autumn, where every day unfolds like fresh cotton pyjamas tumbling out of the dryer – warm, comforting, a perfect fit. Three kilometres off the coast of Antigua and reached only by ferry, the destination offers a car-free utopia where guests can frolic on shores once set upon by Christopher Columbus, bequeathed by royalty, possessed by smugglers and, in 1915, owned by a pipe-smoking eccentric known for routinely hitching up her skirt, wading into the surf and scooping up lobsters in the gin-clear waters.
This place is basically an open invitation to sloth and sensuality for those who can afford its spoils. Sense, the Rosewood Spa at Jumby Bay, goes all out when it comes to all-day pampering. I check into this open-air sanctuary for the Sea Coral and Coconut Ritual, where my therapist greets me not so much with a handshake but a “hand-hug” – a sure sign this massage is going to be good. She gives my skin a brisk brushing with a natural-jute-fibre mitt filled with moisturizing aromatic soap beads, preparing the skin to absorb the nutrients of a silky white clay body mask. While my body drinks this in, she chases my tension down the rabbit hole with a spot-on pressure-point scalp massage. After a rubdown so deep it dissipates dark, fugitive strongholds of guilt (as well as bloating from late-night frothy desserts and morning-after rum fruitcake), my eyes flutter open to a surreal lineup of palm trees, waving emerald fronds like cheerleaders.
The silky white-clay body mask feels cool and slick, infused with the essences of calming local flowers. This mixture also offers mineral-rich pink coral and healing coconut milk for lasting moisturizing.
The resort’s close proximity to an international airport is key to luring discerning types to this manically manicured, 120-hectare island, which takes all of 20 minutes to cycle around. Its shoreline is sprinkled with 40 suites, villas and 32 private homes, many of which are British-owned. By far the most jaw-dropping is Hawksbill Cove, with its five bedrooms, lagoon-style pool and private beach, rented by the likes of Paul McCartney, Hilary Swank and Jim Carrey. Celebs are drawn to the multimillion-dollar private estates as they come fully staffed and each one is truly distinct. Buying real estate here is a big shot’s dream: Just ask long-time residents Lord Sainsbury, Robin Leach and novelist Ken Follett. Think of it as a gated community – with the tranquil Caribbean Sea acting as the gates. The backdrop of this kind of “millionaire’s co-op” makes for an interesting stay; daily operations run with noble precision, as if Lord Sainsbury himself were overseeing the guest docket.
Jumby Bay Island off the coast of St. John’s, Antigua; 268-462-6000; jumbybayresort.com; $325 for 150 minutes.
Special to The Globe and Mail