Anguilla - Attractions
The Valley, the island's only real town, is the geographic, commercial and political centre of Anguilla. It's a small, rambling place that appears to consist of little more than a series of mini-malls. The lack of quaint colonial government buildings stems from the British decision to move its administration to St Kitts way back in 1825.
Island Harbour is a working fishing village, not a resort area, so if you're keen to get away from the touristy side of Anguilla, you'll be pleased to know its beach is lined with brightly coloured fishing boats rather than chaise lounges. It has a few places to stay and eat, and travellers looking to soak up the island's unvarnished day-to-day atmosphere often make their base here.
Island Harbour's main historic site is Big Spring, a neglected, partially collapsed cave containing 28 Amerindian petroglyphs and an underwater spring that once served as the village water source. The good news is that Big Spring has recently come under the jurisdiction of the Anguilla National Trust, and there are plans to clean it up and make it accessible to visitors.
Meads Bay boasts a lovely mile-long sweep of white sand with calm turquoise waters. It's a good beach for swimming and a great one for strolling.
Although a couple of the island's trendiest hotels and a few small condominium complexes are scattered along the beach, Meads Bay is certainly not crowded - some of the hotels are a good five-minute walk from their nearest neighbour. The bay is backed by a salt pond for most of its length. There are annual boat races from the beach on the first Thursday in August.
Sandy Ground is the closest thing Anguilla has to a travellers' haunt. Located about 3km (2mi) west of The Valley, it has a white-sand beach lined with restaurants, a dive shop and a few low-key places to stay. Its fishhook-shaped bay is one of the most protected on the island and is Anguilla's main port of entry for yachts.
Sandy Ground is backed by a large salt pond that was commercially harvested until just a few years ago, when the cost of shipping the salt began to exceed its value. If you enjoy birding, the quieter northern end of the salt pond attracts egrets, stilts, herons and other wading birds.
Shoal Bay East
Beach connoisseurs consider Shoal Bay East to be Anguilla's premier strand. On the northeastern side of the island, Shoal Bay East (sometimes called simply Shoal Bay, so don't confuse it with Shoal Bay West) is broad and long with radiant white sands and clear turquoise waters that are ideal for swimming, snorkelling and soaking up the sun. To add to its laid-back appeal, there are a couple of small hotels and restaurants on the beach, but virtually no other development in sight.
Anguilla's top archaeological site, the Fountain, is nearby. It's a huge underground cave containing scores of Amerindian petroglyphs, including a rare stalagmite carving of Jocahu, the Arawak God of Creation. The Fountain is thought to have been a major regional worship site and a place of pilgrimage for Amerindians. The Fountain is currently a pilgrimage site only for archaeologists, and tourist access is restricted.