Anguilla has fabulous resorts, great restaurants and killer beaches, but to me, its prime attraction is a rickety, sun- and water- kissed beach bar called Dune Preserve. Located on the sand between CuisinArt and a ghost town of swanky condos, currently empty since the funding dried up, the Preserve is the ultimate in island chill.
On the surface it may not have much to offer. The original structure, made primarily from driftwood, was washed away by Hurricane Irma in 2017. Its replacement is a bit sturdier but still retains much of that cobbled-together, rambling charm. The decor is Spartan to say the least, the food is, well let’s just say wholesome, and the drinks are simple island standards. But it’s the VIBE that makes Dune Preserve what it is.
Dune Preserve is the brainchild and personal kingdom of Bankie Banx, an Anguillan-born reggae-folk artist who wanted, quite literally, to preserve some beachfront from the development by mega resorts and exclusive condos. Bankie, who performs live a couple of times a week, is Dune Preserve in body and spirit, and the bar has won fans across the world – both for its famous annual Moonsplash music festival and its every day ‘chillaxed’ ambiance.
You can arrive at 11 in the morning, order a drink, sit on the porch listening to the island tunes while gazing across Rendezvous Bay to St. Martin and nurse that same drink till 11 at night, and no one will care. Locals, tourists and the man himself may drift by and chat – or not. Either way, if you let yourself, you can easily slip into that perfect island limin’ zone.
What will you have?
Beer: Corona, Red Stripe and maybe a couple more.
Rum/Cocktails: The selection is much better in the rebuilt bar. Before the Preserve was pretty much a beer and rum punch place. Now you’ll see bottles of the basics, like whisky, vodka, gin and tequila on the shelf. Generally nothing fancy – though last time I was there I had a couple of shots of Patron courtesy of a bottle left over from a private event for a well-known actor (think Jerry McGuire). Then there’s that bottle of rum infused with God-knows-what on the bar, offered by the shot to the very brave or very drunk.
Food: This tends to be a bit of a hit or miss, as its hard to figure what will be served when. It’s generally more predictable on the weekends. When food is available, expect island BBQ staples.
Check the music schedule. In addition to Bankie, the bar hosts a number of live performances and festivals through the year. And we are talking serious musicians here.
Hey, I’m the first to admit that the Dune Preserve may not be to everyone’s taste. But to me, this bar is a special place. It introduced me to a variety of terrific music from the islands, helps me to just chill and re-focus on what is really important in life, and it gave me a place to dream about returning to during my long fight back from some brutal, life-threatening heart surgery. It’s peace and spiritual rejuvenation for my northern city-shackled soul – plain and simple. I can’t wait to get back.