The island of Antigua, which is 22 km long (14 mi) and 18 km wide (11 mi), is quite easy to visit. It is therefore not difficult to combine sunbathing and exploring its towns, villages and coasts.
St. John’s, the largest city on Antigua, is nestled in a cove and is dominated by a lovely cathedral dating from 1845. The present-day cathedral was actually built after the first two were demolished during the violent earthquakes of 1683 and 1745. South of the city is the market, held on Friday and Saturday mornings. It is the perfect place to soak in the infectious good humour of the islanders who come here to sell their goods.
The Museum of Antigua and Barbuda, located in the heart of St. John’s and housed in an old colonial house, reveals the history of these two islands: their geological formation, their first inhabitants (the Arawak people), the arrival of the British and the cultivation of sugar cane, as well as modern times.
The English Harbour region is where you will discover Antigua’s rich past. Here, you can visit the former shipyard (dating from the 18th century) at Nelson’s Dockyard National Park. Shut down in 1889, the site was rehabilitated and opened to the public during the 1960s. Nearby is Clarence House, which was the residence of the future King William IV when he was posted on the island. To admire the most breathtaking view on the island, be sure not to miss Shirley Heights. From this former observation deck, a spectacular panorama opens onto the port and reaches as far as Guadeloupe. On Sundays, a festive air prevails as the site is packed with musicians and people enjoying barbecues. Dow’s Hill Interpretation Center, for its part, offers a multimedia experience relating to the history of Antigua.
Since the 18th century, the island has been renowned for its pottery. Sea View Farm Village is a great place to watch potters at work and to purchase this type of art, although it is also available in many shops throughout the island (be careful: its fragility is legendary!). To enjoy exhibits as well as local arts and crafts, head to Brown’s Bay, in the Harmony Hall Art Gallery.
If you wish to spice up your vacation on Antigua with an excursion or two, a number of them are offered here, especially by boat, such as sailing, snorkelling, scuba diving and fishing. Hiking, ecotourism and bird-watching are also available. The island’s most popular white-sand beaches are Fort James Beach, located 5 min from the port area and enjoyed by the locals as well as tourists; Dickenson Bay; Darkwood Beach; Turner’s Beach on the southwestern coast, where the waters are calm, the restaurants are numerous and you can rent parasols and lounge chairs; and remote Half Moon Bay, on the southeastern point, for the utmost in peace and quiet.
An excursion to the island of Barbuda will simply enchant you. Practically uninhabited, Barbuda is home to the Frigate Bird Sanctuary, one of the Caribbean’s most important bird sanctuaries with some 170 winged species.
The annual Antigua carnival, held over 10 days in summer, features music, parades, flamboyant costumes, contests and culinary samplings, as well as the crowning of the King and Queen of Calypso. The atmosphere is wonderfully festive and other activities are also held along with the carnival.
The island offers many restaurants of various cuisines, such as Caribbean, French, Indian, Italian and International.
Where on earth
Antigua, like Bermuda, is part of the British Leeward Islands of the West Indies and is located north of Guadeloupe. Covering 281 km² (208 sq mi), it is home to nearly 70,000 people and its capital is St. John’s.