Antiguans boast that their island territory has a beach for each day of the year. While that may be a slight exaggeration, it is certainly true that there are many beautiful sandy beaches which fit the image of an idyllic tropical island holiday destination.
Antigua is where all the action is. Luxury yachts of the ultra-wealthy moor in the harbour and such celebrities as Oprah Winfrey and Giorgio Amani favour the islands as their regular holiday retreat. It is the perfect honeymoon destination and with its coral reefs and turquoise seas, filled with aquatic wildlife, Antigua is a diver’s paradise. But this does not mean that the island is a ‘glamour only’ destination.
Among the top attractions is St. John’s where Nelson’s Dockyard offers much for history buff to explore. Eco-tourists find much of interest in the rainforests and at Devil’s Bridge where the constant crashing of the Atlantic Ocean against the rocks nearby, cause huge blowholes to spew terrific fountains of water that almost touch the sky. Hikers and climbers can take advantage of the challenge offered by trails traversing Boggy Peak, the highest peak on the island, recently renamed Mount Obama in honour of the US President.
On Saturdays there are the sights and sounds of the vibrant St. John’s market and on Sunday nights, street parties, which the islanders call ‘jump-ups’, are the norm, filling the night air with the sound of island music and offering the chance to imbibe the much-enjoyed islands’ rum punch.
- 1 Top Things to do in Antigua and Barbuda
- 2 Top Attractions in Antigua and Barbuda
- 2.1 The Museum of Antigua and Barbuda
- 2.2 Nelson’s Dockyard
- 2.3 Travel in time at Codrington on Barbuda
- 2.4 Travel along Scenic Fig Tree Drive
- 2.5 Visit St John’s Cathedral
- 2.6 Visit the uninhabited island of Redonda
- 2.7 Travel on a pirate ship to Great Bird Island
- 2.8 Take in a little colonial history at Betty’s Hope Plantation
- 2.9 Witness the Power of Nature at Indian Town Point
Top Things to do in Antigua and Barbuda
Barbuda, once leased for a rent of ‘one fat pig per year if asked for’, is the island of beaches, and natural havens for wild deer and exotic bird life. It is more laid back and not so intent on the high-life as Antigua. It offers an insight into a more traditional way of life and a wander through the streets of ‘The Village’ (Codrington) is rather like taking a trip in a time machine. The ruins of the earliest settler plantations are on this island waiting to be explored and its 8km-long beach invites days of lazy sun-worship or greatly rewarding snorkeling and diving.
Take in a game of cricket:
The national stadium at St. John’s named after its famous cricketer Sir Vivien Richards, is the place to catch a game of cricket, but no matter where you go on the islands you will find enthusiastic amateur cricketers practicing in the hope of one day becoming a cricketing hero.
Try playing Warri:
This ancient game of ‘count and capture’, originally played by the slaves of the island, was so feared by the European colonialists that it was banned and driven underground. The game is played with cups and shells on a board in the shape of a fish, is part of every street corner activity and if you greet the players with a warm smile you might find yourself being invited to join in. Every year, throughout the month of October, the game is celebrated in the islands’ National Warri Festival.
Make the most of the watersports:
Both Antigua and Barbuda offer a great variety of exhilarating watersports. The menu of choices includes windsurfing, water skiing, surfing and jet skiing. Snorkeling and diving are a given if you holiday on the islands, and there is sailing either by Hobie-cat or sailboat and for those who prefer to explore the waters under their own steam power kayaking is another option. Many of the hotels offer sailing lessons and dinghies are for hire for those who are experienced enough to head out on their own. Charters for the deep-sea fisherman are also available on both of the islands.
Shop ‘til you drop:
Duty-free shops abound at the new development of St John’s in the Heritage Quay Complex, and at the Public market, or at the multi-storey Vendor’s Mall where you will find much of the locally made handicrafts. If you are looking for something a little more up-scale than overlooking St John’s harbour is Redcliff Quay with its many exclusive boutiques and craft shops. But be warned, Redcliff Quay is a popular shopping area for the passengers of visiting cruise ships, so if you want to shop in relative peace you should avoid days when cruise ships enter the harbour.
Take in some night-life:
No matter whether you are on Barbuda or Antigua there is much to appease the party animal in you. But it is at Falmouth and English Harbour that you will find locals and tourists enjoying popular music at the numerous lively bars where the most popular drinks of rum and beer add to party spirit.
Music consists of jazz, blues, reggae and steel bands. Steel bands, limbo dancers and calypso singers perform at many of the hotels in peak season which runs from November through to April. But the best party on the island is held on Sunday nights at Shirley Heights Lookout where a barbeque, live music and drink are on offer to those who come not only for the party but also to enjoy the glory of a tropical sunset.
Enjoy local cuisine:
Although the islands have many restaurants specialising in International cuisine, there are many that offer the delights of local cuisine and there is the tasty informality of street food such as barbequed chicken and seafood to be savoured as you wander either during the day or in the evening. Local specialities include fresh and delicious seafood, cornmeal and okra dumplings, pepperpot served with Fungie and the distinctive Ducana, a delicious combination of sweet potato, coconut, sugar and spices all steamed together inside a banana leaf.
Interact with Stingrays:
From the beguiling fishing village of Seatons you can take a speedboat out to one of the off-shore islands where you can feed, play with and touch stingrays as they laze in their shallow pool.
Top Attractions in Antigua and Barbuda
The Museum of Antigua and Barbuda
This Museum in Antigua’s oldest building, the Old Court House,built in 1750, has exhibits that delve into Antigua’s geological history as well as its more modern history. It also exhibits Sir Vivien Richard’s cricket bat.
The Dockyard in English Harbour once improved and restructured by Admiral Horatio Nelson but later left to decay, has been lovingly restored and is really worth visiting not only for the exhibits in its museum, housed in the former Naval Officers’ House, but also for its historic buildings. Exhibits include the figureheads of famous sailing ships. It is also home to many of Antigua’s yachting events one of which is Antigua’s Sailing Week.
Travel in time at Codrington on Barbuda
On the edge of a lagoon is the village-town of Codrington where you can wander among the quaint buildings in the company of goats and donkeys. There are no fast food outlets and no noisy bars, only the chance of savouring a little of authentic island life.
Travel along Scenic Fig Tree Drive
A contrary name for this drive as it has nothing to do with figs, but is the name given to the taste of an unripe banana. Most certainly one of the top things to do while on the islands, is to take this 32km drive through steep farmlands and along lush hillsides covered in tropical rainforest. The route is lined with banana and mango trees as well as coconut palms which make the drive a pleasant and relaxing experience.
Visit St John’s Cathedral
Hurricanes caused this cathedral to be rebuilt three times, but today it stands proudly displaying dramatic towers and housing many of the treasures rescued from its past structures. It holds within its walls bronze figures of John the Baptist and St John the Divine, which, it is thought, were taken from French ships in 1756.
Visit the uninhabited island of Redonda
Another point of interest is the island of Redonda. Boats will take you across the 56km of water to this tiny island where a small number of burrowing owls, now extinct on Antigua, live undisturbed by the onslaught of human habitation. The island has a very strange, but amusing history and is worth the trip.
Travel on a pirate ship to Great Bird Island
A restored pirate vessel takes you around Great Bird Island the home of the Antiguan racer, a quite harmless snake, so no cause for alarm. You can opt for a day or evening trip and on your way enjoy good food and entertainment. If you prefer a more private excursion there are glass-bottomed boats available from Dickenson Bay which will take you out to view the reef.
Take in a little colonial history at Betty’s Hope Plantation
This is the original plantation developed by Sir Christopher Codrington and the first successful sugar plantation on Antigua. Here you can wander through the ruins of the two stone sugar mills and the still house. Many visitors find the grounds a delightful spot to enjoy an al-fresco picnic.
Witness the Power of Nature at Indian Town Point
Certainly, the top attraction of the islands is on the shore just near to Indian Town Point is Devil’s Bridge, where you can stand at high tide to witness the awe-inspiring sight of Atlantic waves gushing through the rock boreholes. Indian Town Point is thought to have been the site of an Arawak village that existed long before the arrival of the Carib people.
If you are planning a holiday in the Caribbean you can’t do better than Antigua and Barbuda. Everything that makes for an Idyllic tropical holiday awaits you. Whether you like to simply relax and forget the stresses of life or whether you look for activities to fill your days Antigua and Barbuda beckon and will welcome you with charm and warmth.