Things to do in Antigua and Barbuda

Antigua may be small, but the coastline seems to stretch forever. Famous for its 365 beaches, this corner of the Caribbean has many other attractions in store. The first port of call is usually the capital of St John's, where tourists will alight to vibrant local markets, steel drum music, the restored Georgian-era marina of Nelson's Dockyard, and Shirley Heights Restaurant, housed in an old military lookout. The Heights host famous barbecue parties on Sunday evenings, with plenty of rum and live music.

Among the most spectacular beaches are the remote crescent of Half Moon Bay, and the secluded Rendezvous Bay, reached by hiking through the rainforest. Deep Bay is home to a coral-encrusted wreck, and is a great site for snorkelling. Away from the beach, Betty's Hope great house hints at the colonial past of the island, while the Museum of Antigua and Barbuda is a great way to learn about island history.

There is incredible natural scenery to be enjoyed. The Pillars of Hercules, guarding the entrance to English Harbour, are stunning when viewed by boat approaching the island. On the east side of the island, the dramatic limestone arch of Devil's Bridge makes for the perfect picture at sunrise.

Barbuda shows the wild, undeveloped side of the Caribbean, home to Codrington Lagoon National Park with its spectacular colony of Frigate birds. Visitors can also leave from Codrington, the capital, for scuba diving and snorkelling on the reefs surrounding the island.

English Harbour photo

English Harbour

English Harbour, Antigua's graceful and evocative historic district, is focused on the 15 square miles (39 sq km) of Nelson's Dockyard National Park. Developed as a base for the Br…

English Harbour

English Harbour, Antigua's graceful and evocative historic district, is focused on the 15 square miles (39 sq km) of Nelson's Dockyard National Park. Developed as a base for the British Navy in the great age of sail, the harbour served as the headquarters of the fleet of the Leeward Islands during the turbulent years of the late 18th century. Although the dockyard was greatly expanded at that time by Horatio Nelson, it was gradually abandoned in the 19th century and was closed in 1889. Today Nelson's Dockyard has been completely restored, and it is now the only Georgian dockyard in the world.

Website www.nationalparksantigua.com

The Beaches photo

The Beaches

Antigua boasts 365 beaches, one for each day of the year, the great majority resting inside the calm, protected waters of the island's Caribbean coast. Dickenson Bay and Runaway Ba…

The Beaches

Antigua boasts 365 beaches, one for each day of the year, the great majority resting inside the calm, protected waters of the island's Caribbean coast. Dickenson Bay and Runaway Bay, located along the island's developed northwestern coast, are the places to go for those who want the fully loaded resort beach experience, complete with reggae music and busy bars. The beaches most conveniently situated near St John's are Fort James and Deep Bay, both of which offer good swimming and snorkelling. Galley Bay attracts surfers during the winter months and joggers during the evening, and the series of four crescent beaches at Hawksbill, one of which is nudist, is also highly regarded.


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Redonda photo

Redonda

The outcrop known as Redonda lies 35 miles (55km) south west of Antigua in the Caribbean, and may be the world's smallest island kingdom. The little island went up for grabs simply…

Redonda

The outcrop known as Redonda lies 35 miles (55km) south west of Antigua in the Caribbean, and may be the world's smallest island kingdom. The little island went up for grabs simply because no-one wanted it back in the mid-19th century, when all it seemed good for was a source of guano deposited by its rich bird population. An ambitious Irishman, Matthew Shiell, laid claim to the 'lump of rock' and declared his son king. Britain acknowledged the kingdom, and King Felipe's reign continued until his death, by which time he had gained a reputation as a novelist. Poet John Gawsworth became the new king, and currently the title is disputed by at least four different people.

St. John's Cathedral photo

St. John's Cathedral

St John's Cathedral has been destroyed and rebuilt time and time again since it was erected in 1683 and has seen its fair share of earthquakes and hurricanes. For years the cathedr…

St. John's Cathedral

St John's Cathedral has been destroyed and rebuilt time and time again since it was erected in 1683 and has seen its fair share of earthquakes and hurricanes. For years the cathedral had negative connotations with the black slaves in Antigua, who viewed it as a symbol of English strength following the arrival of the English who first settled here in 1632. One of the most iconic buildings in St John's, the 70 foot-tall (21 m) white towers of this baroque cathedral overlook the city and port, welcoming visitors with their majestic beauty and presence. The current church has remained standing since 1845.

Address Between Long and Newgate Streets at Church Lane


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Antigua Rum Distillery photo

Antigua Rum Distillery

No drink sums up the spirit and flavour of the Caribbean better than rum, and a must-see while in the capital of St John's is the 75-year-old Antigua Rum Distillery. While Antigua …

Antigua Rum Distillery

No drink sums up the spirit and flavour of the Caribbean better than rum, and a must-see while in the capital of St John's is the 75-year-old Antigua Rum Distillery. While Antigua was once overrun with rum distilleries (each sugar plantation had its own), the distillery located in the Citadel is now the only one on the island and produces more than 180,000 bottles of the famous spirit each year. Visitors can don hard hats and tour the real behind-the-scenes workings of the distillery, a pleasant change from the more tourist-prepared sites around the island. The tour is followed up with a chance to sample the distillery's different rums.

Website www.antiguadistillery.com


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Betty's Hope photo

Betty's Hope

Betty's Hope was one of Antigua's first sugar plantations. Established in the 17th century, the site is now slowly being restored. Visitors can see the restored stone windmill, and…

Betty's Hope

Betty's Hope was one of Antigua's first sugar plantations. Established in the 17th century, the site is now slowly being restored. Visitors can see the restored stone windmill, and the distillery. The machinery has been restored to working order, and visitors can get a great insight into how sugar was produced on the property. They can also get a good idea of life on the plantation, which was home to many slaves over the years. Continuing as labourers after their emancipation in 1834, the Betty's Hope workmen developed a reputation for excellence that lasts to this day.


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Museum of Antigua and Barbuda photo

Museum of Antigua and Barbuda

The Museum of Antigua and Barbuda is housed in the oldest building in St John's. The colonial courthouse dates back to 1747 and was built on the site of the city's first market. Th…

Museum of Antigua and Barbuda

The Museum of Antigua and Barbuda is housed in the oldest building in St John's. The colonial courthouse dates back to 1747 and was built on the site of the city's first market. The museum explores the history of Antigua all the way from its geological origins to Independence in 1981. The museum displays remnants of the indigenous Arawak people such as pottery, as well as colonial artefacts. There are also models of sugar plantations, and of course the cricket bat of the legendary Sir Vivian Richards.

Website www.antiguamuseums.net/


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Pillars of Hercules photo

Pillars of Hercules

Standing sentinel at the entrance to English Harbour in the south is the remarkable natural phenomenon that is the Pillars of Hercules. These columns of rock have been formed over …

Pillars of Hercules

Standing sentinel at the entrance to English Harbour in the south is the remarkable natural phenomenon that is the Pillars of Hercules. These columns of rock have been formed over millennia as a result of erosion by wind, rain and waves. The formation is best seen by boat from outside the harbour. For those seeking a closer look, it is possible to hike to the end of Galleon Beach and do a spot of boulder scrambling to get up close.


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Shirley Heights photo

Shirley Heights

Once a military guardhouse, Shirley Heights now plays host to a restaurant that has become famous for its Sunday afternoon barbecue parties, complete with live bands. There are cru…

Shirley Heights

Once a military guardhouse, Shirley Heights now plays host to a restaurant that has become famous for its Sunday afternoon barbecue parties, complete with live bands. There are crumbling ruins to explore, and some of the best views in the whole of the Caribbean out over the island. On a clear day it is possible to see as far as Montserrat and Guadeloupe. The heights are also a great vantage point from which to watch Sailing Week, the famous annual sailing and yachting regatta in Antigua.


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Devil's Bridge photo

Devil's Bridge

On the eastern corner of the island lies another natural phenomenon; Devil's Bridge. This natural arch is surrounded by rugged terrain, with imposing cliffs, several powerful blowh…

Devil's Bridge

On the eastern corner of the island lies another natural phenomenon; Devil's Bridge. This natural arch is surrounded by rugged terrain, with imposing cliffs, several powerful blowholes that shoot up water when the tide is right, and spectacular spray from the waves of the Atlantic Ocean. The bridge itself is actually quite small, but the views are stunning. Swimming at the bridge itself is not allowed, but there is a popular swimming spot nearby at Long Cove, where an offshore reef shelters the beach making the water calm.


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Barbuda photo

Barbuda

Barbuda has been left in its pristine natural state and is renowned for its long empty beaches, where it is still possible to leave footprints in virgin sand. The breathtaking pink…

Barbuda

Barbuda has been left in its pristine natural state and is renowned for its long empty beaches, where it is still possible to leave footprints in virgin sand. The breathtaking pink-sand beaches of the southwestern shore are lapped by the gentle Caribbean, while those on the island's eastern shore are somewhat rougher. Most of the island is surrounded by a coral barrier reef rich in colourful marine life and excellent for snorkelling. Nature lovers will find an abundance of wildlife on the island, particularly in the Codrington Lagoon National Park, home to the world's largest colony of frigate birds.


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St John's photo

St John's

Antigua's capital city is a bustling cruise ship port, replete with old colonial buildings, colourful markets, museums and restaurants, and a whole load of friendly, welcoming loca…

St John's

Antigua's capital city is a bustling cruise ship port, replete with old colonial buildings, colourful markets, museums and restaurants, and a whole load of friendly, welcoming locals. Tourists are greeted by the city's most prominent landmark, St John's cathedral. There are restaurants and bars aplenty, spectacular views from Shirley's Heights, live steel drum music, and fascinating historic sightseeing opportunities such as the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Nelson's Dockyard. The pace of life here is slow, and most tourists will enjoy simply relaxing in the Caribbean sun, rum cocktail in hand, and soaking up the unique atmosphere.


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