See a map here
The sunniest of the Eastern Caribbean Islands, Antigua is also the largest of the English-speaking Leeward Islands, about 14 miles long and 11 miles wide. With 365 white sand beaches, Antigua claims to have a different beach for every day of the year.
The local currency, the Eastern Carribean $, is pegged to the US$ (EC$2.60 = US$1) and can be obtained from banks or ATMs island-wide. Most establishments welcome US$ cash or travellers cheques, and major credit cards are widely accepted.
As we wanted to take advantage of the Trade Winds and use the sailing faciliies, we stayed in Sunsails Colonna Resort, located on the northern tip of Antigua in Hodges Bay. Non sailing friends also stayed a short distance away in Dickensen Bay.
We wanted to marry in Antigua, but rather than the obvious beach ceremony & have bikini clad holidaymakers watching on (and appearing in our photo's), we opted for a quieter ceremony based at Harmony Hall. Harmony Hall is also a small hotel, but is probably best known for its terrific restaurant and art exhibitions. The ceremony itself was carried out in a converted Sugar Mill (a stone windmill) with fabulous views of Non-such Bay and surrounds.
The capital - St Johns
The beautiful white baroque towers of St. John's Cathedral peer down over the city. On Friday and Saturday mornings there's a busy farmers market on the southern edge of the city selling folk crafts, colorful tropical fruits, and more. This is also where the cruise liners dock when they come to Antigua, so it can get pretty busy (and can be quite bizare to walk around a corner and come face to bow with a huge cruise ship!)
Although St. John's has long been Antigua's capital city, the island's historic heart is across the island at English Harbour. One of the finest natural harbours in the Caribbean, and located at a highly strategic position, English Harbour was used by Admirals Nelson, Rodney and Hood as a secure home for the British Navy during the
Located in the fifteen square miles of Nelson's Dockyard National Park, it was originally developed as a base for the British Navy. and although the dockyard was greatly expanded by Horatio Nelson, it was gradually abandoned in the nineteenth 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. Shops and museums dot the harnour, so its worth a visit.
Above the English Harbour, at Shirley Heights, are the partially-restored fortifications of the harbour's colonial observation post. The site is named for General Shirley, Governor of the Leeward Islands when the area was fortified in the late eighteenth century. The view from Shirley Heights extends out over the harbour and far across the Caribbean to Montserrat and Guadaloupe. On Sundays there's a barbeque and live music (Steel Band music from 3-6 pm & reggae from 6-9). Shirley Heights can be reached via Lookout Trail, a nature walk that rises from the harbour through a forest of trees - or by road.
Also near Shirley Heights is Dow's Hill Interpretation Center, which describes Antigua's history, and observation decks that provide a view of the harbour.
Cricket is almost a religion here, and Viv Richards is a legend, so even if you're not really a cricket fan, its worth at least taking a peek of the Sir Vivian Richards Cricket Stadium. Take a look at windiescricket.com for details
Stingray City is also worth a visit - there you can swim and snorkel with stingrays, and even feed prawns to them. Just don't step on their tails!
Antigua is dotted with ruined windmills, a testament to its sugar plantation past. Bettys Hope Sugar Plantation is worth a visit to see some of the related history.
DEVILS BRIDGE / Indian Town National Park
At the north-eastern point of Antigua there is a National Park area known as Indian Town Point. Within the park the geological Devil's Bridge is a natural arch creating a bridge of hard limestone where the softer part of the limestone has been eroded by the action of the rolling Atlantic breakers. At high tide, the rougher waves of the Atlantic force enormous geysers of water through boreholes in the rocks near the bridge. Quite spectacular in motion!
FIG TREE DRIVE
Antigua's most picturesque drive meanders from the low central plain of the island up into the ancient volcanic hills of the Parish of Saint Mary in the island's southwest quarter. This often muddy, rutted, and steep road passes through an area of lush vegetation and rainforest rich in mangoes, pineapples, and banana trees, and rises to the steep farmlands around Fig Tree Hill before descending to the coastline again.
Just don't expect to find fig trees here - fig is the local name for bananas. The rain-forest area is the hilliest part of the island - Boggy Peak, to the west, is the highest point, at 1,319 feet. You'll also find Antigua Rainforest Canopy Tours here
Dickenson Bay and Runaway Bay, located along the island's busier northwestern coast. We hired horses and went on a tour along Dickenson Bay. The beaches most convenient to St. John's are Fort James, a locally-popular public beach, and Deep Bay. Galley Bay attracts surfers during the winter months and a joggers during the evening. The series of four crescent beaches at Hawksbill are also highly regarded, one of which is nudist.
Southwest and South Coast
The beaches of the hilly southwest corner of Antigua are generally less developed than those around St. John's. On the road that winds along this coast are Fryes Bay, Darkwood Beach, and the beaches around Johnsons Point. Rendezvous Bay and especially Doigs Beach, both located on the central southern coast at Rendezvous Bay, are especially quiet beaches worth the rough travel necessary to reach them. Pigeon Point, near English Harbour Town, is a convenient balm after a day at Nelson's Dockyard.
Jolly Beach, located on the West coast of Antigua at Jolly Harbour, offers a mile long powder white sand beach. With plenty of restaurants, watersports, and shopping amenities nearby, it's a great place to spend a day, or just eat and watch the sun go down.
On the southeast corner of the island is Half Moon Bay, now a National Park. Long Bay, on the easternmost point of the island, is completely protected by reef.
Our friendly tree frog greeting us "home"