Antigua is the larger of the Leeward Islands that comprise the country of Antigua and Barbuda in the Caribbean. An independent state since 1981, the country is promoted as a luxury destination to those seeking the warmth of the Caribbean sun and all the activities that accompany this tropical climate with its cooling tradewinds present most of the year.
Antigua, only 14 miles wide by 11 miles long, is not very huge as islands go but it packs a lot of entertaining activities, varieties of landscape, and remnants of its intriguing history into its small footprint in the Caribbean. Known locally as “Waladii” meaning “our own”, Antigua takes its more well-known moniker from the Spanish for “antique”.
Here are five “can’t be missed” things to do or see on this island on your next visit:
1) English Harbor. A designated park, the area encompasses both the deep and sheltered
harbour and its surrounds including Shirley Heights and Nelson’s Dockyard. The harbor was Horatio Nelson’s naval base during the Napoleonic Wars. Shirley Heights was named for General Shirley and affords a breath-taking view of the harbor. Remnants of the dockyards, the gun emplacements, and military buildings are plentiful as well as a museum. Join in the festivities on Shirley Heights on Sundays ( barbeques, rum punch, local entertainment) or if sailing is your passion, be sure to visit in late spring for the Antiqua Sailing Week, a world renowned regatta.
2) Fig Tree Drive. Explore the interior of the island from the lowlands to the volcanic heights of the Parish of St. Mary. Pass through rainforests, lush vegetation and cultivated farmlands. One thing you won’t see growing here is figs. The native population refer to bananas (which you will see) as “figs”; hence the name of the drive.
3) Betty’s Hope Sugar Plantation. This is an open air museum to the sugar cane industry which was a huge source of revenue prior to the American Civil War. This particular plantation was the first and largest started by Christopher Codrington in 1674 and named for his daughter. All that remains now are two stone mills.
4) An indoor museum that is a must if you wish to pursue the history of the island is in the capital town of St. John’s, the Museum of Antigua and Barbuda. One of its many highlights is a full replica of an original Arawak dwelling, the Arawak being one of the indigenous peoples before Christopher Columbus “discovered” the island in 1493.
5) The beaches; Half Moon or Long Bay for families; Runaway Bay or Dickenson Bay for that resort experience; or the four beautiful beaches at Hawkesbill (one designated nudist). Of course, being an island, there are many more. Just ask a local.
This island destination embraces tourists. Tourism is Antigua’s leading industry. Consider it a welcoming and wonderful place for a destination
wedding or a vow renewal – it’s very easy to plan and orchestrate your ceremony here. English Harbour is one of many cruise lines’ ports of call. Or fly into the main airport serviced by many major airlines. No matter how you visit Antigua, it will be one of the destinations that you will be marking for a return visit.
This article first appeared in The Travel Bucket. All images courtesy of Bigstock and Canstock.