The tropical twin-island paradise of Antigua and Barbuda, renowned for its 365 beautiful beaches and clear azure blue waters, also boasts captivating culture, exhilarating activity and rich historical treasures with something to appeal to all whether couples, families or friends seeking the ultimate getaway.
Antiguans are known for their hospitality and visitors are assured a welcome as warm as the weather. The destination provides a wonderful escape with its rich colonial history, first class hotels and resorts, sporting attractions and delicious cuisine and fresh produce.
The islands are an ‘A-list’ favourite attracting celebrities including Cameron Diaz, Nicole Scherzinger, Giorgio Armani, Eric Clapton, Paul McCartney, Mariah Carey, Mary J. Blige, Charlotte Church, Piers Morgan, Duran Duran and Sir Ben Anslie. Oprah Winfrey, declared the island her favourite beach holiday spot and Piers Morgan described his last family holiday there as “the best ten days of my life”.
A variety of land and sea activities await the adventure-seeker. Holidaymakers can zip through the rainforest on high wires, swim with stingrays, hike, bike, dive, kayak, kite surf, fish or sail. Water sports abound from sailing, boat cruising, water skiing, deep sea and reef fishing to scuba diving and snorkelling amongst 200 shipwrecks surrounding the island. For land lovers, two 18-hole golf courses and professional tennis and squash courts are accessible and open to the public. In addition, the island offers other popular recreational activities such as horseback riding, helicopter tours and hiking.
Antigua’s rich history and spectacular topography provide a variety of popular sightseeing opportunities. Nelson’s Dockyard, the only remaining example of a Georgian fort commissioned by the British in 1755, is perhaps the most renowned landmark. Other attractions include a historic overview of six periods of Antiguan history through a multimedia presentation at the Dow Interpretation Centre.
Further evidence of the island’s historical roots is St. John’s Cathedral, visible from around the capital; it is regarded as one of Antigua’s national monuments. Betty’s Hope, which was built in 1674, is the site of one of the first full-scale sugar plantations on Antigua, and offers a chance to step back into time by visiting the restored mills.
Whatever you do, don’t leave Antigua without visiting Shirley Heights, a local beauty spot with panoramic views. High above English Harbour, the clear 360º view from the remains of the eighteenth century British garrison, is probably the most breathtaking in the Caribbean. Go on Sunday for the lively barbecue party when it is THE place to be for the weekly “jump up” when tourists and holidaymakers alike mingle and enjoy live music. Children will love the crafts market and steel bands playing from 3pm to 6pm.
There are 365 beaches on Antigua, one for every day of the year. The numerous reefs and coves combined with crystal-clear turquoise waters afford beachgoers the luxury of privacy and beauty. The great majority of beaches rest inside the calm, protected waters of the island's Caribbean side. All are open to the public, and so the challenge posed to a visitor is simply how to decide on the beach that suits one's taste. Popular spots along the west coast of the island include Morris Bay, Galley Bay, Ffryes Bay, Darkwood Beach, Dickinson Bay and Turners Beach. The shoreline along the east side of the island includes Half Moon Bay and Long Bay which offers great snorkeling opportunities.
Visitors that want to step away from the sun lounger will find a world of wonderful wildlife. From tropical vegetation on the lush, green hills to colourful marine life on the coral reefs, it will soon become clear that Antigua’s natural environment is as breathtaking as it is fragile. The careful exploration of the tropical flora and varied fauna comes highly recommended, and this is where Antigua really shines.
One of the best ways to see some of the islands’ most remarkable scenery is to take the exhilarating zip wire canopy tour high above the rain forest. If you prefer to have two feet on the ground jeep safari tours are on hand to wrestle their way through some of the thickest parts of the forest. Adventurers can hop on a helicopter to discover nearby gems or make their way to the Indian National Park at the remote eastern most point of the island to see enormous geysers of water burst through rocks boreholes at nearby Devil’s Bridge, the large natural limestone arch on the shoreline of Indian town point.
Animal lovers can visit the brand new Wadadli Animal Park situated in ten acres of lush green forest where deer, monkeys and parrots relax in these beautiful surroundings.
Also be sure to discover Barbuda, Antigua’s less developed sister island, known for its pristine stretch of 17-miles of pink sand beach and teeming with wildlife and rare birds. just a short ferry ride away, it offers the ultimate Robinson Crusoe-style escape. The island is home to the largest colony of Frigate birds in the western hemisphere. Organised tours are in place for visitors to get within a few feet from the birds’ nests at The Codrington Lagoon where some 5,000 birds make their home.
Eco experiences are available on the islands for those wishing to cancel out their carbon footprint, experienced guides allow visitors to explore uninhabited islands and protected mangroves, with a half day of kayaking, snorkelling, power boating or hiking.
Antigua and Barbuda is a tropical paradise made for romantic weddings with guaranteed sunshine and stunning backdrops for the Big Day with a range of options, from barefoot on the beach to classical in the cathedral – often all at a fraction of the cost of a wedding in the UK.
Most of the hotels have special flower covered gazebos in exotic gardens overlooking the clear blue waters of the Caribbean or you could choose a perfect white sand beach, the romantic viewpoint of Shirley Heights or even take your vows on the deck of a yacht at sea. The procedures are very straight forward with no residency requirement for a wedding license to be issued so arranging the Big Day is a breeze.
Cricket is a passion on the island and whether you are a cricket fan or not, a day watching the game is a great way to see Antiguan culture first hand and be swept up in the fun, excitement and energy that surround the game. The twin-island nation is home to an array of cricketing legends including Sir Vivian Richards, Andy Roberts, Curtly Ambrose and Richie Richardson. The Sir Vivian Richards Stadium plays hosts to several international cricket matches and tournaments and will be home to the new Richie Richardson Cricket Academy which will offer the rare chance to be taught by cricketing legends and to play at world-class facilities used for international matches.
Antigua is the sailing capital of the Caribbean and there is no where better to get out on the water. The annual Antigua Sailing Week, which next takes place annually every April, draws thousands and is one of the world’s top regattas. Five challenging days of racing in some of the best sailing conditions in the world combined with the famous Antiguan hospitality make this a regatta not to be missed.
For those seeking retail therapy, two charming shopping areas of Antigua are located in downtown St. John’s close to the waterfront at Heritage Quay and Redcliffe Quay. As a duty-free zone, Antigua offers a selection of local arts and crafts, straw goods, pottery and jewellery as well as china, crystals, watches, perfumes, cameras and tobacco. On Friday and Saturday mornings the farmers market on the southern edge of the city has folk crafts, colourful tropical fruits and a buzzing crowd that make for a lively morning.