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Life's a beach
If you’re going to Antigua, you’re going to the beach – but you probably don’t have a year to spend trying them all out. On the northwest coast, you’ll find the most typical beach-resort experience at places like Runaway Beach and Dickenson Bay. Dickenson Bay is one of the island’s most popular beaches, full of beach bars, restaurants, parties, and water sports. Dip into clear turquoise waters by day and indulge in cool cocktails after dark – it’s a great time anytime. Runaway Beach is quieter - visit on a day when there aren’t many cruise ships docked on the island for the best experience. The clear cerulean waves and fine, soft sand make this the perfect place to escape from the world for an hour, an afternoon, or a whole day - and the nearby beach restaurant will both tempt you with heavenly scents and sate hunger and thirst alike. These beaches are also among the most conveniently reached from the island’s capital of St. John’s.
The south coast is anchored by English Harbour and Nelson’s Dockyard, one of the eastern Caribbean’s most popular attractions. Nearby Galleon Beach, situated on Freeman’s Bay, is a quarter-mile stretch of golden sand, surrounded by rolling hills, tropical vegetation, a wide array of animals both land-based and nautical, and fascinating historical sites. A short hike to the left of the bay around the point will bring you to the Pillars of Hercules, which guard the entrance to the bay (and English Harbour) from their position at the end of Charlotte Point. These natural rock formations have been created by sea and spray, and stand as imposing guardians - though they are best appreciated from the sea. On the other side of the Harbour and across the peninsula, you’ll find Pigeon Point, popular with both locals and guests and great for snorkeling.
The east coast of the island is home to Half Moon Bay, a national park, and a great spot for a family beach trip. Relax on the crystalline pink sand and watch the waves roll in, soaking in the lively (but not crowded) atmosphere. The beach is almost a mile long, and it faces the Atlantic - so there can be some rough waters, but the large reef just offshore calms the worst of it. A little ways north at Long Bay, you’ll find an even calmer beach on a narrow spit of land completely surrounded by reefs.
Almost in England
Looking at a list of place names in Antigua, you’d be forgiven for thinking we were talking about England. Falmouth, Piccadilly, even Queen Elizabeth Highway, all are marks of Antigua’s powerful British heritage. While reminders of this can be found across the island, it is clearest in two places. The first is St. John’s, the island’s capital on the northwest coast. Here you’ll find a 19th-century cathedral (built to replace the original 1681 building, which burned down). It’s currently closed for renovation, but tours can be arranged through the deanery, and the beautiful twin spires are visible from the outside. The capital is also home to the Museum of Antigua & Barbuda, housed in the stately 1750 courthouse. It’s a small exhibit, but it traces the history of the islands from the earliest geological record to their independence in 1981. It houses an Arawak canoe, models of the sugar plantations that put Antigua on the map, and mementoes of hometown heroes like cricketer Viv Richards.
The other spot to visit for a history lesson is Nelson’s Dockyard in English Harbour. Once the home of the British Navy, you can still tour the old officer’s residence, which houses a number of artifacts including a telescope once used by Horatio Nelson himself. The Dockyard itself has been extensively restored and is still in use - as it has been since 1745. Elsewhere around English Harbour you’ll find Shirley Heights, with its partially-restored fortifications and incredible views, not just of Antigua, but even across the Caribbean to Guadeloupe and Montserrat. On Sundays the hike will even pay off with lively bands, reggae beats, and smoky barbecues.
The sister island
A few miles off the coast of Antigua lies its sister isle, Barbuda. One of the last Caribbean islands to remain so undeveloped as to appear almost deserted, Barbuda is almost entirely comprised of unspoiled beach, except for the lagoon in the northwest where most of the gorgeous local frigate birds can be found. There are a few accommodations on the island, but it is easily reached from Antigua by either ferry (a three-hour trip) or air (a 20-minute flight, available twice daily). Activities on Barbuda are relaxed - you’ll find no thrilling adventures here, but fishing, snorkeling, bird watching, and simply soaking up the sun on the pink and white sand beaches await those willing to make the trip.
The cuisine of Antigua and Barbuda has a lot in common with most Caribbean food, even down to which influences have become more common in recent years – finding shawarma and Chinese food is easy these days. If you’re looking for traditional Antiguan food, though, you can find that in spades as well. Antiguan food can be spicy, so if you’re sensitive be sure to ask for your food mild!:
- Fungie is the national dish, and is similar to Italian polenta, made with cornmeal and and okra.
- Pepper pot is a thick vegetable stew.
- Roti, or patties filled with chicken, beef, or curried potatoes.
- Antigua black pineapple is famous for its extra-sweet flavor.
- Callaloo is a dark green vegetable often used in soup.
- Ducana is grated sweet potato mixed with coconut, sugar, and spices and steamed in a banana leaf.
Things to see and do
Antigua is filled with must-see attractions and wonders. Items marked with a (*) are Liberty Travel Insider Experiences, handpicked tours (some exclusive to Liberty Travel) that can be booked as part of a Liberty Travel Escape.
Visit the downtown duty free shopping and local craft areas of St. John's, and find that something special to remind you of your visit to Antigua or souvenirs to take home for family and friends. While you're at it, how about some exciting, pulsating Caribbean music to warm up those cold nights? You can also visit the casino to recoup what you have spent!
Rainforest Canopy Tour
Take a heart-pounding ride along nine zip lines over the glorious gorge in Fig Tree Drive. Show off your bravery with challenge elements that will give you the unique opportunity for an exhilarating experience.
Cruise Antigua's coastline and experience the merging of the rugged Atlantic and the tranquil Caribbean. Learn about the mangrove eco-system, and there's a stop for snorkeling and swimming at Green Island and see sights including the Pillars of Hercules and historic Nelson's Dockyard.