Things to Do in Antigua
One of the best historical sites on Antigua, Nelson's Dockyard National Park has been at the center of Antiguan activity since the first settlers arrived in 500 BC. Today, the centerpiece of the park is the actual dockyard itself, originally developed as a base for the British Navy in 1725. It is now home to old ships and numerous historical artifacts.
Finished in 1848, St. John's Anglican Cathedral (St. John the Divine), an impressive freestone structure, serves as a reminder of Antigua's European roots. Built in the neo-baroque style, the cathedral seems out of place on the Caribbean island, with its iron fence, stained-glass windows and two lofty towers with cupolas on top.
The 70-foot (21-meter) towers serve as distinctive landmarks of the island, as they are the first structures that people see when approaching Antigua by boat. While the view is impressive to some, the sight of the towers once struck fear into the hearts of slaves who were arriving, as it reminded them of the oppressive power of the British who ruled over Antigua.
Stop by the cathedral and see the famed bronze statues of the two St Johns: St John the Baptist and the St. John who the temple was named after. The stoic, European look of the cathedral is a unique departure from the relaxed ocean vibe of this Caribbean island.
If you’re in the mood for duty-free and high-end shopping on Antigua, Heritage Quay is the place to find good prices on luxury items. This shopping complex has dozens of shops selling everything from Rolex watches and diamond jewelry to duty-free cigars and liquor, not to mention designer clothes, cosmetics, electronics and more. Throughout the shopping center you’ll spot troupes of local performers playing steel pan music. You’ll need to show a passport and travel documents to take advantage of the duty-free shopping. There is also an arcade where vendors sell T-shirts, souvenirs and local arts and crafts, and can negotiate deals if you’re willing to haggle. A food court features a wide-range of bars and restaurants, from pizzas and island dishes, to seafood.
One of the best places to go on the island if you want fantastic views of the shimmering Caribbean waters, Fort James sits in an ideal position overlooking St John's Harbor. Built by the British in 1706 to protect the harbor, the fort was intended to prevent the French from invading the island.
Today, come and see the cannons, powder magazine, and foundation of the wall, the remainders of the fort. The true highlight of a visit to Fort James, however, is the unbeatable view of St. John's Harbor. With its bright blue waters, nestled among towering cliffs and the picturesque town of St. John's, the harbor is truly one of the most beautiful sites Antigua and Barbuda has to offer.
Don't be scared away by its rather ominous name. Devil's Bridge National Park is one of the most unique natural sites that you can see, not just in Antigua, but perhaps ever. Devil's Bridge is a natural arch carved by the sea out of the soft and hard limestone ledges of the cliffs. As enormous breakers from the Atlantic repeatedly assaulted the rocks throughout the years, they eventually eroded away a soft part of limestone to create a bridge-like arch.
The bridge gained its name from the tragic events that took place there long ago. Supposedly, slaves would hurl themselves off the bridge into the rough waters below in an attempt to escape from their enslaved lives. It was soon said that the Devil must be present there.
Today the bridge is free from such tragedy, but is still a hauntingly beautiful place to visit. With the wild surrounding shrubbery and huge howling waves, there is an almost frighteningly rugged natural beauty to the bridge and its surrounding area.
With panoramic views of the small island and the vast Caribbean, Shirley Heights is Antigua’s most popular lookout point. Visitors often go up for views of the sunset and stay for live music and drinks at the on-site bar and restaurant.
On the Caribbean island of Antigua, Betty’s Hope is a former sugar plantation established by Sir Christopher Codrington in the 1600s. Now a museum and historic landmark, the site is dedicated to the memory and lives of the slaves who endured inhumane hardships on the island.
Just off the coast of Antigua sits Cades Reef, an underwater park and one of the island’s best snorkeling and diving spots. With clear visibility and a wide variety of sea creatures, a trip to the reef makes an exciting family-friendly break from the beach.
With hundreds of gigantic stingray gliding amid vibrant coral reefs and schools of tropical fish, Stingray City is the best place in Antigua to spot wild stingrays in their natural environment. Dive into the warm Caribbean waters to swim and snorkel in an area known for its southern stingrays and learn more about the magnificent creatures and their conservation.
Located in Antigua's capital city, the Museum of Antigua and Barbuda is the place to learn more about the nation's history and cultural legacy. The museum is housed in the Colonial Court House, built in 1747, making it the oldest building still in use in the city. Through its numerous engaging exhibits, the museum tells the story of the nation, from its geological birth to political independence.
More Things to Do in Antigua
Situated at the southernmost point of Antigua, English Harbour is one of the island’s oldest and most historic landmarks. Buildings along the waterfront date back to the colonial era, while the harbor itself is an internationally acclaimed sailing location.
Named after a famous West Indies cricket team captain, the Sir Vivian Richards Stadium is a massive open-aired arena dedicated to the popular sport of cricket. Easily recognizable thanks to its distinctive blue shades, the stadium was built in 2007 in honor of the International Cricket Council World Cup. Numerous matches were held here and around the island during the event, and the 10,000-seat stadium was temporarily expanded to hold 20,000 people specifically for it.
The Sir Vivian Richards Stadium is a modern structure and continues to host Caribbean Premier League cricket matches every year. There is a northern stand and a south stand, a practice pitch, a training facility and a media center.
If there’s one thing Antigua locals love, it’s the sport of cricket. Homage to this national pastime can be found all over the island and especially at Coolidge Cricket Ground (Stanford Cricket Ground), which was once the proud host of numerous cricket and football matches. Although no longer the site of adrenaline and cheers, Stanford Cricket Ground does include the West Indies Cricket Hall of Fame, which chronicles the Caribbean’s most famous players.
Although the site is known locally as “Sticky Wicket Stadium,” it was officially named after Texan financier Allen Stanford, who developed much of Antigua. Stanford Cricket Ground is, perhaps, his best legacy, considering he was later found guilty of fraud after perpetuating the 2008 Ponzi scheme, causing the closing of the stadium.
Today, visitors head to the “Sticky Wicket” to look back through history and view the hall of fame’s plaques and displays at what was once one of Antigua’s premier cricket grounds.
You can spend a day on an uninhabited Caribbean isle with a boat tour to Prickly Pear Island. This tiny islet sits off the northeast corner of Antigua, and it’s a popular destination for day-trippers and cruise-shippers looking to lounge on its sugar-sand beaches. Beneath the crystal-clear waters lie fields of shallow reefs loaded with tropical fish, and you can grab snorkeling gear to fin your way among the fishes. The only man-made structure on the island is a shack beach bar and restaurant where you can satisfy a craving for rum drinks at the open bar, and have a lunch of chicken, conch and lobster. Snorkeling equipment and a guide are usually included in the trip, and when it’s time to relax, you can find beach chairs, umbrellas and picnic tables on the beach.
The blazing-white sands of Dickenson Bay are home to a handful of Antigua’s larger resort hotels, including Sandals, Halcyon Cove and Antigua Village. Along the beachfront you can also find a hub of restaurants, beach bars, and water sports operators renting kayaks, windsurfing boards, snorkeling gear and more. The bay is known for having consistently calm waters, which makes it a great place for families with kids to play in the water, or for snorkelers who want to visit the mile-long stretch of reef that runs along the shore. The one thing you won’t find at Dickenson Bay is a secluded stretch of sand, as it’s one of the most popular beaches on the island, but if you want get away from the crowd, head south to the next beach over along Runaway Bay.
Located in the West Indies, Antigua is the main island that makes up the Caribbean nation of Antigua and Barbuda. The region’s history and geography have made it internationally known as a sailing and yachting destination, and Antigua Cruise Port is one of the most popular stops on cruise itineraries. Ships dock in the capital city of St. John’s.
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