Antigua

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Antigua
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Overview

Are you ready to visit the home of the Caribbean sun? Antigua is the sunniest island in the Caribbean and boasts 365 beaches – one for each day of the year. Discover the luxury of this eastern Caribbean island as it offers up world-renowned sailing, snorkeling and a history rife with exploration and adventure.

The expansive, winding coastline that once made Antigua difficult for sailors to navigate is where today's travellers encounter a tremendous abundance of secluded, powdery soft beaches. The coral reefs that once wrecked many ships now attract snorkelers and scuba divers from around the world. And separated by only a few nautical miles off the coast, the fascinating little island of Barbuda is home to one of the region's most significant bird sanctuaries.

The trade winds that once safely guided exploring sailors into English Harbour now fuel one of the world's foremost maritime events, Sailing Week. The coasts of Antigua are ideal for yacht cruising and racing, with constant trade-winds, and seemingly endless harbours for exploration. A week could easily be spent cruising around this sunny island of the eastern Caribbean. Its sister island, Barbuda, has shell laden beaches so stretch long that they dip below the horizon.

Both Antigua and Barbuda are almost completely surrounded by well-preserved coral walls, reefs, and shipwrecks. The southern and eastern coasts of Antigua and virtually the entire coast of Barbuda are enclosed by coral, providing excellent conditions for shallow diving and snorkeling. There is little or no current in most places, and with water temperature averages at 25 C (80 F), these conditions couldn't be more perfect. Underwater visibility ranges up to 140 feet, making it easy to spot the exotic marine plants and animals.

To get a taste of the local arts and culture, there's no better place than Harmony Hall. Located in Brown's Bay at Nonsuch Bay, is the heart of the Antiguan arts and cultural community. Exhibits and showcases change throughout the year, but the annual highlights are the Antigua Artist's Exhibition and the Craft Fair, both in November. Harmony Hall was originally built around a sugar mill tower, which has since been converted to an attraction for both locals and visitors alike, as it offers one of the island's best panoramic views.

All that exploring is sure to work up an appetite. Make sure to enjoy one of Antigua's many water front restaurants - a perfect location for any meal. With endless adventure and hundreds of beaches at your fingertips, what’s stopping you from visiting the home of the Caribbean sun? Book your trip to Antigua today!

Airport served by: ANU

Destination basics

Temperatures generally range from the mid-seventies in the winter to the mid-eighties in the summer. Annual rainfall averages only 45 inches, making it the sunniest of the eastern Caribbean Islands, and the northeast trade winds are nearly constant, flagging only in September. Visitors can expect low humidity year-round.

Prettier than most postcards, Antigua is a quintessential island paradise. It is split into six parishes, each of which hosts virtually every blue-green hue imaginable. Off the beach, visitors will find cultural sights like churches and museums mixed with inexhaustible natural attractions, among them karst formations and hike-able hills. Start in stunning capital St. John's and work your way down the list of Antigua's picturesque parishes!

Saint John

Saint John houses the island's capital, a bustling port where commerce thrives. For the most part, St. John's looks like what you'd expect from a commercial and tourist hub. Colorful, sun-bleached shops line narrow streets also claimed by energetic, seasoned vendors. Older businesses mingle with newer construction, and considerable locals plus daily cruise activity means steady foot traffic.

You'll have no trouble finding amenities and accommodations in St. John's, which also houses top sights like the Museum of Antigua & Barbuda and Fort James. As capital cities go, this one is exceptionally walkable: you can get to the Antigua Recreation Ground situated just outside the city in about ten minutes heading south from the waterfront, and while downtown, you're only about 15 minutes by car from V. C. Bird International Airport.

Saint George

Immediately east of Saint John, Saint George is familiar to most as the site of V.C. Bird International Airport. It is otherwise comprised predominantly of small towns that remain mostly separate from the popular tourist areas. Local gems worth checking out include the St. George's Anglican Church and Coolidge Cricket Ground.

Saint Peter

Parham is the capital city of the Saint Peter parish, as well as the first British settlement established on the island. Its oldest structures date back to the 1800s, and visitors can enjoy Betty's Hope Sugar Plantation for some history-filled fun while touring the area. They can also enjoy spectacular wildlife, particularly the colorful species found swimming in the reefs just offshore. See if you can do some island hopping while exploring the waters around Saint Peter for a guaranteed great time.

Saint Phillip

Scenic and serene, Saint Phillip was an obvious choice for the cherished resorts that line its idyllic seaside. Beaches are the reason most flock to the parish, notably Half Moon Bay, which strikes a nice balance between offering amenities like tasty food and maintaining an immaculate, isolated allure. Splash in the Atlantic and explore every limestone crevice in Saint Phillip to make the most of what the area has to offer.

Saint Paul

Saint Paul is the venerable core of vibrant Antigua. When you cross into the parish, be sure to stop in Falmouth, then head to the docks to admire the massive yachts. Keep on to where the road ends and you'll discover historic Nelson's Dockyard, which fringes English Harbour. This piece of living history is the world's only fully preserved Georgian Naval dockyard, tracing all the way back to the 1700s. Many of the buildings housed here are open to the public, including two small inns, a museum, the Galley Bar and Boutique, a tiny bakery, and more.

Saint Mary

One of the larger parishes, Saint Mary sees a fair number of visitors. They tend toward Mount Obama, the island's tallest point, and Jolly Harbour, a resort town best known for its marina, 18-hole championship golf course, and sandy stretches. The most popular beaches in Saint Mary include Jolly Beach and Ffryes Beach. Outdoor enthusiasts will also be thrilled to explore the volcanic landscape and soak in the vistas across this picturesque parish.

More than just a beach getaway, Antigua offers entertainment for every type of traveler, from intrepid and outdoorsy to curious and party prone. Slip on a snorkel or some dancing shoes and tear up the town in lively Antigua.

Museums & Galleries

For a traditional museum experience, start your cultural tour of the island with the trip to the Museum of Antigua & Barbuda, established in the capital city's oldest structure. For a less traditional yet equally engaging approach, opt for Betty's Hope Sugar Plantation. The site has existed since 1650 and offers unparalleled insight into the island's agricultural history. Another option is the Dockyard Museum, which was converted from its former use as Royal Navy Dockyard quarters. As for galleries, you'll find them scattered around Antigua. Stick to the more popular areas and you're sure to see plenty of local art.

Beaches

Beach days in Antigua entail everything from snorkeling and scuba diving to good old-fashioned sunbathing. When you aren't busy discovering secret coves on foot, you can rely on the following destinations for near-perfect outings. The white-sand shores of Dickenson Bay are perfect for strolling between the surf and the buzzing bars and restaurants just inland. Half Moon Bay boasts the same stunning color scheme but tends to appeal to a quieter crowd that prefers relative seclusion. And for the best in family fun, check out calm Pigeon Point Beach, where you'll have lots of local company.

Performing Arts

Chief among the performing arts groups on the island is the Antigua Community Players, which sponsors musical programs and original plays and productions. The island also plays host to a local dance troupe known as the Antigua Dance Theatre. Although the schedule can be inconsistent, the dance group puts on impressive public performances on occasion.

Sports

Every spring, Antigua hosts a sailing week during which sailors from all over the map converge for a massive, week-long regatta. It is a must-see island tradition and promises a great time for sailors and spectators alike. Still, cricket is a way of life in Antigua, and nothing beats catching a local game. Ask around while touring the island or check the local listings to find a match when you're in town.

Nightlife

There are both open-late bars and clubs in Antigua, particularly in the tourist havens. Start your evening in St. John's with good food, delicious cocktails, and a little bit of dancing downtown. Then check out hotspots like Abracadabra in English Harbour. You'll find a comfortable age range at most nightlife venues on the island, be it a beach bar or an electronic-music-blaring disco.

For a different sort of nightlife entertainment, Antigua has two main casinos with gaming tables, plus several others offering slots only. Look for these in the departure lounge area at the V.C. Bird International Airport. In town, there's the Kings Casino and the more sophisticated and European-inspired St. James Club.

In Antigua, party time is all the time, so there are many places to go for dining and drinking. There are a wide variety of spots at the dozens of hotels on the island. And with 365 beaches, there are many beach bars. If you're planning a beach day, go to Pigeon Beach in English Harbour. There, you'll have an opportunity to treat yourself to a tropical and casual lunch and drink at Bumpkins, a colorful beachy looking open-air spot. The owner, Carol, opens this eatery according to her whim, but a good bet is to arrive between 1p-5p daily.

Depending on your tastes, food types are plentiful, though dishes with Caribbean/West Indian flair are the most common. Fresh seafood, particularly deep-sea fish, can be found on most every menu.

Saint John's
You won't have trouble finding a place to dine in downtown St. Johns, the island's lively capital. Some are in the historic Redcliffe Quay area, housed in old warehouses that have been restored as shops and restaurants. For people watching, you can't beat Hemingway's, a downtown eatery in a wonderful old West Indian building covered with gingerbread. You can sit on the balcony for a drink or meal and watch the world go by. Do try the curry dishes. Sheer Rocks, a favorite with romantics, lies at the edge of the sea in Cocobay Resort, and is the perfect spot to take in views of gilded Caribbean sunsets.

Though most of the island's restaurants are connected with hotels, a few of them are freestanding. Miller's by the Sea is one of them. It's very popular with local people because of its large and affordable West Indian buffet and nightly entertainment. For some genuine West Indian cuisine,this is not to be missed. The Coconut Grove restaurant is outstanding. Look for it on the beach at Dickenson Bay. You can't get much more romantic than this as the pristine calm waters practically lap at your toes and the stars glitter above.

While most hotels have restaurants, but an true standout is the Bay House Restaurant at the Tradewinds Hotel in Dickenson Bay.

Saint George

Start your culinary journey with Le Bistro, a hit with patrons for its delectable French fare. Italian treats can be savored at the La Bussola Restaurant and Pizzeria. Cecilia's, another Saint George favorite, combines a breezy cafe ambiance with magnificent views over the bay.

Saint Mary

Coco's, also on the west "sunset" coast, has great food and views for diners. For one of the finest wine selections anywhere (certainly in the Caribbean) try Curtain Bluffs, a lovely resort built on a bluff and run by wine connoisseur Howard Hulford. Reservations and jackets are required for dinner in this elegant restaurant.

English Harbour

In English Harbour, there's a good Italian restaurant, Abracadabra, with live music and even livelier food. The Admiral's Inn open-air restaurant serves tantalizing dishes, especially fresh seafood. Or, just stop in for a drink at the nautical bar inside the hotel. In the same area is Catherine's Cafe with plenty of personality, good food and great espresso.

Antigua

Country: Antigua & Barbuda

Antigua by the Numbers
Population: 80,161
Elevation: 0 meters / 0 feet - 402 meters / 1319 feet
Average Annual Rainfall: 12.7 centimeters / 5 inches
Average January Temperature: 25°C / 77°F
Average July Temperature: 28°C / 82°F

Quick Facts
Electricity: 230 volts, 60 Hz; standard two-pin plug

Time Zone: GMT -4; Atlantic Standard Time (AST)

Country Dialing Code: +1

Area Code: 268

Did You Know?
In Antigua, you could visit a different beach every day of the year without repeating since the island is home to 365 beaches.

The highest point on the island is Mount Obama, named after the 44th President of the United States, Barack Obama. Before 2009 it was called Boggy Peak.

Orientation
The islands Antigua and Barbuda are located in the eastern Caribbean at the southern end of the Leeward Islands. Antigua is about 80 kilometers (50 miles) north of the island of Guadeloupe and about 69 kilometers (43 miles) east of the island of Nevis.

When the English first landed in Antigua there were certainly no jewelry stores boasting their exotic wares in Heritage Quay and Redcliffe Quay or the Bank of Antigua flaunting it's shiny marble floors. In fact, there were no streets at all!

Colonization came about in 1632 by a party of Englishmen who set out from nearby St. Kitts under the leadership of Edward Warner. They established a tenuous settlement on the southern side of the island and were under attack by the Caribbean's (from neighboring islands) and the French. By 1667, the little town really began to swing.

As on most Caribbean islands, sugar cane once was a primary source of revenue and a booming industry; its heyday was from the mid 1600s to the mid 1700s when slavery was the norm. Sugar cane ceased production altogether on Antigua in 1972.

In September 1672 a decision was made by the governing Assembly that one slave for every eight owned by planters should be supplied for work on the erection of forts at Falmouth and St. John's. In case of attack from the Caribbean's or French, a fort was to be built on Rat Island in St. John's Harbour. In 1680, Colonel Vaughn gave St. John's Point to the King for a defense to be called Fort James. This fort was completed in 1704.

St. John's town had grown as large as Falmouth by 1689. Together, Falmouth and Parham were Antigua's foremost towns. But by the following year nearly the whole island of St. John's was destroyed by a hurricane. Eighteen vessels ran aground; others just disappeared. The arduous task of rebuilding had to be started all over again. Destruction from disasters of one type or the other presented many setbacks for Antigua.

In 1702 cross streets were laid by the military, a market was built and the town of St. John's was born. A clerk for the market was appointed who was also to be the public crier. Town wardens whose duty was to assess houses and land were elected and a cage, pillory, stocks, whipping post and ducking stool were placed at the publics expense on the corner of what is now Market and Church Street. Night watches were also appointed to have the same power as watchmen in London and a watch house built in this convenient spot.

The following four years were particularly noteworthy in the history of colonial administration when Antiguan's reigned as one of the most controversial governors in the island, Daniel Parke. Parke's behavior and private life turned out to be arbitrary and extreme. Before he had held his government post for twelve months, articles of impeachment were prepared and forwarded to England. Parke never returned to England in spite of being recalled by Queen Anne. His end came at a standoff between soldiers he had quartered at the Government House and the planters. He was shot in the leg and subsequently died.

St. John's second church was built on the site where Parke was murdered.

In 1747 Peter Harrison, a Yorkshire architect, designed and started work on the St. John's Courthouse. He was also responsible for designing and building many important buildings in Jamaica and the East Coast of America. The courthouse eventually housed the Legislative Council and when not in official use, dances and other social functions were staged there. Notable celebrities such as Prince William IV and Horatio Nelson were entertained in that building. Today, it is used as the Museum for Antigua's Historical and Archaeological Society.

A most dreadful town fire occurred in 1769 when an unattended coal pot set a building ablaze. Two hundred and sixty houses were leveled to the ground and two thirds of St. John's was destroyed.

In 1801 a proposal for the construction of a Government House slated to be the Governor's residence was adopted. Previously he had resided in rented homes. Unfortunately, this stately home fell into disrepair some years back but today, a private society (along the government) raised funds to have the building restored.

The barracks east of the town was converted to a prison. The year 1735 remains inscribed above its portals. Progress continued in 1830 as the first library in the British West Indies was established in St. John's as a private venture. It was later taken over by the Government and run by a Board of Trustees. Part of this prison is still in use today but suffered massive damage in 1999.

In August 1834, a proclamation was read in the city emancipating all the slaves of Antigua. Eight years later St. John's was raised to the dignity of a 'city' when the diocese was established. In fact, every year, a week long carnival is held in celebration of the Emancipation. Always ready to celebrate, Antiguan's make no bones about it. The spirit of the Antiguan today reflects that of happiness and contentment.

As the city progressively grew, the first batch of indentured laborers from Madeira arrived at St. John's. The General Post Office, London opened a branch in St. John's in 1850. The island enjoyed even more progress when, in 1867, a reservoir was built at Gray's Hill just outside St. John's to supply the city with pipe-borne water. The reservoir itself was fed from a dam at Wallings.

Finally, in 1981 Antigua was granted full independence from Great Britain while retaining its Commonwealth status.

Despite fires, riots and chronic hurricanes, the town of St. John's managed to keep its history in check. Although most of the original buildings are long gone, there are still a few homes and establishments in St. John's, which represent its historic era. The St. John's Cathedral and the Courthouse are pinnacles of that time.

Perhaps the most condensed Antiguan architecture and history has been best maintained in the preservation of what is now Redcliffe Quay. A former baracoon where slaves were kept prior to sale, Redcliffe Quay reflects the genesis of the country as a people.

Points of interest in Antigua

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