GMT -4 hours
A captivating island boasting some of the Caribbean’s most idyllic beaches and year-round sunshine
Surrounded by a nearly unbroken offshore reef protecting miles of white sands and hidden coves, you may have heard that this charming island promises a beach for every day of the year, yet it offers so much more. From diving and sailing, for which Antigua is particularly known, to 4x4 rainforest tours and explorations of quaint colonial towns there is plenty to complement those long, drawn out days on the beach.
Best time to visit
Between December and June.
This independent nation was once a British colony and English influences can be seen from the crumbling sugar plantations and delightfully quaint English Harbour to locals playing cricket and hotels offering traditional afternoon tea. Despite these familiar touches, the wonderfully laid back vibe that is synonymous with the Caribbean pervades every corner of this relaxing isle.
The capital, St John’s is dominated by the cathedral’s striking Baroque towers which are one of the first sights to welcome visitors arriving on the island by boat. St John’s offers a lovely mix West Indian gingerbread style houses, British colonial buildings, excellent harbourside restaurants and a bustling farmer’s market. It is also home to Antigua’s biggest attraction - Nelson’s Dockyard National Park, a beautifully restored Georgian naval base that serves as Antigua’s historic heart. Soak up the atmosphere with lunch on the terrace at Admiral’s Inn and watch yachts docking in the pretty harbour.
The harbour really comes alive during the annual Antigua Sailing Week, a world-famous regatta that kicks off in late April and attracts skilled yachtsmen from every corner of the globe. Visit the island during this period to experience the incredible carnival-like atmosphere and enjoy live music and numerous parties as a cloud of billowing sails dot the horizon and the majestic yachts ride the sapphire waves in a thrilling race to victory.
Antigua’s incredible choice of beaches means that there truly is something to suit everyone. Enjoy romantic strolls along deserted sands, leaving a trail of footprints as a fleeting sign of your presence; relax on velvety sands before slipping into sparkling azure waters to explore colourful marine life; take the kids swimming in calm, clear waters; or, if you’re feeling particularly brave then try your hand at kite surfing with the mighty Trade Winds behind you. With little or no current in Antigua’s shallow water areas the visibility is excellent which makes it ideal for snorkelling and diving.
Dickenson Bay lies in the northwest and boasts soft powdery sands and calm waters, ideal for families with children. Tuck into tasty coconut shrimp at Valley Church Beach on the west coast and sink your toes into this heavenly stretch of glistening white sands dotted with pretty seashells.
Antigua is blessed with captivating scenery that is just waiting to be explored; venture beyond the beach to discover a number of fabulous look-out points. Follow the nature trail from English Harbour through forest up to Shirley Heights. Parts of the trail are quite steep but you will be rewarded at the top by incredible panoramic views over English Harbour. The summit is a romantic spot for watching the harbour become enveloped in a golden glow as the sun sets over the bay.
If you are travelling from St John’s to English Harbour in the south then take a slight detour and follow the coastal road before journeying along Fig Tree Drive for a scenic and sometimes bumpy drive across rolling hills and through rainforest, farmland and banana, coconut and mango groves. Visit sugar mills and tiny picturesque villages and stop at a local fruit stand to sample the island’s black pineapple which is renowned for its sweetness.
Just a 90-minute ferry ride north of the island will whisk you to beautiful Barbuda. Antigua’s sister island is blessed with an impossibly romantic and deserted eight-mile pink sand beach which gets its unique rose petal hue from the crushed coral in the sand. Nature-lovers will adore the frigate bird sanctuary which is only accessible by boat and is a haven to 170 species of bird and over 5000 frigate birds.
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