Famed for its 365 beaches, visitors will be drawn to the azure blue seas and secluded beaches of the largest of the British Caribbean Islands.
Antigua’s history is deeply rooted in the production of sugar cane – at its peak the island was home to more than 150 cane-producing mills. Today many of the plantation houses are restored into hotels and restaurants. The one remaining sugar estate is at Betty’s Hope where visitors can see a fully restored sugar mill. In 1784, Admiral Horatio Nelson established Antigua as Great Britain’s most important Caribbean base and the naval history and architecture is one of the cultural highlights of the island.
What to see & do
Cruise ships generally dock in St John’s, the capital, which offers harbour-front shopping, restaurants and galleries. On Friday and Saturday mornings there is a lively and colourful market selling folk arts and tropical fruits among a buzzing crowd. Away from the capital there are Colonialera historical sites, wide-ranging leisure activities and culture.
Where to eat
For a long lazy lunch visit Catherine’s Cafe in English Harbour at the water’s edge with funky music and a fabulous French wine list. Carmichael’s at Sugar Ridge Hotel has stunning views across the Caribbean Sea – take time to linger by the pool with a cocktail before lunch. Indigo on the Beach at Carlisle Bay has a laidback, informal setting on the beach with views across to Montserrat. The menu features, light and healthy food, specialising in grills, fresh seafood, salads and breads.
Where to drink
On Sunday nights there is only one place to be in Antigua – Shirley Heights for a traditional ‘jump up’ at sunset. Dance to reggae beats while sipping rum punch (note – sipping is advised as these pack a mighty punch) – the lucky few will witness the ‘green flash’ as the sun sets over English Harbour. The Sugar Club at Sugar Ridge Hotel has a cool vibe in the evenings and for the best rum cocktails on the island try The Pavilion Bar at Carlisle Bay.
Where to stay
Choose from exclusive luxury resorts such as Carlisle Bay on the south coast which is set in a secluded bay surrounded by the rainforest and the Sugar Ridge Hotel, or more informal guest houses such as Admiral’s Inn in English Harbour.
The obvious daytrip is to Barbuda, Antigua’s underdeveloped neighbour, which has a 17-mile pink sand beach. Thrill seekers should head to the Antigua Rainforest Canopy Tours for a breathtaking zip line across the top of the rainforest canopy. Antigua is regarded as one of the best sailing destinations in the world; take to the helm of a racing yacht. The island has great diving; among the best is Cades Reef. For culture and history visit English Harbour, the island’s most prized historic location. Home to the famous Nelson’s Dockyard – a UNESCO World Heritage Site with restored buildings and forts and now a museum.
Hot and sunny year-round with average temperatures of between 25°c-28°c. Antigua experiences relatively low humidity and is drier than most Caribbean islands. Rainy months are July and October Language English
Eastern Caribbean Dollar (£1 = $4.17)
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