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Unforgettable Antigua

St. John’s, Antigua port

Rated by Caribbean Journal as the number one island to visit in 2018, Antigua and Barbuda are a dual-island country in the Leeward islands that is becoming an increasingly popular destination.

Full of everything that island seekers love—beautiful beaches, swaying palms, and turquoise water—Antigua offers an unforgettable vacation with the perfect mix of old-world charm and modern luxury.

Named in 1493 by Christopher Columbus, Antigua means ‘ancient’ in Spanish. Heavily influenced by the British Empire, the island is an independent state and member of the British Commonwealth with Queen Elizabeth II serving as head of state.

St. John’s—not to be confused with St. John, an island of the U.S. Virgin Islands—is the capital of Antigua and is a bustling city centre of commerce and tourism. The cruise port handles thousands of ship visitors each year, and the public market is a fantastic place to meet locals, purchase local produce, and buy Antiguan crafts and gifts.

Dickenson Bay in Antigua

St. John’s Cathedral—also known as St. John the Divine—is a stunning example of baroque architecture and a beautiful piece of the island’s history. The original wood structure was built in 1681, and the English brick structure replaced it in 1748. The iron gates at the south entrance date back to 1789.

Devil’s Bridge, Antigua

A visit to English Harbour is like a time machine to a bygone era, and Nelson’s Dockyard  is the only surviving Georgian dockyard in the world; see buildings restored to 18th and 19th century glory and visit the museum to learn more about the fascinating history of the harbour’s military functions. Gift shops and boutiques sell excellent artisan souvenirs, and restaurants and art galleries offer plenty to see and do on a day in the harbour. Be sure to head up the hill to the Shirley Heights lookout, where the view presents a stunning picture of the entire English Harbour, and the Sunday evening parties are not to be missed.

If you’re travelling to the Caribbean for the beaches, Antigua will not disappoint. It has 365 beaches, meaning you could spend a year on the island and visit a different beach each day. Just north of St. John’s is Dickenson Bay, one of the most striking and most-visited beaches on island. Popular with families, this stunning strip of powder-soft sand is great for anyone wanting to enjoy calm, turquoise waters and warm sun. The beach at Deep Bay is one to visit for snorkelling and to avoid tourist crowds; a sunken ship offers great underwater views.

Just a short flight away is Antigua’s sister island, Barbuda.

While much of Antigua was spared from 2017’s Hurricanes Irma and Maria, Barbuda was severely hit and its people evacuated after the storms. Barbuda boasts stunning pink sand beaches and a vital Frigate bird sanctuary, to which the national birds are beginning to return. While Barbuda is yet to fully recover, her natural beauty is still a sight to behold.

Antigua provides plenty of opportunities for visitors to stay and play, and there are accommodations and activities for everyone to appreciate. With new direct air service out of New York and Canada, traveling to the island has never been simpler.

The island offers boutique hotels, unique retreat experiences, and all-inclusive options that will fit every budget. Stay in a romantic room steeped in colonial history at the Admiral’s Inn at Nelson’s Dockyard. Or choose a stunning beachfront room with all amenities included at Galley Bay or Verandah Resort.

For a truly luxurious experience, take a short boat ride to enjoy the private island resort at Jumby Bay, accepting guests after a post-hurricane refresh. With no commercial traffic, and only resort guests and local residents permitted, it’s a place that travellers can truly ‘get away from it all.’

The famous Waldorf Astoria hotel will open its first property on the south-eastern shore of the island in 2020, and the new modern Hodges Bay Resort is accepting reservations for its rooms, suites, and villas on the north-end of Antigua.

Whether visiting for the top-notch sailing opportunities, experiencing natural wonders like Devil’s Bridge , or hiking the rainforest of Mount Obama, Antigua is an island you won’t forget.

Sara Sherman
Sara Sherman is a former St. Thomas resident and the editor of Virgin Islands Property & Yacht.
Sara Sherman

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