Antigua, also knows as Waladli by the native population, is a breathtaking Caribbean island in the West Indies and the main island of the country of Antigua and Barbuda. The island is relatively small with a circumference of roughly 54 miles which can easily be explored in a day. Beyond its breathtaking white sand beaches, Antigua’s English Harbour and its neighbouring village of Falmouth are internationally famous as a yachting and sailing destination center and hosts the annual world-class regatta during Antigua Sailing week at the end of April and beginning of May.
Best time to visit…
The best time to visit Antigua is May to November, the island’s off-season. You’ll find lower than usual rates and although there is a slight threat of hurricanes, the weather is more than likely always above 80 degrees. There is less chance of rain between December and April but rates are expensive and the crowds abundant. A little fleeting tropical rain never hurt anyone…especially your wallet!
You’ll want to fly into VC Bird International Airport (ANU), approximately 5 miles east of St. John’s. 1,325 miles southeast of Miami, many US airlines offer connections to VC Bird from the continental United States. Americans arriving in Antigua receive a six-month tourist stamp so visas are not required. However, immigration officials may verify a return ticket or ticket of onward travel along with sufficient funds for the entire period of stay.
Where to stay…
We stayed at the amazing all-inclusive Galley Bay resort overlooking the beautiful Galley Bay surrounded by tropical greenery. The Galley Bay resort is located directly on the beach with airy and colorful rooms that look out onto the crystal clear Caribbbean water. If you want a change of pace from the breathtaking beach (although not sure how you could), the resort also has a lagoon-style pool surrounded by palm trees and hammock, a chic spa, tennis court and an exercise room. With 4 restaurants and 4 bars, all with sea views, you definitely will not go hungry or thirsty here! We devoured the finger licking good glazed barbecue chicken and roasted corn on the cob for lunch at the Gauguin beach restaurant every day we stayed there – pure heaven!
Galley Bay Resort (4- star)
Five Islands Village, St. John’s, Antigua & Barbuda
A weekend in…Antigua
For adventure seekers and nature lovers, Antigua won’t be complete without making a trip to Stingray City! Antigua’s Southern Rays are without doubt the brightest rays in the Caribbean, friendly and gentle. Touch and feed a Stingray while you swim and snorkel amongst them above magnificent coral reefs and colorful tropical fish. Stingray City is on Mercer’s Creek Bay in Seatons in eastern Antigua, off the road to Long Bay. Numerous tour packages are offered and a swim with the Stingrays will cost you around USD $50.
If you forget that SPF and get a little suburn that requires a break from the sun, head to the beautifully restored naval dockyard that was once the home of the British fleet during the Napoleonic Wars. Nelson’s Dockyard is a site to see and also part of Nelson’s Dockyard National Park which also contains Clarence House and Shirley Heights. A cultural heritage site and marina in Englkyardish Harbour, Nelson’s Dockyard is home to Antigua’s sailing and yachting events. In 1889, the Royal Navy abandoned the Dockyard and it fell into decay. The Society of the Friends of English Harbour began restoration in 1951 and a decade later, it was opened to the public. Among the original buildings are two hotels, a museum, craft and food shops, restaurants, and a large marina. Hiking trails radiate across the surrounding national park. Nelson’s Dockyard is open daily from 8:00 am to 6:00 pm. The cost of admission is $8 USD and includes a guided tour as well as entry to all sites including Shirley Heights and Dow’s Hill. Tours do not run on Sundays.
Once you’re finished at the Dockyard head up to check out the incredible view from Shirley Heights (490 feet above the ground) that overlooks the English and Falmouth Harbours and boasts the best view in Antigua! The view is especially spectacular at sunset when the English Harbour is all lit up. Shirley Heights Lookout also hosts a Sunday Barbecue party that starts at 4:00 pm with reggae music and a mouth watering barbecue that goes until 10:00 pm. Get your groove on while overlooking beautiful Antigua and experiencing some of the island’s finest bands.
While the actual town of St. John is probably not where you’ll want to spend most of your time, it’s worth seeing if you are renting a car and driving around the island. A few other notable stops you must make are to Valley Church Beach with it’s quiet white sand just south of Jolly Harbour, the Devil’s Bridge to see the dramatic natural limestone arch, and Half Moon Bay, one of the most beautiful beaches in Antigua! The island is known for its collection of 365 sugar-white sand beaches so you will not run out of beautiful beaches to explore!