When it comes to warm tropical islands - two have always got to be better than one! And this is certainly the case with beautiful Antigua and Barbuda! Antigua boasts secluded coves and powdery soft beaches. And the beaches of Barbuda are a gorgeous pink colour. But the beach is just the beginning! This is a destination where you can immerse yourself in the excellent snorkeling and watersports. Feast on local delicacies. Partake in the culture…enjoy the fabulous duty free shopping…re-live the history and bask in the perfect climate.
Antigua and Barbuda are situated in the Eastern Caribbean. Separated by only a few nautical miles, they part of the Leeward Islands and are east-southeast of Puerto Rico. Their sheltered position ensures a near-perfect climate of low rainfall and humidity combined with more sunshine than most other Caribbean islands. They are also cooled by trade winds – the same winds that made Antigua and Barbuda such an important port for sailing ships of the British colonies by the end of the 18th century.
Antigua is the more sophisticated island with a rich collection of historical sites side-by-side with a vibrant culture that is definitely twenty first century Caribbean. Antigua is typified by the lively and colourful capital city of St. John’s. Barbuda, on the other hand, is the get-away-from-it-all island. Deserted strands made for beachcombing, a couple of exclusive resorts, great scuba diving and the world’s largest frigate bird sanctuary make a visit to this pristine island an unforgettable experience.
There are 365 beaches on Antigua, one for each day of the year. The great majority rest inside the calm, protected waters of the island's Caribbean side. All are open to the public, and so the challenge posed to a visitor is not how to gain access to the best of them but simply which one to choose!
Barbuda has the deep blue Atlantic on one side with wild beaches full of driftwood and shells, and the Caribbean Sea on the other, perfect for swimming and snorkelling, and with plenty of opportunities to see turtles, rays, sharks, barracuda and many other varieties of tropical fish undisturbed in the turquoise water. Barbuda's smooth coastline is edged with long pink and white sand beaches protected by barrier reefs. In fact, the pristine pink beaches of the southwestern shore stretch as far as ten miles without interruption.
Antiguan cuisine reflects the island’s rich cultural heritage. Expect spicy Creole dishes to rub shoulders with traditional English fare, along with culinary influences from the four corners of the globe. Dining in Antigua is about being relaxed. And don’t forget to sample Cavalier rum – in its raw state, or as the staple in most rum-punches and rum-based cocktails served around the island.
The specialty dish of Antiguan cuisine is known simply as “goat water”. Don’t be steered away by the name -- this native dish is mouth-watering. A spicy stew seasoned with hot peppers, cloves and cinnamon, it is known to have people coming back for more. Also Antiguans are especially proud of their national dish - known as 'fungi and pepperpot', it is a thick vegetable stew.
Fresh spiny lobster, conch, oysters and red snapper dishes encompass all the flavors of the Caribbean and seafood lovers will delight in the many raw bars scattered along the island’s coastline. Also not to be missed is the delicious, extra-sweet, Antigua black pineapple. And be sure to make time at least once for the English legacy of traditional high-tea.
The people of Antigua and Barbuda are warm and welcoming and there is a tradition of excellent hospitality on the islands. As well as it’s many blessing from Mother Nature, it is this friendly, relaxed atmosphere, coupled with high standards of service, that puts Antigua and Barbuda among the world’s top destinations for romantic escapes, vow renewals, weddings and honeymoons…
The way to the locals’ hearts is through cricket - Antiguans are more than a little devoted to the game! The sport is played everywhere and at any time, though main matches have a tendency to be held on Thursdays, Saturdays, and Sundays. The cricket season lasts from January to July. The island has historically been a very strong contributor to West Indian and international cricket, and the Antigua Recreation Ground is one of the finest places in the Caribbean to take in a local, regional, or international match. The most well-known of Antigua’s sports legends is Vivian Richards, who ranks among the greatest cricketers of all time. Devotees of the game can visit the Antigua and Barbuda Museum in St John’s for a look at Vivian Richards’ cricket bat.
And best of all - it is easy to get to Antigua and Barbuda. In peak season WestJet has 2 flights per week and Air Canada has 4 flights per week to Antigua. So that is a great start for your vacation planning.
Both Air Canada Vacations and Westjet Vacations can also book both your flight and hotel. Antigua and Barbuda offers everything from highly luxurious and exclusive all inclusive resorts and Caribbean Hotels to small boutique hotels, intimate inns and private villas.
In Antigua and Barbuda – activities have to start with the water! And since before the days of Horatio Nelson Antigua has always been about sailing. From races and regattas to sunset cruises and yacht charters – Antigua has it all.
All those beaches and the clear, warm blue waters also make for great watersports! Indulge in Kitesurfing, Jet Skiing, Windsurfing, Kayaking and more. The snorkeling and diving is superb - Antigua and Barbuda are almost completely surrounded by well-preserved coral reefs, walls, and shipwrecks. The southern and eastern coasts of Antigua, and virtually the entire coast of Barbuda, are surrounded by shelfs, providing excellent conditions for spectacular shallow diving and snorkeling.
The coral encrusted walls and jumbles of boulders create a myriad of hiding places for all types of Caribbean reef fish. Larger marine life such as turtles, stingrays, barracuda, jacks, permit, nurse sharks and morays are regularly seen here too.
A short boat ride on calm water will take you to Stingray City. Here you can feed and interact with Southern stingrays in their natural habitat and learn about these amazing animals from your experienced guide. The calm, clear, shallow waters make this easy and fun for everybody.
Antigua is also known for fabulous deep sea fishing. Marlin, tuna, kingfish, wahoo, barracuda and even shark are found in the Atlantic fishing grounds of Antigua. Bone, Tarpon and Snook fishing is also available. Choose from a range of engine fishing boats for a half day, three quarter-days or full day charter.
And on dry land the beauty of Antigua is a wonderful backdrop for golf! There are two golf courses on the Antigua: an 18-hole, 70-par course at the Cedar Valley Golf Club and another at Jolly Harbour.
Shopping in Antigua is a uniquely Caribbean experience. The capital city, St. John's, is the Mecca with two duty free shopping areas, vendor's malls and markets with local handiwork and stores carrying clothing, accessories and household items.
The Arts & Crafts Market is a delightful and colourful gathering of local artists actively working in their small shops and producing 100 percent Antiguan products. Some items are actually made on the spot for you to see – natural vegetable based soaps; artwork done with fish scales and sea shells; leather craft, old-time straw hats as well as items made of canvas and other natural fabrics. You can even have a local dress made for you while you wait!
On Friday and Saturday mornings, be sure to visit the vibrant farmers market in St John’s. Folk crafts, colorful tropical fruits, and a buzzing crowd make for a lively morning.
Sea View Farm Village is a great experience. Antiguan folk pottery dates back at least to the early 18th century, when slaves fashioned cooking vessels from local clay. Today, folk pottery is fashioned in a number of places around Antigua, but the centre of this cottage industry is Sea View Farm Village.
Souvenirs from your Antiguan holiday could include local pottery, a bottle of locally aged Antiguan rum or some local fiery and spicy pepper sauce. Also stock up on guava jelly and pineapple jam for souvenir gifts.
In Antigua and Barbuda there are lots of opportunities to enjoy unspoiled nature. And perhaps the most famous example of that is the Frigate Bird Sanctuary in Barbuda. Accessible only by boat, it is the largest bird sanctuary in the Caribbean. The sanctuary is home to over 5,000 frigate birds but the reserve also attracts about 150 other species of birds such as herons, cormorants, and pelicans. The yellow Barbuda Warbler is known locally as the Christmas Bird and is the only one of its kind in the world.
Along the rugged northeast coast of Antigua, the dramatic scenery of Indian Town National Park features some rewarding hikes and excellent birding. More than 36 bird species roost in the park among the acacia trees, while the eastern point of the park is believed to have been an Arawak campsite.
The park also encompasses the natural limestone Devil's Bridge - a beautiful seaside geological formation sculpted over the centuries by the pounding surf. At high tide, waves force geysers of water through blowholes in the nearby rock.
The unspoiled nature in Antigua and Barbuda lends itself to many eco adventures. For instance, take an Island Safari jeep tour which takes you off-road through the lush and rugged heights of Body Pond.
Or lace up your hiking boots and take an off-road trail or head for the hills of the lush rainforest on the south-west coast of Antigua. To get your adrenaline pumping you can conquer the expansive and expertly designed zip line and rope challenge course of the Antigua Rainforest Company.
And one last way to see the beautiful nature of Antigua and Barbuda is on a spectacular helicopter tour. Experience the breath-taking vistas as you soar above the stunning landscape. Whether you circle Antigua on a guided tour, take a trip to untamed Barbuda or look into the eye of Montserrat’s volcano, a helicopter ride is guaranteed to be a highlight of your holiday.
When you think about the history and culture of Antigua and Barbuda, you have to begin with St John’s, which is now the capital and cruise ship port of the nation. Looming above the skyline of St John’s are the white neo-Baroque towers of St. John's Cathedral. Built in 1845, the church is now in its third incarnation, as earthquakes in 1683 and in 1745 destroyed the previous structures.
For an overview of the island's history, a good place to start is the Museum of Antigua and Barbuda in the 18th century former Court House in St John’s. This charming museum tells the story of Antigua and Barbuda from its geological birth through the present day. A cool oasis in the middle of St. John's, the museum contains a wide variety of fascinating objects and exhibits, ranging from a life-size replica of an Arawak dwelling to the bat of Viv Richards, one of the greatest cricket players of all time.
As early as the 18th century Antigua was an important part of trade route between Europe and the Americas. Fort James and Fort Barrington were built during this period to protect the city from the French. English Harbour, one of the finest natural harbours in the Caribbean, and located at a highly strategic position, was used by Admirals Nelson, Rodney and Hood as a secure home for the British Navy during the Napoleonic wars.
Today, Nelson's Dockyard at English Harbour forms part of a designated national park. The restored marina with beautiful old stone warehouses encompasses hotels, restaurants, shops, galleries, and museums. Both the Admiral's House Museum and Dockyard Museum trace the site's history from the 17th century to the present.
Shirley Heights affords a quite stunning view of English Harbour. This rambling array of gun emplacements and military buildings is best known today for absolutely breathtaking views. From the Heights one can look far out over English Harbour, and on Sunday afternoons the view is accompanied by barbecue, rum punch, and the strains of steel band and reggae music.
As well as its strategic naval position, the British were drawn to Antigua and Barbuda to establish sugar plantations. Sir Christopher Codrington started the first large sugar plantation and he called it Betty’s Hope after his daughter. Although the only surviving structures are two stone sugar mills and the remains of the stillhouse, the site's importance in Antiguan history has prompted the government to develop it as an open air museum.
About a hundred stone windmill towers dot the Antiguan landscape, and the two restored examples at Betty's Hope provide a dramatic sense of the way these mills must have dominated the island during the hundreds of years that sugar production was the dominant industry.
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