Antigua is the main island of the country called Antigua and Barbuda, located in the northeastern Caribbean. This 108 square mile island is famous for its white sandy beaches, with more than one for every day of the year.
But don’t think that in Antigua you can just lie around, working on your tan. Although it’s an option, I get bored of sitting on the beach pretty quickly, don’t you? Luckily, there are plenty of fun and adventurous things to do in Antigua beyond the beaches. Here are some of my favorite things to do in Antigua:
1. Embrace the sailing culture.
If you’re interested in sailing, Antigua is the best Caribbean island to visit. With calm harbors and a steady Atlantic breeze, it offers perfect sailing conditions, and its many ports are home to some of the world’s most expensive yachts.
Many aspiring yachtsmen come here to train and find work on ships. In fact, as a young traveller, the second question you will be asked after meeting someone is what boat you work on. However, if you’re interested in trying out, you can take a day sailing class at the National Sailing Academy.
Antigua even has a Sailing Week, the event of the year, during which sailing enthusiasts and professionals get together to compete in regattas. Of course, there are also many parties and gatherings during the week. (Although it wasn’t held this year, it usually takes place in the last week of April).
2. Stroll through Nelson’s Dockyard National Park
Nelson’s Dockyard was once a British maritime centre and has since been fully restored as a working dockyard housing hundreds of sailing boats as well as restaurants and shops.
The naval dockyard is the only UNESCO World Heritage site in Antigua. Although it has been updated with modern facilities, its historic appearance has been well preserved, making it a charming place to explore.
It is part of Nelson’s Dockyard National Park, which also contains Clarence House and Shirley Heights. The park occupies 15 square miles of coastline and is the centre of Antigua’s heritage and sailing. It’s a great place to stroll around and dream of what life on a yacht would be like. The nautical culture of this place makes it, in my opinion, one of the best islands in the Caribbean to visit.
3. Hiking with goats
If walking among goats sounds like an ideal day out, don’t hesitate to visit the Middle-earth Trail. Although that’s the official name, it’s known locally as the “goat trail” because of the friendly animals you’re sure to encounter along the way.
This is a one-mile trail that takes about an hour to hike, starting at Pigeon Beach and ending at Nelson’s Dockyard (or vice versa). It climbs steeply at first and then levels out before descending toward Fort Berkeley and the shipyards. At the top, you’ll be rewarded with magnificent panoramic views of Falmouth Harbour and English Harbour.
The park, which stretches for over 15 square miles along the coast, is the centre of the island’s sailing and heritage. It is an ideal place to stroll around and dream of what life on a yacht would be like.
4. Watch the sunset at Shirley Heights
Shirley Heights is a secluded military lookout 490 feet above the sea, offering an incredible view of English and Falmouth Harbours. It is famous for its Sunday restaurant parties with barbecue and live reggae music.
Although the parties are not currently held due to COVID-19 restrictions, it is still worth the climb up here as the views are some of the best on the island. It is the perfect place to watch the sunset. On a clear day, you can see as far as the neighbouring islands of Montserrat and Guadeloupe.
The viewpoint can be reached by car, but many visitors and locals hike or walk up from Galleon Beach. If you plan to do so, try to go early in the morning or at sunset to beat the Antigua heat.
Given that Antigua is surrounded by the ocean, it’s no wonder that one of the best things to do here is explore the underwater world.
The main attraction of diving in Antigua is the well-preserved reefs, which are home to an abundance of marine life. What you’ll see depends on location and time of year, but you may see sea turtles, eagle rays, barracuda, moray eels and reef sharks. Antigua is also home to some shipwrecks that you can explore.
Most dive trips depart from English Harbour or Jolly Harbour and will take you to the warm Caribbean waters off the south of the island, where surface temperatures never drop below 26°C (78°F). If you’re not yet certified to dive, Antigua is the perfect place to learn, with 5-star PADI dive schools available to teach you.
6. Visit the Pillars of Hercules
The Pillars of Hercules are quite a treat for geology buffs. They are naturally occurring limestone columns on the coast that guard the entrance to Freeman’s Bay and English Harbour.
These natural rock formations have been sculpted by decades of rain, wind and waves. The best way to appreciate them is from the sea. If you take a dive trip from English Harbour, you’re likely to pass the Pillars on the way, as many of Antigua’s best dive sites are nearby.
They can also be reached from a hiking trail that starts from the end of Galleon Beach and involves climbing over large boulders.
7. Snorkeling in Half Moon Bay
Half Moon Bay is a beautiful white sand beach that is so named because it is shaped like a giant crescent moon. When you come to the beach from the road and see it suddenly appear, you can’t help but stop to take a picture.
Although this pristine beach is one of the most popular on the island, it also happens to be one of the best places in Antigua for snorkeling and windsurfing. This is because it is located on the eastern side, facing the Atlantic. The beach is protected from the strong ocean waves by a reef just off the shore, creating a place where you can easily get off the beach and snorkel in calm, clear water. There is no one renting snorkeling equipment on the beach, so be sure to bring your own.
8. Devil’s Bridge Walk
One of the most unique places in Antigua is Devil’s Bridge National Park, in the northeastern part of the island. It is the place where the Atlantic Ocean and the Caribbean Sea meet, and the powerful waves have sculpted a large limestone rock into the shape of a bridge. The arch is surrounded by natural blowholes that create a spectacular scene when the waves splash.
If you’re feeling adventurous, you can walk across the Devil’s Bridge, but be aware that the rocks can be very slippery and it can be dangerous if the sea is rough.
9. Join a catamaran cruise
One of the most fun ways to spend a day in Antigua is to join a catamaran cruise.
From Dickenson Bay, you’ll set off for a 360-degree circumnavigation of the island, stopping at some of the most beautiful beaches. Along the way, the catamaran will pass Long Island, where you might see some celebrities, as it is home to several millionaire residences, including Oprah’s!
From there, the boat will anchor for snorkeling, followed by a delicious lunch served near Green Island, where the water is crystal clear. Green Island’s beaches are full of soft white sand to relax on. It is one of the most beautiful I visited during my stay in Antigua.
On the cruise back to Dickenson Bay, there will be plenty of rum included.
10. Hire a car and get lost
Renting a car and driving around is one of my favorite ways to explore a country, and Antigua is no exception. You can drive around the island in just one day, although there are so many beautiful places to stop that you’ll need at least a few.
As many of the sights are spread throughout the country, renting a car is one of the best ways to get around. Besides, local transport is not that reliable, and the scenery along the coasts is spectacular.
Be sure to drive along Fig Tree Drive, which runs through the center of the island and allows you to see the beautiful inland scenery.
11.Enjoy the views at Signal Hill.
If you’re looking for a rewarding hike, climb to the top of Signal Hill. Starting from Wallings Nature Reserve on Fig Tree Drive, this trail takes you through lush rainforest. Along the way, you’ll pass Walling’s Dam, a historic Victorian-era dam that’s home to many types of plants and wildlife.
The trail is steep, but in less than an hour you’ll be at Antigua’s second highest point. From the top, you’ll enjoy breathtaking 360-degree views of the island, including Carlisle Bay, Rendezvous Bay and the capital, St. John’s. The trail is one-way, so expect to spend at least two hours on this hike.
Note: There are other trails through the rainforests from Fig Tree Drive, including one to Rendezvous Bay.
12. Explore St John’s
St John’s is the capital of Antigua and well worth spending an afternoon exploring. Its streets are lined with colourful houses, shops and restaurants serving delicious antique cuisine.
Be sure to stop at the Saturday market, where you can find a rich assortment of fruits and vegetables. Keep an eye out for the famous tiny pineapples – they’re adorable and just as delicious as the ones you already know. The market is also a good place to shop for groceries if you rent an apartment.
If you’re interested in learning more about the island’s history, stop by the Museum of Antigua and Barbuda, which is housed in a historic colonial house.
13. Camping on the beach
If you’re looking for a unique place to stay, check out Wild Lotus. It offers six glamping tents situated on a secluded beach near Jolly Harbour.
Staying here is an experience in itself, and you won’t want to leave! The inside of the tent is furnished with a comfortable double bed and sofa, plus a lovely outdoor shower surrounded by tropical plants. Everything is off-grid and sustainable, but it still feels like you’re staying somewhere luxurious. There are also morning yoga classes and bonfire dinners, which add to the experience.
Of course, the best part is being able to head out to a beautiful white sandy beach whenever you want. Yes, you can even swim under the stars.
14. Explore the beaches
With turquoise, crystal clear seas and rolling hills as a backdrop, enjoying the pristine, soft white sandy beaches is undoubtedly one of the best things to do in Antigua. The sunsets are always spectacular, making it one of my favorite ways to end a day there.
With over 365 to choose from, it can be hard to know which one to visit. Some of the most notable are Dickenson Bay and Jolly Bay, which offer amenities such as restaurants, beach chairs and umbrellas. Dickenson Bay is also home to a British phone booth, which is one of the prettiest photos in Antigua. If you prefer to get away from the crowds, venture to Rendezvous Bay, which is only accessible by ATV or footpath.
If, like me, you get bored easily from lying on the beach, rent a stand-up paddle board (SUP) or kayak to explore the water. Or you can just take a swim.
When I first went to Antigua, I wasn’t sure if I was going to like it as much as the other nearby Caribbean islands, but after a few days, I began to fall in love with its friendly people, spectacular scenery, and active adventures. If you’re planning a trip to the Caribbean, be sure to add Antigua to your list.
About the author: Lora is a solo adventure travel blogger who lives nomadically around the world. Raised on a rock in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, she has a deep love for nature and wildlife. Lora has traveled to over 55 countries and is on a quest to visit them all, seeking out the best adventures each has to offer. For more outdoor adventure travel inspiration, visit her blog at Explore with Lora or on Instagram and Facebook.
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