There’s plenty to see and do in Antigua that will keep you occupied for as long as you wish. Whether you’re visiting Antigua on a cruise ship, staying in a resort of visiting independently, your challenge will be what you want to do first! We explored Antigua independently basing ourselves north of St John’s for half of our stay, and then English Harbour for the second half of our stay. We used taxis and local buses in Antigua. We walked and to maximize the places we could get to we rented a car – which we seriously recommend on Antigua. Here’s our guide of what to do in Antigua.
The Best Places to See and Things to Do in Antigua
Whether you’re interested in beaches, food, cricket, hiking or watersports, there are lots to see and do in Antigua. We took a broad view of the island and tried to get to the natural beauty spots, the forts of Antigua and of course the beaches. We aimed to try the local food, indulge in a beer or two and of course find the best rum punch on the island. Here’s some of the top places to see and the best things to do in Antigua.
Visit St John’s Antigua
Antigua’s capital, St Johns is a city of around 22,000 people and is usually only visited by tourists on their way to and from the Antigua cruise terminal. If your time is short, you could stop off at the fruit market and buy yourself a famous Antigua Black Pineapple, stop off at the Old Rec cricket ground and visit the Antigua and Barbuda Museum – why not combine your visit with a guided tour of St John’s? Check this option to learn all about the local area – AND visit these spots.
Explore the Old Rec in St John’s Antigua
Antigua’s beloved “Old Rec” – the Old Recreation Ground is still standing in the centre of the capital of St John’s, but it is not been used for cricket since 2009. If you’re a cricket fan, it is well worth making the pilgrimage here to stand on the square, climb the scoreboard and see where Antiguan legend Sir Viv Richards scored the fastest test match century off 56 balls in 1986 and where Sir Brian Lara twice set the record for this highest individual Test innings, with 375 in 1994 and 400 not out in 2004 – both times against England.
You can read more about how to access the Old Rec in our post on what to do in St John’s Antigua.
Explore English Harbour in Antigua
English Harbour is the centre of yachting and sailing in Antigua. You’ll find all the marine stores, bars for visiting sailors and provisions stores here. There are some gloriously fancy restaurants too – with leading Europeahn chefs running them. The main attraction here in English Harbour is Nelsons Dockyard, and the other areas of the Nelson’s Dockyard National Park, Dow Hill and Shirley Heights. Visit English Harbour as part of an Antigua Island Tour – reserve your spot here.
Visit Nelsons Dockyard in Antigua
Nelson’s Dockyard is the oldest continuously in operation dockyard in the world. This Georgian-era working dock has been operating since 1745. It’s a measure of the superyachts and the immense wealth in the sailing community here to see how meticulously the yard has been restored.
Tickets to enter, which also cover you for the ruins of the blockhouse and the Dow Hill interpretive centre cost US$8. Just tell the ticket office how long you’re staying for and your ticket will remain valid for that length of time.
Inscribed to the list of UNESCO World heritage sites in 2016, Nelson’s Dockyard is named after Admiral Horatio Nelson, who was stationed here in 1784. Start your exploration at the (free) Dockyard Museum, in which you’ll find details on Antigua’s history, Antigua’s forts and the dockyard itself as well as some random British Royal Family memorabilia.
The marina at Nelson Dockyard contains restaurants, bars, warehouses and hotels as well as some pretty fancy yachts, most of which will be bigger than your house! It’s a great spot to go to see how the other half live!
Visit the Dow Hill interpretative Centre
Also included in the ticket to the Nelson’s Dockyard National Park ticket is a visit to the ruins of the Blockhouse on the peninsular en route to Shirley Heights and the Down Hill Interpretive Centre. There’s a short introduction – 15 minutes – to Antiguan history – sit in the middle and spin around on your stool to watch the introduction. You can also take a guided tour of the Dow hill site (for free) with one of the guides. There are lovely views and some shaded seating areas to relax in.
Take in the Panoramic View from Shirley Heights in Antigua
Renowned as the best view of sunset in Antigua – although we had some pretty stunning sunsets on Dickenson Beach – you’ll want to head to Shirley Heights just before sunset. On a clear day, you can see the sunset behind the island of Montserrat, depending on the time of year.
Shirley Heights is named for Sir Thomas Shirley, who became the first Governor of the Leeward islands in 1781.
While the bar at Shirley Heights is open each day of the weel, there are now 2 nights that are party nights at Shirley Heights. The most famous night of the week is Sunday when you’ll find a Barbecue and reggae band to party to until late. There’s a US$10 entry fee on Sunday nights. Barbecue costs range from US$8 to US$36.
Thursday nights are now Reggae nights, – depending on what time of year you visit – there is no entry fee and the reggae and barbecue run from 1600 until 1800, or 1900. And the music may not start until close to 1700. Hey, you’re on vacation…
A shuttle from English Harbour costs US$3 per person for a minimum of 4 people – contact Shirley Heights to book on WhatsApp on +1 (268) 776 2853.
Visit Betty’s Hope in Antigua
As you travel around Antigua you’ll easily spot the ruins of windmills and chimneys marking the locations of sugar mills. It’s well worth the time investment to come to Betty’s hope and see two restored windmills but also to learn about Antigua’s colonial history and the dark days of slavery here that formed so much of the island today.
The importation of slaves from Africa’s Gold Coast began in 1505 and lasted for 300 years. The enslaved Africans were used as forced labour on the sugar plantations of the Caribbean. More than 10 million Africans had been moved to the New World by the 19th century.
Betty’s Hope was Antigua’s first sugar plantation, named for the daughter of Christopher Codrington, who established the plantation in 1674. At its peak, there were 400 slaves working the plantation here. Following the abolition of slavery some slaves remained on the plantation, working for desperately little money, those who left settled nearby and founded villages that you’ll still see here – Liberta, Freetown and Freemansville.
There’s a small museum here, with absorbing and informative boards. There’s an honesty box for the EC$5 entrance fee.
Explore a few of Antigua’s Churches
The easiest church to get to in Antigua is the Cathedral in St John’s. It is, however undergoing renovation right now, so you’ll just have to content yourself with a wander around the outside.
Right in the middle of the Island you’ll find the Tyrell’s church of our Lady of Perpectual Help. This Catholic church is famous because its pink. Not for any particular geological reason. It’s painted pink.
If you head down to English Harbour you’ll pass the village of Liberta – and it’s here you’ll find the gorgeous Anglican Church of St Barnabas. It’s specifically pretty because of the green limestone used in its construction. There’s a parking space to the side.
See the Devil’s Bridge, Indian Town National Park Antigua
You’ll need to take a tour of the island or to rent a car to visit Antigua’s Devil’s Bridge. It’s located in the Indian Town National Park, not far from the village of Willikies and just before Long Bay in the northeast of the island. The Devil’s Bridge is a naturally formed limestone bridge. It’s best seen towards sunset or just after sunrise and is reached by a mile-long (1.6 kilometre) rough road – which is ok to drive, just go slow. You’ll hear (and feel!) the wind whistling as the waves force through the holes in the rocks. If you’re here at higher tides, then you’ll see the blowhole at the end of the limestone formation.
The Devil’s bridge was so named as it was a common place for suicides of slaves during the centuries of slavery here.
The more daring might walk across the bridge, but take care its VERY VERY slippery – and don’t forget to sort out your Caribbean Travel Insurance before you set off too! Read our tips on insurance in the Caribbean here.
The Devil’s Bridge is just one element of the Indian Town National Park, which also houses a lot of birdlife and the remnants of an Arawak campsite.
There’s no fee to enter this National Park. More information on the National Parks of Antigua here.
Visit or Volunteer at The Antigua Donkey Sanctuary
There’s a large wild donkey population on Antigua and you’ll likely spot them a few as you drive around the island. In order to care for ill, injured and elderly donkeys there is a registered animal charity here, the Donkey Sanctuary.
It’s here that you’ll find up to 150 donkeys being cared for – it’s also possible to volunteer here in return for your housing (check out details on WorkAway).
If you’d just like to visit, there is no entrance fee, but your donation will keep the donkey’s fed and housed. You’ll find the Antigua Donkey Sanctuary near Bethesda and its open Monday through Saturday from 1000 until 1600.
Take an Antiguan Cooking Class in Antigua
We love to learn about the food of a country when we visit and there’s no better way than to take a cooking class. The best rate cooking classes in Antigua are with Nicole at Nicole’s Table. You’ll not only learn a lot about Antiguan food here, but you’ll get to cook and enjoy a 3-course lunch – starter, main and sides as well as dessert. Your host, Nicole, will also answer all your questions about life in the West Indies.
You can elect to learn to cook West Indian Curry, Jerk or a rum-infused special. You’ll start your cooking class with a typical local cocktail, the Rum Punch and then get going on the food. This is an awesome way to experience a local event on Antigua.
- Check out learning to cook West Indian Curry here
- Everything you ever wanted to know about Jerk in this class here
- From the Sea cooking class – learn local dishes and cook them with today’s catch
- Cooking class and Rum tasting – this awesome combo is a grat way to learn about the food and drink of Antigua!
Drink a Rum Punch in Antigua
You’ll find two rums distilled on the island of Antigua (but no distillery that you can go and visit). Cavalier and English Harbour. You can buy them in most of the supermarkets and stores around the island quite easily. Mix with the equally easily available fruit punch mix and enjoy responsibly!
Drink Wadadli Beer in Antigua
Wadadli is the traditional name for the island of Antigua. You’ll find these dark green bottles of beer everywhere. Wadadli Beer is 4.8% and comes in 250ml (8.5 fluid ounces) bottles. You’ll pay a variety of prices for the beer. You’ll pay EC$4.25 for a cold beer in Billy’s supermarket, and EC$3.75 for a warm one. Epicurean charges EC$3.75 regardless of whether its cold or not. Ana’s on Dickenson’s beach charges EC$10 or EC$12 (we were charged both!).
Visit Antigua’s Forts
The Caribbean is littered with the remains of colonial-era forts. Some, like the magnificent Brimstone Hill Fortress on St Lucia, are magnificent and have received restoration and funding. Antigua’s forts are a little more rundown but still worth visiting. The best two to visit are Fort James and Fort Barrington
If you’d like to visit some of Antigua’s forts and get a little exercise along the way, why not take this Bike, Kayak, Hike Tour – an awesome way to see the country and get some fresh air too!
This fort on the north side of St John’s Harbour dates back to 1706. You’ll find a few cannons and remnants of walls. It’s pretty in a very deserted sort of a way. You’ll drive past a glorious beach to get there.
Standing guard over St John’s Harbour – directly across from Fort James is Fort Barrington. It’s a steep climb up (be wary if you’re wearing flipflops and even more wary if it is been raining), and a bit of a scramble, although at the top, instead of hauling yourself up the seemingly impregnable rock head to the left, and round the side and up through the stone-built building.
You’ll get gorgeous views over Deep Bay here and a fabulous breeze.
Go for a Hike in Antigua
The south of the island of Antigua has some great hiking. There are several hiking groups who hike at various times of the day – but mostly VERY EARLY – like meeting at 0500! If organized hiking is your thing, then here are several groups that you can informally join and hike the island with.
If you prefer hiking independently, then, this resource will help you to find the right hike for you.
- Wadali Trail Blazers – hike most Sunday mornings, connect via their Facebook Page.
- The 5 am club – hike at 0500 mostly on Saturdays – connect here
If you want to take a guided hike on Antigua – then this option is a fabulous one – check it out now!
Watch a game of Cricket in Antigua
The main Sir Vivian Richards Stadium was built for the 2007 World Cup (although it was delayed for 2 years in its usage). You’ll find it close to the airport, but other than that pretty much in the middle of nowhere – compared to the fabulous location of the Old Recreation Ground.
Most international games are held here – and you can find a schedule of play here.
There’s also a smaller cricket ground actually at the V. C. Bird International Airport, where if you’re early arriving or delayed waiting for a flight, you can watch a few overs.
Hear Sir Curtly Ambrose’s Band “The Spirited”
What do cricketers do when they retire from the sport? Here in Antigua they form a band and play twice a week at least! Antiguan and West Indies Cricket legend Sir Curtly Ambrose and teammate Sir Ritchie Richardson formed a band on their retirement. You’ll find Curtly on bass guitar on a Friday night at the casino by the cruise terminal in St John’s from 2230 until 0100. The band, “the Spirited” also plays various other locations – and their schedule is here.
Explore the Beaches of Antigua
There are 365 beaches in Antigua, one for each day of the year and all beaches in Antigua are free to access there’s no such thing as a private beach. It’s true if an all-inclusive resort has built shades and put sunloungers you can’t use those unless you’re a guest, but you can use the beach.
To take a trip to some of the less populated beaches and get some quiet time, we recommend this tour, which starts from St John’s and will meet you off a cruise ship. Check it out now!
Depending on the time of year that you visit will impact your visit to the beach. Most days we visited (In December, which to be honest is the beginning of the high season), the seas were rough, it was windy and if I’d sat on a beach I’d have got a lot of sand in my rum punch! Here are the beaches we visited.
We found Dickenson Beach on our first night in Antigua – glorious sunset, the swim out bar and the massive Sandals resort. There are a few bars and restaurants in between the resorts here. Ana’s will charge you between EC$10 and EC$12 for a beer depending on how the barman is feeling.
We found Darkwood Beach while driving from St John’s to English Harbour. The best thing about the beach is the ease of parking. You can park right alongside it, and jump straight in the water. The beige coloured sand isn’t the bright white of Caribbean beaches that you’re hoping for, but this slightly out of the way beach makes for more locals than tourists.
The best views of Deep Bay are from the Fort Barrington ruins high on the hill above. It looks gorgeous and is well protected by the large bay. You’ll know your peace is about to be spoiled when one of the massive day sailing catamarans brings cruise ship visitors. But that’s an awesome way to visit this bay – getting a day trip from St John’s and exploring – check out this option to visit.
Half Moon Bay.
This hard to get to beach should be the object of picture postcards. The turquoise blue water should lap the white crescent of sand. When we visited, it was somewhat windy, and while it’s a pretty beach, it wasn’t the weather for snorkelling or doing more than enjoying the view. There are two beach bars here where you can get lunch and a drink.
There are just four of Antigua’s beaches – the best one for you will depend on what you want to do – and of course where you’re staying.
Swim Out to the Floating Bar in Dickenson Bay
Of course, you don’t have to swim, you can pick up the red flag that you’ll find on the beach and wave it until someone comes and gets you, but swimming’s more fun eh?
Go to Barbuda for the Day from Antigua
You can easily take a day trip to Barbuda, Antigua’s sister island. Trips, with Barbuda Express, leave at either 0600 or 0700 and include tours of Barbuda and lunch. They do not go at the same time every day, so check schedules carefully
Day tours from Antigua to Barbuda leave at 0700 from the Cruise Port area in St John’s on Tuesday and Thursday, you can also arrange a pick up at Jolly Harbour at 0800. There are also tours on Wednesday and Friday, these start at 0600 from St John’s only. The trip to Barbuda takes around 90 minutes. Your tour includes collection by a local guide, a visit to Codrington Village, a tour of the largest Frigate Bird Colony in the western hemisphere and then you’ll go onto the open caves at Two Foot Bay. You’ll get lunch on the Pink Sand Beach and then take a swim on Princess Diana beach before returning to the ferry. This tour costs US$159 per adult and US$100 for children from 2 to 12 years. Book directly with Barbuda Express.
Want to spend longer on Barbuda? check out these fab places to stay
How to Get Around Antigua
Antigua isn’t a large island. It is jsut a total of 281 square kilometres and no driving time is further than 45-50 minutes. That doesn’t mean that it is particularly easy to get around o a budget though. While there are local buses available, they primarily service the local population and won’t get you to all the spots you want to visit in the timeframe that you want. For a budget trip to Antigua, we would advise renting a car, you’ll be able to visit the places on your list of things to do in Antigua quicker and so spend less on accommodation!
Take local buses around Antigua
Local buses run during the day, and you’re unlikely to see them on a night when you’ll need to arrange a taxi. There is a local bus stop just outside the airport, that returns to St John’s, but we didn’t see a bus anywhere near the airport during our stay on the island.
All Antiguan buses start and end in the capital city of St John’s at either the St John’s West Bus Station and St John’s East Bus Station. Buses here are minivans, seating 12-15 people. They have set routes, cost from EC$2.5 to EC$4 EC Dollars and don’t run to a set timetable, they tend to set off when full and if one comes past and is full then you’ll be waiting for the next one to arrive.
There are full details of the Antigua local buses here. Note that the maps are pretty hopeful, but it’s really easy to ask someone at the bus station. This, however, detailing which buses leave from which bus station is useful.
Get Taxi’s in Antigua
Taxi’s in Antigua operate on a set rate system. You’ll find a taxi desk at the V C Bird International Airport, simply approach if tell them your location and they’ll tell you how much. They’ll quote you in both EC Dollars and US dollars and you can pay in either. You will usually get change in the currency in which you paid. Always confirm the price before getting in – that’s not because we think the taxi drivers will rip you off, its just or general rule!
The most up to date taxi pricing we could find for Antigua, which actually seems to be valid is this one here
Rent a Car while in Antigua
It feels wrong to recommend renting a car to anyone travelling on a budget, but seriously that’s what you should do in Antigua. We made out a list of what to do in Antigua, planned a route and rented a car for 3 days to see it all. We couldn’t have got to all the places we wanted to see via the local bus system – even by spending considerably longer on the island. The buses are there primarily for the local population and if they’re going to Shirley Height’s then they’re driving or taking a taxi too!
You’ll find all the major car rental companies in Antigua. They all have representation at the airport, although the car rental offices are NOT in the main terminal, they’re based in the OLD terminal building (exit arrivals, turn left and follow the road until you find the next building!). You’ll also find car rental companies at the cruise terminal in St Johns. They do NOT, however, have specific offices there. You’ll meet them either at your accommodation (they’ll come and collect you) or at a local café. You will need to contact them and confirm pick up and drop off points. Arranging for a car at the cruise terminal doesn’t mean that someone will meet you with a board with your name on!
Hertz Car Rental in St John’s meets at the Java to Go Café in the Nevis Pier part of the cruise ship terminal).
Antigua is like most of the Caribbean islands and requires a local driving license. You simply need to provide your driver’s license from home and hand over US$20 / EC$60 (you can pay on a credit card). Antiguan roads are in an interesting condition, there are lots of potholes and lots of roadworks ongoing, which the British Government is apparently paying towards fixing. We’d recommend either taking the full CDW and SLI coverage or having your own insurance policy and excess coverage with your rental car.
Take care walking in Antigua
There are a few sidewalks in St John’s and several in English Harbour, but generally, there are no sidewalks or pavements in Antigua. While you may see a few people walking along the roads, there won’t be many. Roads are also unlit at night in the main, so if you plan on walking, you’d be advised to take a torch if you plan on being out after dark. We walked back to our apartments most evenings and found that the traffic was relatively light, but were glad we had torches – more to warn drivers of our position than anything else!
Charter a Yacht or Take a Skippered Charter Around Antigua
The water around Antigua and the pretty constant windows provide for great sailing opportunities. There is no better way to see an island than from the water. You can relax and chill out and charter a skippered trip around Antigua and explore some of the beaches and locations only accessible from the water – check out options here
Getting from the Airport to your Accommodation on Antigua
The easiest way to get from the Antigua VC Bird International Airport to your accommodation is to either take a taxi or rent a car. All of the major car rental companies are represented at the airport and ts by far the most convenient way to travel around the island.
If you prefer to prebook and prepay your transfer – then book it now with Viator here
Taxi’s at Antigua’s airport are represented by a taxi dispatch desk in the arrivals area (there is also free WiFi for 15 minutes here and 2 ATMs. Taxis can be paid for in either EC dollars or US dollars. Taxi’s in Antigua run at set rates.
There is a bus stop just outside the airport, which runs on a route back into St John’s – although we never saw a bus running this route during our time on the island.
Read about the things you should do BEFORE you set off on your vacation to Antigua – do you need proof of onward travel? What’s the currency? And a whole lot more here.
What to Eat in Antigua
Antiguans tend to eat the main meal of the day at lunchtime. So if you’re looking for local food on a budget, you’ll want to head out at lunchtime. You’ll find Caribbean staples such as callaloo soup, roti, pepper pot, rice and peas, and baked chicken. You should also try the local sorrel drink – you’ll likely also find it made into icecreams and other things, but as the juice is rather pleasant. Here in Antigua, there are two specific things that you should look out for when it comes to food and Antigua – the Antiguan Black Pineapple and Susie’s Hot Sauce.
Try an Antigua Black Pineapple
Antigua lays claim to having the sweetest pineapple in the world and you’ll have to come here in order to try it because very few if any ever make it out of the country.
The Antiguan Black Pineapples are cultivated primarily in the south part of the island, in the Old Road Area – spot a sign for Cades Bay Agricultural Station and you’ll know that you’re in the right place.
If you want to take a tour of Antigua that includes visiting a pineapple farm, then this is the tour for you.
Try some of Susie’s Hot Sauce
You’ll see Susie’s hot sauce on most tables in most restaurants. Founded by Susannah Tonge in 1960, the range of hot sauces has expanded exponentially. The business has been run by Susie’s daughter, Rosie McMaster since Susie’s death in 1990, but the recipes remain the same using red habanero and scotch bonnet chillis. Be sure to try some of the different flavours, they really are different, then pick your favourite and take some home!
Where to Stay in Antigua
Many people visit Antigua on a cruise ship spending just a day on the island, others fly here to an all-inclusive resort, yet more either sail here or fly in for a sailing vacation. Antigua, however, is starting to see an increase in independent travellers. This is not a budget location, but you will find basic hotel rooms and some great apartments to rent. As this is how we travel we’ve outlined our shortlist of places to stay in areas around the island.
The island is not large, however, and you won’t be further than around 45 minutes’ drive from any point on the island. That said, we really don’t recommend driving at night. If you plan on heading to the Shirley Heights Sunday night Barbecue or the Thursday Night Reggae Night, then you’ll want to book a taxi transfer – not only will you be able to enjoy the rum punches, but you won’t have to dodge the serious potholes – and other driver dodging serious potholes on your way home!
Where to Stay Near St John’s Antigua
We opted to stay for half of our time in Antigua about 45 minutes walk from the city of St John’s. We wanted to explore the city, be able to walk to a beach, but have the flexibility of being able to cater for ourselves too. The closest area to us was Dickenson Beach.
Dickenson Beach Area
Home to the high-end all-inclusive Sandals Resort, Dickenson Beach is glorious. But fear not, all beaches are free and public access in Antigua, so while you may not be able to use the Sandals loungers, shade and free drinks service, you can still use the beach. There are a few places to stay close to Dickenson Beach, where you can still manage to watch the stunning sunsets, swim out to the swim out bar without breaking the bank.
We walked to Dickenson Beach on our first day in Antigua from our apartment. There are no sidewalks on roads in Antigua, there’s no lighting after dark, you’ll need to carry a torch and try not to wear black. Locals, it appears, know the location of all the potholes, and swerving cars at speed in the dark won’t phase you after the first few.
English Harbour Area
This area is the closest to the Shirley Heights, so you’ll find it booked more over weekends, for the famous Sunday night shindig. Shuttles from the English Harbour area to Shirley Heights cost US$3 per person minimum of 4 people).
We stayed at a glorious apartment with super hosts, Kyla and Amaryllis. we were able to walk to the English Harbor dockside in around 15 minutes (it was uphill on the way back though). Our apartment was spotlessly clean, seriously well equipped and fabulously comfortable. There’s no A/C here, although fans are provided and all windows and doors are netted, so mosquitos didn’t bother us at all. This is a rural area, so there are roosters, who don’t understand the time of day, but Amaryllis does provide earplugs – which you’ll need, but we slept well after figuring that out! We have to admit her two well behaved and seriously loving dogs add to the attraction of the apartment. Check Availability of the Hillside Cozy Cottage here
Finally, What We Liked about Antigua and what we did in Antigua
It is great to travel again to a country where you’re walking along and people say hello and it’s really rather pleasant. We found the Antiguan people to be very friendly and open. People were seriously willing to help and direct you – like the taxi driver offering us his phone when we couldn’t find the rental car office (because there wasn’t one!) and the local bus drivers, stopping to ask if you want the bus because it’s the middle of the day and its darned hot and you’re walking. This is an easy country to travel, so long as you plan where you’re going and how you’re going to get there.
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