Shaped like a pear, Antigua is a flat island of volcanic rock, coral and limestone covering 108 square miles; vegetation is limited to low scrub and dry grassland. The island is ideal for beach holidays; Runaway Bay and Dickenson Bay are just north of St John’s and south is Jolly Beach, Darkwood Bay, Carlisle Bay, Galleon Beach (Nelsons Dockyard) and Half Moon Bay.

Getting There – Accommodation – Dining Out

There is normally a daily flight from London.

Jumby Bay offers clients an upmarket all inclusive paradise retreat on its own private island; catering for both couples and families. Carlisle Bay set on a beautiful beach provides unpretentious luxury for all its guests of all ages. Families love the two bedroomed villas at St James Club set in 100 acres of beautiful gardens surrounded by swaying palms. There are many other properties to choose from please contact me for further details. Many different types of establishments are available for dining out. For French cuisine try Le Bistro; East at Carlisle Bay offers Pan-Asian and Carmichael’s at Sugar Ridge is noted for its Caribbean menu, the experience enhanced with the restaurant’s wonderful views.

Many of the Caribbean Islands brew their own beer but Antigua’s Wadadli is reported to be the best.

 Culture and History

In 1493 on his second journey to the New World, Christopher Columbus sighted the island and named it after a church from his hometown in Seville, Santa Mara De La Antigua. The Arawaks originally named it Yarumaqui (meaning canoe making) and later the Carib Indians called it Wadadi (Oil Island); bottles of local beer still carry the name Wadadi. Originally a Crown Colony, Antigua became an Independent Colony of the British Commonwealth in 1907 and in 1981 became totally independent. The most interesting major attraction on the island is Nelson’s Dockyard National Park, more information below.

The Capital

Antigua’s capital St John’s, where many cruise ships now call has a thriving duty free shopping centre, among them the Heritage and Redcliffe Quay by the deep water harbour which has been converted into shops. Further up Market Street is the colourful Public Market. On Long Street is the Museum of Antigua tracing local cultural history. Two blocks away is St John’s Cathedral on Church Street, its two towers can be seen all around. Its two statues, St John the Divine and St John the Baptist dating from 1845, were bound for Guadalupe but an English warship stole them while in transit.

Places to Visit & Suggestion of Itinerary

Travelling from St John’s to Nelson’s Dockyard National Park, the quickest route being the 12 miles along Old Saints Road from St John. The itinerary of course can be picked up from any part of the island.  An alternative route taking in more of the sights is via the north of the island. You can travel to Parnham where in 1032 the first British Colonists arrived, then pass St Peters (1840) with its unusual octagonal shape. 4 miles further on is Pares and the remains of Betty’s Hope, the first real sugar plantation in Antigua (1674). Diverting 5 miles to the Eastern tip of the island is Devil’s Bridge, a natural rock bridge with several blowholes formed by the pounding Atlantic Sea. Further south is Harmony Hall, a former Plantation House, now a crafts and art gallery.

On the approach to the dockyard first stop at Monk’s Hill for a panoramic view of Falmouth Harbour and then go up the hill to Shirley Heights, once a protective Fortress and Look Out, to get a 360 degree view of the harbour and coast. Back down the hill is Nelson’s Dockyard and English Harbour where a national park was created in 1985. Now a famous picturesque yachting harbour, it was formerly an important naval base for the Royal Navy sailing ships; its natural harbour protected ships from storms and the enemy (mainly the French) while under repair. Most major repairs were carried out here as it took too long for ships to return to Britain. Dating from the 1670s, Nelson is reported as staying from 1784 to 1787. Warehouses and powder magazines have been restored into a museum, restaurants and hotels, some with bricks originally brought from England as ships’ ballast.

For a quiet day retreat take the fast ferry from St John to Antigua’s smaller sister Barbuda which is largely unpopulated. Known for its 17 mile stretch of pink soft beach. Enjoy snorkeling exploring the reefs or visit the bird sanctuary across the lagoon.

All details quoted are thought to be correct at time of posting but are always subject to confirmation at time of booking

Photo: Nelson’s Dockyard (RG) 96

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