General – The sovereign state of Antigua & Barbuda is located in the middle of the Leeward Islands chain, between the Caribbean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean. In 2017, most of Barbuda’s infrastructure was destroyed by Hurricane Irma and the population was evacuated to Antigua. Rebuilding will be a slow and painful process as resources are extremely limited.
Where You’re Docked – The cruise ships normally dock at Heritage Quay or Redcliff Quay in the downtown area of St. John’s, the capital and largest city on the island. If there are a lot of ships in port, some may dock at the Deep Water Harbour Terminal approximately 1.5 miles from the city. It is best to take a taxi from this area as there are no sidewalks going into St. John’s from this location. There are plenty of shops and restaurants in the Quay area although many are closed on Sundays and public holidays. There are also several spots that offer WI-FI for either a small fee or free with a purchase. The beautiful St. John’s Cathederal which dates back to 1845 is a beautiful historic site to visit right in town.
Transportation – There are lots of taxi cabs available from the cruise dock area. Many taxis have a fixed fare set by the government but you can try to negotiate your fare before agreeing on the trip. There is limited public bus service but it can be complicated to use and very time consuming. Rental cars can be expensive because, in addition to the rental rate, a $20.00 temporary driving permit is required.
Money – The official currency is the East Caribbean dollar (EC) but US dollars are widely accepted. The current exchange rate is US $1.00 = EC$2.70.
Antigua is said to have 365 beaches, one for every day of the year. For tourists, one of the more popular ones is Dickenson Bay, approximately 15 minutes from St. Johns. It offers a lively atmosphere with restaurants, bars and resorts.
Best view of the island is from Shirley Heights which also offers a nice restaurant for a meal with a spectacular view. A visit can be easily incorporated with a trip to Nelson’s Dockyard, the only working Georgian Dockyard in the Caribbean.
English Harbor is the main town in the south and it is the heart of the yachting community.
A visit to Barbuda is possible via the Barbuda Express, a 90 minute ferry service operating from the ferry dock in St. John’s. The ferry runs 6 days a week (not on Wednesday) with one departure and one arrival daily. Adult r/t tickets run $85.00 and children’s are less. Advance reservations are recommended.
Technically, the country is Antigua and Barbuda but Barbuda is lightly populated and rural. Antigua and Barbuda became an independent state on November 1st, 1981 and is a member of Caricom, the Caribbean Common Market . The currency is the East Caribbean dollar (EC$) but US dollars are gladly accepted.
History buffs will love exploring English Harbour and Shirley Heights. In the eighteenth century English Harbour was a base for the British Navy and headquarters for the fleet of the Leeward Islands. The Heights had a garrison and fort commanding the high ground above the harbor. English Harbour was developed by Horatio Nelson in the eighteenth century and included Nelson’s Dockyard to service the fleet.
After closing in 1889, the dockyard has now been completely restored and it is the only Georgian dockyard in the world. Shirley Heights can be reached via a lookout trail and, from its’ height of 492 feet, provides views of Guadeloupe and Montserrat. Dow’s Hill Interpretive Center is located along the trail and offers a presentation of Antigua’s history. Observation decks at Dow’s Hill provide sweeping vistas of the harbour and surrounding islands and the ruined fortifications of Fort Berkeley are nearby.
Sailboat people know English Harbour as the site of Sailing Week, one of the Caribbean’s premiere sailing events each year. The event is so popular that accommodations are hard to come by and some people plan years in advance to attend. Even if you aren’t a sailboat person, the weeklong party is an overall great time. Accommodations in the English Harbour area include The Copper and Lumber Store Historic Inn, Admiral’s Inn & Gunpowder Suites and the Antigua Yacht Club Marina Resort nearby in the Falmouth area.
If you are looking for tropical beaches it is said that you can visit a different beach every day and not start over again for a whole year. There are a number of resorts to pick from including the longtime favorite Halcyon Cove just north of the capital of St. Johns. South along the coast are Keyonna Beach Resort and Jolly Beach Resort. At the other end of the island is The St. James Club, an exclusive all-inclusive property that has been a popular resort for well-to-do English tourists.
If you are looking for insight into life in Antigua and aren’t looking for a beach location, try staying in the middle of St. Johns. The Heritage Quay Hotel is frequented by business travelers and is located near the waterfront. It is on Heritage Quay a popular shopping and duty free district, near King’s Casino and not far from Redcliffe Quay, a tourist shopping, craft and restaurant area. Nearby is the cruise ship pier which can be very congested on days that ships are in. St. Johns also offers the Antigua Museum and the Cathedral of St. John the Divine. A short trip from the city is Betty’s Hope, a former sugar cane plantation.