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ANTIGUA - FUN THINGS TO SEE AND DO

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Sunny Antigua, with its turquoise seas, is a welcome sight for winter-weary visitors seeking a change from white and grey landscapes. Relaxing on a sandy beach, pina colada in hand, is a top priority on arrival, for most visitors. After a while, however, even the most dedicated sunbather develops an urge for other diversions.

Since Antigua is only 25 kilometres wide, you never have to travel far to see the sights. But how do you decide what to see and do? For starters, review this checklist for activities that match your interests.

Crashing surf at Devil's bridge
Crashing surf at Devil's bridge
Photo © Barb & Ron Kroll

Sightseeing

  • Watch the surf crash as high as a palm tree at Devil's Bridge, a natural limestone arch on the east coast.
  • Play the African board game of warri, brought to Antigua by slaves, who were imported to work in the sugar plantations. You'll find it (and learn how to play it) at the hands-on Museum of Antigua and Barbuda. Housed in the Old Court House, it is the oldest building in St. John's, dating from 1747.
  • Visit the double Cathedral of St. John's. It's a wooden cathedral, inside a stone cathedral, built on the top of a dormant volcano.
  • Observe the hang-gliders over Sugar Loaf Mountain.
  • Take a sunset bicycle ride to Darkwood Beach.
  • Stroll through Nelson's Dockyard, named after the British naval hero who arrived in Antigua in 1784. Examine the capstans that were used to pull ships out of the water in the 18th century. Workers removed the barnacles and used tar and copper to repair the hulls. (Look for the iron cauldrons once used for melting tar.)
  • Walk through bustling St. John's Public Market on Saturday morning. Admire the stacks of fresh papayas, mangoes and other tropical fruits. Look for people cooking in traditional pottery coal pots.
Capstan and sign in Nelson's Dockyard, St. John's.
Capstan and sign in Nelson's Dockyard, St. John's.
Photo © Barb & Ron Kroll
  • Watch male frigate birds puff up their red chests to attract female frigates in Barbuda, Antigua's sister island.
  • Take pictures of the friendly Antiguan school children, dressed in their colorful uniforms.
  • Follow Fig Tree Drive through the Antigua rainforest. Banana plantations line both sides of the road. (Antiguans call bananas figs.)
  • Do an island circumnavigation on the Kokomo Cat.
  • Visit Betty's Hope, a reconstructed 17th-century sugar mill, on the site of the first plantation in Antigua. It is the only fully operational wind-powered sugar mill in the Caribbean.
  • Learn about the history of Antigua from the multimedia presentation at Dow's Hill Interpretation Centre, near English Harbour.

Beaches and watersports

  • Sunbathe on some of the 365 beaches in Antigua. (Antigua has a beach for every day of the year. All are public.)
  • Take a day-trip to the island of Barbuda, where you'll find the pinkest beaches in the world. (Yes, even pinker than those in Bermuda.) Bring home a handful of tiny cameo-coloured shells. They're strewn like pink snow drifts across the beaches.
  • Take windsurfing lessons at an Antigua resort.
  • Go snorkeling at Prickly Pear Island.
  • Learn to scuba by signing up for a diving course at one of the dive shops in Antigua.
  • If you dare, visit the clothes-optional beach at Hawksbill Beach Resort.

Food and drink

  • To sample Antiguan cooking and refreshing tamarind drinks and ginger beer. Specialties include pumpkin soup, pepperpot (a spicy meat and vegetable stew) and ling fish with duccana (delicious sweet potato and coconut dumplings).
  • Order an Antiguan Smile (a delectable punch made from rum, crème de banana and pineapple juice).
  • Visit the street vendor at the corner of St. Mary's and Market Streets in St. John's for ultra-sweet Antiguan Black pineapple. He'll cut the pineapple into chunks and put it in a plastic bag, so you can quench your thirst and appetite while strolling around.
  • Cool off with a Wadadli beer.
  • Spice up your life with Susie's Hot Sauce made from local scotch bonnet peppers. (You'll find it for sale at shops in Redcliffe Quay and at the airport.)
  • Snack on peanut ice cream from The Nook in St. John's, Antigua.
Chef serves barbecued chicken. Shirley Heights.
Chef serves barbecued chicken. Shirley Heights.
Photo © Barb & Ron Kroll

Entertainment

  • Play golf at Jolly Harbour or Cedar Valley.
  • Drive up to Shirley Heights on Sunday evening. Watch the sun set over English Harbour, while dancing to steelband and reggae music and dining on barbecue chicken and ribs.
  • Visit King's Casino to try your luck at the Caribbean's biggest slot machine.
  • Listen to reggae and calypso music under the stars at Millers-by-the-Sea.
  • Swim with the rays at Stingray City Antigua.
  • Play tennis at one of the resorts in Antigua.
  • Practice the Antiguan art of chilling out or lyming (doing nothing at all).
  • Enjoy the national sport of Antigua at a cricket match.
  • Celebrate with the Antiguans at one of their festivals such as Sailing Week in April/May and Carnival in July/August.
Gucci shop and sign for Heritage Quay Duty Free
Gucci shop and sign for Heritage Quay Duty Free
Photo © Barb & Ron Kroll

Shopping

  • Shop for duty-free Gucci purses, French perfumes and Colombian emeralds at Heritage Quay, a pedestrian mall.
  • Buy local paintings, pottery and woodwork at Harmony Hall, an art gallery in a plantation house, dating from 1843.
  • Check out the Epicurean for gourmet specialties from around the world at Wood's Centre, a mall featuring one-stop shopping.
  • Buy Antiguan Cavalier rum at one-third the price you'd pay at home.
  • Stock up on guava jelly and pineapple jam for souvenir gifts.

TRAVEL INFORMATION

Antigua and Barbuda Department of Tourism: www.antigua-barbuda.org

More things to see and do in Barbuda:

Barbuda - Beaches, Birds, Lobsters and Caves