Antigua (An-tee-gah) is one of those amazing "forgotten" spots we have here on earth. Antigua offers an island that has warm, steady winds and a complex coastline of harbors. From your luxury charter yacht you can access the nearly unbroken wall of coral reef that 'protects' the islands perimeter. 1784 marked the year Admiral Nelson established Antigua for the British and over 200 years later, Antigua retains a classic feel and is an unspoiled island. Antigua is one of the Caribbean's premier destinations.
Silken sands. Captivating coves. Secluded shores. There are 365 beaches in Antigua, most located on the island's calm, protected Caribbean side. Tucked along the bays of the island, Antigua's beaches are some of the most pristine in the Caribbean. Warm, steady trade winds, a complex coastline of safe harbors, and a protective, nearly unbroken wall of coral reef make Antigua a delight for sun worshippers and watersports enthusiasts. Located in the middle of the Leeward Islands, Antigua's weather is ideal with less than 45 inches of rainfall each year, making it the sunniest of the Eastern Caribbean Islands.
While Antigua champions its 365 beaches (one for every day of the year), it's Antigua's smaller, sister island of Barbuda--25 miles to the northeast--that has the better, more secluded beaches. In fact, Barbuda's miles of white- and pink-hued beaches have been largely left untouched--which is why this was a favorite destination of Princess Diana. Its unspoiled beaches are natural, sprinkled with pink sand and miles long. On the deep blue Atlantic side expect driftwood and shells; on the calmer Caribbean side, you'll find turtles and tropical fish in calm, limpid turquoise waters. But don't expect to see anyone else.
Barbuda is hard to get to for the average traveler - but easy to visit on your private luxury charter yacht. And once you get there, the whole place is practically a private beach complete with all the clichés: sand as white as sheets and water so clear you can see the bottom.
The largest of the British Leeward Islands All the signs pointed towards Antigua. The largest of the British Leeward Islands had warm, steady winds, a complex coastline of safe harbors, and a protective, nearly unbroken wall of coral reef. It would make a perfect place to hide a fleet. And so in 1784 the legendary Admiral Horatio Nelson sailed to Antigua and established Great Britain's most important Caribbean base. Little did he know that over 200 years later the same unique characteristics that attracted the Royal Navy would transform Antigua into one of the Caribbean's most sought after destinations.
The signs are still there, they just point to different things. The Trade Winds that once blew British men-of-war safely into English Harbour now fuel one of the world's foremost maritime events, Sailing Week. The expansive, winding coastline that made Antigua difficult for outsiders to navigate is where today's trekkers encounter a tremendous wealth of secluded, powdery soft beaches. The coral reefs, once the bane of marauding enemy ships, now attract snorkelers and scuba divers from all over the world. And the fascinating little island of Barbuda — once a scavenger's paradise because so many ships wrecked on its reefs — is now home to one of the region's most significant bird sanctuaries.
Antigua is the largest of the British Leeward Islands at about 14 miles long and 11 miles wide, encompassing 108 square miles. Its highest point is Boggy Peak (elevation 1,319 feet), located in the southwestern corner of the island. The current population for the nation is approximately 68,000 and its capital is St. John's.
Temperatures generally range from the mid-seventies in the winter to the mid-eighties in the summer. Annual rainfall averages only 45 inches, making it the sunniest of the Eastern Caribbean Islands, and the northeast trade winds are nearly constant, flagging only in September. Low humidity year-round.
Antigua may be an independent nation, but it is still British in many of its traditions. Economically, it has transformed itself from a poverty-stricken island of sugar plantations to a modern-day vacation haven. The landscape of rolling, rustic Antigua is dotted with stone towers that were once sugar mills.
The first people that are known to have lived in Antigua are the SIBONEY or 'stone people' who were here in 1775 B.C.. They had stone and shell tools, and lived on whatever natural resources they could find. Traces of them are found at Jolly Beach, Deep Bay and North Sound.
The ARAWAKS date from the time of Christ, coming to these islands in paddled canoes from South America. They introduced agriculture into Antigua and Barbuda, bringing such crops as pineapples, corn, sweet potatoes, peppers, guava, tobacco and cotton. They mostly lived on the north and east sides of Antigua, where the reefs provided good fishing. Some of the places they lived are at Indian Creek, Marmora Bay, Half Moon Bay, Mill Reef, Green Island, Cloverleaf Bay, Long Bay, Coconut Hall, Galley Bay, Hawksbill and Curtain Bluff. They left Antigua about 1100 A.D., but some remained, who were then raided by the CARIBS, another Indian people based in Dominica. The Caribs named Antigua "Waladli", Barbuda "Wa'omoni" and Redonda"Ocanamanru".
COLUMBUS named this island "Antigua" in 1493, as he sailed past. It is named for the Cathedral in Seville, Spain, "Santa Maria La Antigua". He is said to have prayed in this church before the Voyage. From then on, several explorers came to Antigua, as well as Buccaneers, who exploited the island for its timbers, medicinal and dye plants, and the cattle which they had introduced as a source of meat.
Most of Antigua's shops are clustered on St. Mary's Street or High Street in St. John's. Some stores are open Monday to Saturday from 8:30am to noon and 1 to 4pm, but this varies greatly from place to place -- Antiguan shopkeepers are an independent lot. Many of them close at noon on Thursday. Duty-free items include English woolens and linens. You can also purchase Antiguan goods: local pottery, straw work, rum, floppy foldable hats, shell curios, and hand-printed fabrics.
Shopping in Antigua includes a little bit of everything. Although it is not a mecca of boutiques like some other Caribbean islands, travelers staying at Antigua villas will find enough quirky shops to occupy a day off the beach. The main shopping thoroughfares on Antigua are St. Mary's and High Street in St. John's. Here, guests of Antigua villas can stock up on just about anything, including duty free goods, fresh produce, and souvenirs. In this area you'll find Sunseekers, the Caribbean's biggest duty-free swimwear shop (great for styling next to your Anguilla villa's pool), and Colombian Emeralds, the world's largest retailer of the sparkling green gemstones. Spruce up your Antigua villa's closet with colorful batik wraps, scarves, and other casual duds at Caribelle Batik.
The best place for a one-stop shop in Antigua is the farmer's market, open Friday and Saturday mornings on the south side of the city. Many visitors see this lively bazaar as reason enough to journey into St. John's from the peace of their Antigua villas. Guests can fill the fridges at their Antigua villas with tropical fruits and vegetables and buy handicrafts made by local artisans. Heritage Quay in St. John's, a complex of duty-free boutiques, artist's market, and small restaurants, is another favorite amongst vacationers to Antigua villas.
There are two locations where visitors can play Antigua golf on the island. The foremost Antigua golf course is the Cedar Valley Golf Club on Friar's Hill Road just east of St. John's. The 18-hole par 70 championship course was designed by the late Richard Aldridge and is renowned for its panoramic views of the island's coastline. Green fees for this popular Antigua golf destination are US$35 for 18 holes; cart rentals are an additional $30. Clubs are also available to rent. Cedar Valley hosts all of the major Antigua golf tournaments and has given a name to Antigua golf by welcoming the British ProAm and the Eastern Caribbean Golf Championship at other times as well.
Golf architect Karl Litton designed the other Antigua golf course, Jolly Harbour. Jolly Harbour's 18 holes are set in tropical parkland amongst the Shekerly Mountains, making for an enjoyable day of Antigua golf complimented by cool trade winds. Antigua golf fans will be challenged by this par 71, which winds its way around seven lakes. One of the best features about this Antigua golf course has to be its location - within minutes from the island's manicured beaches and boutiques. Players can also retire to Jolly Harbour's chic bar and lounge after their tiring round of Antigua golf. A clubhouse, pro shop, and restaurant are also on site.
The popularity of Antigua diving and Antigua fishing, two activities that bring many visitors to this pretty Leeward Island, are a product of its more than ideal conditions. The waters surrounding Antigua, particularly in the south and east, are swathed in natural shelves. These coral reefs, which once protected the island from invading ships, now invite scuba and snorkeling buffs to explore the bounty that Antigua diving has to offer. Bright exotic fish are plentiful here, making their homes within the delicate coral formations. Antigua diving excursions benefit not only from these plentiful options, but from calm, warm currents (averaging 80 degrees) and visibility of up to 140 feet as well. The authority on Antigua diving is Dive Antigua, located at the Rex Halcyon Cove in Dickenson Bay. Visitors who want to experience some Antigua diving can arrange a two-tank or five-tank tour, and even get open-water certified through this company.
Big-game catches in the outer reaches of Antigua's shore attract anglers for exciting Antigua fishing adventures. Tuna, wahoo, and marlin are abundant and easy to find, especially with a seasoned Antigua fishing pro as your guide. Antigua fishing excursions are available through private charters like the Nimrod and the Obsession.
Antigua is developing its ecotourist opportunities, and several memorable offshore experiences involve more than just snorkeling. The archipelago of islets coupled with a full mangrove swamp off the northeast coast is unique in the Caribbean. "Paddles" Kayak Eco Adventure takes you on a 3½-hour tour of serene mangroves and inlets with informative narrative about the fragile ecosystem of the swamp and reefs and the rich diversity of flora and fauna.The tour ends with a hike to sunken caves and snorkeling in the North Sound Marine Park. Experienced guides double as kayaking and snorkeling instructors, making this an excellent opportunity for novices.
Famous for its beaches and its cricket players, tiny Antigua is now one of the Caribbean's most popular destinations. The country has taken full advantage of the publicity gained from its independence in 1981 – and the remarkable success of its cricketers since then – to push its name into the big league of West Indian tourism alongside Barbados and Jamaica.
Perhaps Antigua's most beautiful beach, Half Moon Bay stretches for nearly 1.6km (1 mile) on the southeastern coast, a 5-minute drive from Freetown village. The Atlantic surf is liable to be rough, but that doesn't stop a never-ending stream of windsurfers, who head out beyond the reef, which shelters protected waters for snorkeling. The beach is now a public park and ideal for a family outing. Half Moon Bay lies east of English Harbour near Mill Reef.
The four secluded Hawksbill Beaches on the Five Islands peninsula have white sands, dazzling blue-and-green waters, and coral reefs ideal for snorkeling. On one of them, you can sunbathe and swim in the buff. Directly north of Half Moon Bay, east of the village of Willikies, Long Bay fronts the Atlantic on the far eastern coast of Antigua. The shallow waters are home to stunning coral reefs and offer great snorkeling.
Antigua has some of the best steel bands in the Caribbean. Most nightlife revolves around the hotels. If you want to roam Antigua at night looking for that hot local club, arrange to have a taxi pick you up, so you're not stranded in the wilds somewhere.
The best gambling place on island is Grand Princess Casino, Jolly Harbour, spread across three floors, which offers a lot more than gambling. You can dine in the first-class Bellagio Restaurant, patronize an Internet cafe, dance at a disco, enjoy flashy Las Vegas entertainment in a lounge, or even work out at the rooftop fitness center. The most glamorous place to go is the St. James's Club at Mamora Bay ,which has the island's most flamboyant gambling palace. Other action is found at King's Casino on Heritage Quay, the only casino in St. John's proper. Entrance is free and no ID is required. You must be 18 to play.
If you'd like to get married in paradise, with the wind blowing softly and the warm sunshine lighting your event, why not plan an Antigua wedding? Antigua island weddings are naturally romantic, with its hills and many beaches offering a setting each more perfect than the next. Your Antigua wedding can as simple or as spectacular as you choose, barefoot on the beach or decked out on the grounds of a plantation estate. Couples looking for an even more exotic milieu can hold their Antigua wedding amidst the ruins of an old fort or within tropical gardens. The possibilities for Antigua island weddings are endless, and nearly stress-free due to the ease of proceedings here.
There are just a few requirements to take care of before you can hold an Antigua wedding. A registration fee of US$40 must be paid at the courthouse in the government buildings. The Ministry of Justice also charges a $150 application fee to obtain your Antigua wedding license. A $50 fee is payable to the Marriage Officer, with whom the Antigua wedding bride and groom must arrange a date and time for their ceremony. Prior to the big event, both parties in Antigua island weddings must present themselves to the Ministry of Justice in St. John's with valid passports in hand, as well as divorce or death decrees where applicable. Antigua island weddings can be held in a church of the denomination of your choice, but authority must be granted by the proper religious authorities. Antigua weddings will be valid and binding in your home country.