On Sunday November 1, Antigua & Barbuda celebrated 34 years of Independence.The islands became an independent state within the Commonwealth of Nations in 1981, with Elizabeth II as the first Queen of Antigua and Barbuda. In commemoration of their independence, it is only right that the we here at the National Weekly explore the twin island’s most rated tourist destinations.
Half Moon Bay, Antigua
At the southeastern end of Antigua, tranquil Half Moon Bay is fringed by one of Antigua’s best beaches. Protected by a reef, this idyllic crescent of fine white sand and azure sea, backed by natural foliage, offers excellent snorkeling on calm days. When the wind is up, the surf can be rough. A small restaurant serves snacks just off the beach.
St. John’s, Antigua
St John’s, the capital city and cruise ship port of Antigua and Barbuda, is a kaleidoscope of candy-hued colonial cottages and market stalls piled high with tropical fruits and flowers. Looming above the skyline are the white neo-Baroque towers of St. John’s Cathedral, one of the city’s major attractions.
For an overview of the island’s history, many first-time visitors head to the Museum of Antigua and Barbuda in the 18th century former Court House. Shopping is also excellent in St. John’s. Duty-free shops abound at Heritage Quay, souvenir stalls beckon from touristy Redcliffe Quay, and the lively harborside public markets are the place to be on Fridays and Saturdays.
Museum of Antigua and Barbuda
The Museum of Antigua and Barbuda traces the history of these islands from their geological origins to political independence in 1981. Housed in the museum is a full-scale replica of an Arawak dwelling, as well as portraits of Sir Joshua Reynolds, King George III, and Queen Caroline. The museum is located in the former 18th-century Courthouse in St John’s.
Dockyard National Park, Antigua
One of Antigua’s most popular attractions, Nelson’s Dockyard National Park, in English Harbour, is home to Antigua’s former 18th-century British Naval Dockyard as well as restored historic buildings and some of the island’s best nature trails. The restored marina with beautiful old stone warehouses encompasses hotels, restaurants, shops, galleries, and museums.
Both the Admiral’s House Museum and Dockyard Museum trace the site’s history from the 17th century to the present. After touring the Dockyard, visitors can enjoy panoramic island views from the ruins of Fort Shirley, perched on the hilltop at Shirley Heights, or Fort Berkeley, at the west entrance to the harbor. The park is also home to 18th century Clarence House, originally built for the future King William IV, as well as the Dow’s Hill Interpretation Centre, along the Lookout Trail near Shirley Heights.
Fig Tree Drive
Along Antigua’s southern coast, Fig Tree Drive winds through rainforest, farmlands, and fishing villages. This picturesque drive offers a glimpse of local life. Banana trees (called “figs” by the locals), mango trees, and coconut palms dot the landscape, as well as the ruins of sugar mills. Look for the roadside stands selling fresh-picked fruit. Along the route, the Fig Tree Studio Art Gallery sells vibrant local art and zipline rainforest tours are nearby.