We have been in Antigua for over four months so we must know the island pretty well. Granted, a lot was shut down with the pandemic but we still had time to explore the islands, which have a lot to offer visitors. Here are our Antigua and Barbuda favorites for when you get the chance to visit.
A UNESCO World Heritage site, Nelson’s Dockyard is a top site in Antigua for history buffs, hikers and sailors. Continuously running since 1754, the working dockyard site includes a small museum with historical exhibits and is surrounded by acres of land holding old forts and military buildings.
Admiral Lord Nelson ran the English naval post here and many of the original structures are scattered about the grounds, including munitions and lovingly restored buildings.
The boatyards and docks of English Harbour feature everything from powercats to historic sailboats to sleek rowboats depending on when you visit.
Hikers will love all the trails through the old forts, with views over the anchorages, oceans and more. You can see Guadeloupe and Montserrat on good days, and often goats will run away from the paths where they’re grazing.
Finally, Nelson’s Dockyard has a variety of shops, bars and restaurants so you can enjoy the historic surroundings with a drink or meal.
Touristy for a good reason, a Thursday or Sunday night at the Shirley Heights Barbecue is another must in Antigua. Located on the other side of Frenchman’s Bay from English Harbor, it was part of Nelson’s Dockyard and includes forts, history and views too.
On the two barbecue nights local bands play reggae and pop music. Entertainment, good views and barbecue. It’s no wonder this is one of the top attractions on Antigua, especially during peak season.
We went to the barbecue twice: once last June on our first visit to Antigua, and then again in late January. What a difference! The crowd was probably 4x the size in January, but the staff took care of everyone. It was fun both times, and while the prices are set for tourists, Shirley Heights Barbecue is a worthwhile stop.
If you don’t want to pay or eat, you can visit Shirley Heights during the daytime. Several hiking trails take you there, for those who want exercise, and taxis and rental cars are available for those who don’t. There are also a lot of ruins and other historic sites, part of the Nelson’s Dockyard park, to explore up that hill.
A Day at The Beach!
When you visit a country with 365 beaches, you have to take at least one beach day! Go to one of our favorite beaches or try one of the many others. The water here is gorgeous and even in June it’s refreshing!
The Donkey Sanctuary
Grooming donkeys and playing with cats? Animal lovers of all ages will get a kick out of it. And there are goats and dogs at the Donkey Sanctuary. I have already covered this wonderful organization, so here’s an extra photo for you.
These days, with no tourists and very little rain, the sanctuary is in need of funds to feed the animals, so if you have any cash to spare, you can donate.
A natural wonder overlooking the Atlantic Ocean, Devil’s Bridge is a great spot for nature photography. Here on the east coast of Antigua a natural arch is formed by the sea. The name Devil’s Bridge comes from when slaves would throw themselves over the cliff. As a site of mass suicide, it became known as where The Devil lived, so hence the name Devil’s Bridge. It’s a sad story for a beautiful place, now a national park of Antigua and a popular site to visit.
Rum in the Ruins
A weekly stroll through historic sites led by an archeologist, Rum in the Ruins is good fun on a Friday evening. For $20 you get a couple of rum punches and a history lesson about a different aspect of the Naval base, dockyard or anything else relating to the site. We would go again if it was still happening because the one we did was great enough to be one of our Antigua and Barbuda favorites.
Dive Cades Reef
The scuba diving off the west coast of the island is really great. We dove ourselves with a few other cruisers, and another time with a dive shop, and the reef was full of life. The second time, we were visited by friendly sharks and saw over 10 rays in one dive. Cades Reef is a really good spot for diving in Antigua!
Frigate Bird Sanctuary
I talked about this in an earlier post, so I won’t go overboard, but you really must do this if in the islands. I thought we’d see a hundred birds and they’d be mating at only one time of year. But no, we saw thousands, and some were mating, some had little baby chicks that were still in their nests, and many were flying around in search of food. And we got so close too! What an incredible experience which you shouldn’t miss if you come to Antigua and Barbuda!
As people who live on a boat, maybe we are more drawn to floating bars? Or maybe everyone is because it’s a fun treat! Antigua’s Kon Tiki Bar is a fun afternoon activity, and you don’t need to have a dinghy to go. Just show up at the beach and you’ll get a shuttle to the bar. When we visited, there were bachelorette parties and a lot of other people enjoying the beach vibes. A perfect place to let loose when on vacation in paradise!
Did I miss anything in my list of Antigua and Barbuda favorites? Let me know in the comments!