The ultimate Antigua bucket list: 10 things you can’t miss

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Antigua, located in the Eastern Caribbean, is a picturesque island known for its stunning beaches and rich history. There is a wide range of things to do in Antigua to suit every traveler’s interests. Whether you’re a beach lover, history buff, adventurer or nature enthusiast, Antigua has something for you.

A beach with turquoise water and rocky cliffs.
Photo credit: Pixabay.

Explore Nelson’s Dockyard National Park

Nelson’s Dockyard National Park is a historic and picturesque site located on the island of Antigua in the Caribbean. It is named after Admiral Horatio Nelson, one of Britain’s most famous naval heroes, who served in the West Indies during the late 18th century. 

This national park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and offers visitors a unique blend of history, culture and natural beauty. The surrounding area also offers hiking trails with stunning views of the harbor.

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Relax on Antigua’s beaches

Antigua’s beaches are renowned for their stunning beauty and diverse characteristics. From the lively and bustling Dickenson Bay to the tranquil and secluded Half Moon Bay on the eastern coast, Antigua offers a beach for every type of traveler. Whether you’re looking for water sports, relaxation or natural serenity, the island’s powdery white sand, crystal-clear waters and lush surroundings make it a paradise for beach lovers. 

An aerial view of several boats docked in a harbor.
Photo credit: Pixabay.

Sailing and yachting

If you are looking for nautical things to do in Antigua, it is renowned as one of the premier sailing and yachting destinations in the Caribbean. The sheltered bays, steady trade winds and beautiful coastline make it a paradise for sailors and yachters.

Antigua Sailing Week is one of the most prestigious sailing events in the Caribbean and attracts competitive sailors from around the world. It usually takes place in late April or early May and consists of a week-long series of races and regattas. It’s a lively and exciting time to be on the island, with parties and events accompanying the races.

Discover St. John’s

For cultural things to do in Antigua, visit the capital city, St. John’s. It is a vibrant mix of colorful buildings, bustling markets and historical sites. The Cathedral of St. John the Divine, a beautiful Anglican church dating back to the 19th century, is a notable landmark in the city.

Located in the heart of St. John’s, the public market is a bustling place where locals and tourists can purchase fresh produce, spices, crafts and souvenirs. It’s a vibrant spot to experience the local culture.

A woman dressed in colorful feathers is dancing in the street.
Photo credit: Pixabay.

Experience the Antigua carnival

Antigua Carnival is a vibrant and culturally rich event that is a must on anyone’s list of things to do in Antigua. The carnival takes place during the last week of July and into the first week of August, culminating in a grand parade known as J’ouvert and Carnival Monday and Tuesday.

J’ouvert is a pre-dawn street party filled with music, dancing and revelry. Participants and spectators often wear colorful costumes and cover themselves in paint, mud or powder.

The pinnacle of Antigua Carnival is the Grand Carnival Parade, which takes place on Carnival Monday and Tuesday. It features masquerade bands, T-shirt bands and music trucks playing soca and calypso tunes. Thousands of people line the streets to watch the parade with a spectacle of colors, energy and creativity.

Hike to Shirley Heights 

For the best panoramic views of Antigua take a hike or drive to Shirley Heights. This lookout offers breathtaking panoramic views of English Harbour and the surrounding islands.

This vantage point also hosts a weekly Sunday evening party known as the Shirley Heights Lookout Party, featuring live music and a vibrant atmosphere.

“Sunday nights at Shirley Heights is a local institution and should NOT be missed ” 

— Andrew,  Along Dusty Roads
Two women snorkling in the clear blue water.
Photo credit: Pixabay.

Snorkeling and diving in Cades Reef

Now a protected marine park, Cades Reef is an underwater wonderland and a must on any snorkeler’s things to do in Antigua list. Cades Reef caters to both beginner and experienced snorkelers. The shallow areas are suitable for novices, while those with more experience can explore deeper sections with more complex coral formations.

Snorkelers can spot a wide array of marine species, including tropical fish like parrotfish, sergeant majors, angelfish and butterflyfish. You may also encounter rays, sea turtles and occasionally nurse sharks.

Visit Betty’s Hope

Betty’s Hope was one of the earliest sugar plantations on the island and is now a museum. It is one of the island’s most significant historical sites and offers visitors a glimpse into the island’s colonial past and the sugar industry.

Betty’s Hope is an open-air museum that provides a comprehensive look at the history of sugar production and the life of the enslaved people who worked on the plantation. Visitors can explore the ruins of the sugar mill, the windmill tower and other historical structures. Interpretive signs and exhibits provide information about the estate’s history and its impact on Antigua.

Chicken skewers being cooked on a grill.
Photo credit: Pixabay.

Taste Antiguan cuisine

Antigua’s cuisine is a must on any foodies list of things to do in Antigua. A delightful fusion of Caribbean, African, West Indian and European flavors shapes its culinary traditions, resulting in a vibrant and delicious array of dishes.

Given its coastal location, seafood plays a prominent role in Antiguan cuisine. Local catches include fish like mahi-mahi, snapper and wahoo, as well as lobster, crab and conch. Grilled, fried or stewed seafood dishes are commonly enjoyed.

Antigua offers a variety of delicious street foods, including jerk chicken, conch fritters and fried plantains. Street vendors and food stalls can be found in popular areas and at local markets.

Explore the offshore islands

Antigua is surrounded by several smaller islands, each offering unique experiences. A boat trip to Barbuda, Antigua’s sister island, unveils pink sand beaches and a frigate bird sanctuary. A visit to the tiny uninhabited Prickly Pear Island offers a day of ultimate relaxation and snorkeling.

Located just off the northeastern coast of Antigua, Green Island is a picturesque spot for sailing and snorkeling. It features secluded beaches, clear waters and lush vegetation. 

Final thoughts

Antigua is a treasure trove of experiences waiting to be discovered. From its historical sites and natural beauty to its cultural festivities and culinary delights, Antigua offers a diverse range of activities to suit every traveler.

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