If you’re looking for a place for your honeymoon then we hope you consider Antigua as one of your destinations. As we currently finished spending our second family vacation on this beautiful Caribbean island we can not express in words how stunning this island is and how much it has to offer. It seems as if each time we fall in love with it more. With so many options for a fantastic getaway you really can never be bored. Whether you’re looking for an exclusive getaway or almost a backpacking experience or something in between, Antigua is your place.
Where is Antigua?
“Antigua and Barbuda are located in the Leeward Islands right in the heart of the Caribbean. These twin islands are famous for their breathtaking beaches, relaxed way of life and the most comfortable climate in the world.” – The Antiguan, The Guide to Antigua and Barbuda.
“Among the many islands that make up the Lesser Antilles, Antigua and Barbuda distinguish themselves for their deeply indented coastline, their natural harbours and protective coral reefs, their rolling hills and their relaxed yet sophisticated atmosphere. Antigua’s 280 sq km of hills and flatlands is edged with 365 white, sand beaches, one for every day of the year.
Barbuda’s 60 km perimeter is an almost continuous beach.
The perfect beaches are complimented by striking vegetation, exotic fruits and a warm and friendly people waiting to welcome you.” – The Treasure Islands Guide
We loved exploring this beautiful Caribbean island by car, but we quickly learned that the free map you can get anywhere is fairly vague (more like an estimation of the roads and general direction of attractions). We were lucky to find a more detailed map and some of the roads marked actually had names on them. You will however quickly learn that even that won’t help as most of the signs are so faded from the sun that you can’t actually read them. You’re better off just asking locals as they’re all extremely helpful and friendly. It’s basically a trial and error experience, although we’ve explored some pretty spectacular spots not usually explored by tourists. Another piece of advice if you plan on going off the beaten path is to rent a good 4×4 car. Any smaller roads that take you to some spectacular locations are fairly (if not very) rough. Some of the maps show white roads (not main) which are simply dirt roads most often not accessible by a regular car (especially in the mountainous region)
What to to see and do in Antigua?
As our vacation base is in English Harbour overlooking the Falmouth Harbour we will start with our description of places and adventures right there. Both harbours are located in the south central region of Antigua and feature beautiful beaches, sprawling hills, and lots of opportunities for hiking, sailing and many other sports.
Falmouth Harbour and English Harbour
Beaches: Pigeon Beach, Falmouth Harbour – located just a short walk over a hill (about 8-10 minutes) from Antigua Yacht Club. If you happen to be there on a Sunday the beach seems to be the happening place filled with lots of friendly locals and tourists alike, great music and vendors preparing local food. Don’t miss ordering the most amazing meals from Rose under her green tent. There is nothing better than experiencing her cooking with a cold beer while enjoying listening to the waves hitting the shore and watching the background of green hills lined with sail boats and yachts. Feels like a true Antiguan experience. Trust us, we’ve done it 3 times so far and plan on making it a tradition. So far it hasn’t gotten old. The beach also offers 2 restaurants and a spectacular hike to English Harbour.
Galleon Beach, English Harbour – located on the opposite side of the English Harbour. You can take a water taxi or get there by a car or taxi. It also has a restaurant and a hike up to Shirley Heights.
As we stay in Falmouth Harbour we quickly realize that it’s sailor’s paradise. The view from our balcony is spectacular. The turquoise water and the background of mountains stays the same but the mega yachts change almost daily with some iconic ones calling this harbour their home for the season. Last year we even got to go on board of the sail freighter Tres Hombres. It was definitely worth seeing and learning about.
The historic Nelson’s Dockyard and English Harbour – home of Antigua’s Sailing Week
If you’re searching for beautiful historic architecture Nelson’s Dockyard will definitely take you back in time to the 18th century with it’s beautifully restored buildings. We absolutely fell in love with the two boutique hotels: Copper and Lumber Store and Admiral’s Inn. Being destination wedding photographers we could just envision an intimate destination wedding taking place in either of the venues with the possibility of staying in one of the rooms above and having a romantic honeymoon.
From English Harbour you can take beautiful scenic hiking trails overlooking the coastline leading to old forts and spectacular lookout points . We split our hike visiting Fort Berkley one day and chose to hike the trail from Pigeon Beach to Nelson’s Dockyard in English Harbour on another day. The hiking trail is an easy one and a walk closer to the sunset is definitely worth it. We witnessed the most spectacular sunset (about 5- 10 minute hike up from Pigeon Beach) from the lookout point.
As we decided to explore the island a bit more we decided to head east. We stopped at Willoughby Bay at a lookout point (great spot for a picnic with a gazebo on site overlooking the view of the bay). From there we stopped at Half Moon Bay beach where we enjoyed a delicious lunch at the local restaurant, the pink sand, and a quick walk around the rocky coastline on the left side of the beach (be prepared for high waves crashing – exhilarating experience) After Half Moon May we were on our way to the rocky coast where we went to see the Devil’s Bridge. The attraction is really worth seeing. Not far from Devil’s Bridge is a beautiful beach located in Long Bay. It’s very family friendly with multiple stores and restaurants right on the beach.
South Coast, West coast and St. John’s
We’ve also decided to further explore the south coast heading west. We started with Monk’s Hill which should have really been a hike as opposed to a JEEP trip. We never realized how rough the ride was going to be until we were half way up. Because we chose to watch the sunset from the top it was too late to start hiking. We traveled as far up as we could go, but there came a time (or rather too big of a hole to make it through) we had to ditch our car and start hiking. We came up to an old wall and ruins of Fort George and shortly after the most stunning view of Falmouth and English Harbours. If we made it in time the sunset would have been stunning. No reason to fret as there are so many magnificent spots to watch a stunning sunset. As we continued our trip towards the west coast we drove through the Fig Tree Road through the mountains and rain forest. The road ends along the coastline lined with beautiful beaches and stunning coastal views. There is literally one stunning view after another along the road until you reach Jolly Harbour. Along the way we decided to admire the views from the highest peak in Antigua – Mt. Obama. Again another unmarked turnoff by the pineapple plantation that most visitors would miss. Just as we thought the rouad was rough and steep enough we came to a “CAUTION – engage 4 wheel drive now”. More like how about 10 minutes ago? After an interesting drive up we finally made it to the top only to find a big iron gate with “Authorized Personnel Only” sign on it. After experiencing the drive up the mountain there was no way we were turning around. We were climbing up and somehow making it over the fence to enjoy the views. The views were stunning and adventure well worth it. After enjoying the view from the top we’ve experienced many beautiful beaches the west coast has to offer. Some of the beaches we got to experience were: Crab Hill Bay, Darkwood Beach (while enjoying the sunset and dinner on the jeep), Jolly Harbour (resort feel, long white sand beach with incredible amount of seashells), Pearns Bay (very secluded beach), and Deep Bay (one of our favourites with a short hike from the bottom of the hill of Fort Barrington with a view of the Fort). Our little hike to Fort Barrington was by far one of our favourites to do on the island. With stunning views of St. John’s and Deep Bay on the other side we enjoyed a delicious lunch prepared by one of the locals on the side of the road in the village of Jennings (we think). There are so many road side lunch/dinner spots with the most delicious BBQd dinners prepared with fresh ingredients. We’ve also explored the city of St. John’s, but felt it wasn’t really worth seeing or mentioning especially compared to everything else this beautiful island has to offer.
Where to stay in Antigua?
Antigua has something to offer for everyone. From exclusive adults only resorts, secluded getaways, boutique historic hotels, all inclusive resorts to condos, and apartments you can use as your base to explore the island. It also fits any budget. We have used websites in the past to rent apartments, condos, and houses from owners such as VRBO or Vacation Rentals. We would also recommend Trip Advisor as a great resource. The websites mentioned at the top of this post also provide excellent links to finding your perfect accommodation.