Paradise Unveiled: Best Things to Do in Antigua and Barbuda

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Antigua and Barbuda might not feature high on your travel bucket list, but they deserve a closer look. These charming Caribbean islands are the most famous for stunning beaches, clear waters and lively sailing events. Yet, this British overseas territory offers more than just that. Antigua has crumbling English fortresses, the UNESCO-listed Nelson’s Dockyard and thrilling adventures like rainforest hikes and ziplining. Let’s dive into the best things to do in Antigua and Barbuda to see what makes these islands unique.

things to do in Antigua

Did you know Antigua has 365 beaches – one for every day of the year? Numerous coves, bays and pretty coral reefs are perfect for diving and snorkelling.

 

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Best things to do in Antigua and Barbuda for water enthusiasts

 

1. Stingray City Antigua

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If you are up for an adventure and not afraid of marine life, don’t miss out on Stingray City in Antigua. Just a short ride from the island’s northern shores, you will discover Stingray City with its sandy bay and friendly stingrays. Get ready to meet these fascinating creatures up close. And, if lucky, you will meet other tropical fish too.

Visiting Stingray City is one of the best things to do in Antigua because swimming with stingrays is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. And here is a fantastic part – these gentle creatures are well used to human interaction, making your visit even more extraordinary.

things to do in Antigua: If you are up for an adventure and not afraid of marine life, don’t miss out on Stingray City. It's one of the best things to do in Antigua because these stingrays are not dangerous for humans. That's why swimming with stingrays needs to be on your bucket list.

 

2. Snorkeling and scuba diving in Antigua and Barbuda.

Did you know these islands have numerous coral reefs? The large areas of coral reefs surround these twin islands and provide perfect snorkeling and diving opportunities.

Did you know Antigua and Barbuda have numerous coral reefs? The large areas of coral reefs surround these twin islands and provide perfect snorkeling and diving opportunities. Some of them stretch for miles and are home to many shipwrecks.

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Snorkelling is one of the best things to do in Antigua and Barbuda because this Caribbean duo is home to numerous coral reefs.

 

Among the best dive sites are Cades Reef (probably the best), the Pinnacles of Hercules, Mary Kay Reef, and Chimney’s Reef. You can reach some spots directly from the coast, for example, Dickenson Bay, Halfmoon Bay or Galley Bay. In fact, Galley Bay is a famous shallow reef, which you can easily access from the beach. Also, don’t miss the Wreck on the Andes – this ship sunk in 1905 in Deep Bay.

 

 

3. Take a boat to Barbuda from Antigua.

best things to do in Antigua: Taking a day trip to Barbuda is one of the best things to do in Antigua because Antigua's twin island has beautiful sandy beaches and one of the largest bird sanctuaries in the Caribbean.

Did you know that most tourists spend their holiday only in Antigua? They unknowingly miss out on Barbuda. It’s a big mistake because Antigua’s sister island, with a unique culture and laid-back charm, is also gorgeous. Despite its smaller sine, Barbuda has one of the largest bird sanctuaries in the Caribbean and has beautiful sandy beaches. You can even find a rare pink sandy beach, vibrant marine life and exclusive resorts here. Because of that, taking a day trip from Antigua to Barbuda is one of the best things to do in Barbuda for nature lovers.

 

READ MORE ABOUT BARBUDA:

day trip to off the beaten path Caribbean island Barbuda

 

4. A catamaran day trip around Antigua

It is no surprise sailing around Antigua is one of the best things to do in Antigua. A full-day catamaran cruise around the island offers a unique opportunity to explore the famous landmarks you would never find on your own. Not only can you admire Antigua’s beautiful coastline from the water, but you can also sail past its 365 beaches.   best things to do in Antigua: It is no surprise sailing around Antigua is one of the best things to do in Antigua because a full-day catamaran cruise around the island offers a unique opportunity to explore the famous landmarks and beaches you would never find on your own.

One of the best ways to see the island is from the water. That’s why sailing around Antigua must be on your bucket list. And the best part? The catamaran tour has numerous stops, allowing you to spot Devil’s Bridge, the Pillars of Hercules and the Great Bird Island. Plus, you can also explore an uninhabited Green Island, where you can snorkel and enjoy beautiful views. 

Green Island

Green Island

 

Best things to do in Antigua and Barbuda for history lovers

 

5. Shirley Heights Antigua

things to do in Antigua and Barbuda: Visiting Shirley Heights on Sunday is one of the best things to do in Antigua and Barbuda because this former military complex is famous for legendary night parties. Also, this lookout point offers breathtaking views.

No trip to Antigua and Barbuda would be complete without a visit to iconic Shirley Heights. This former military complex is, in fact, one of the most visited Antigua’s landmarks. This excellent lookout point offers breathtaking views of the historic English Harbour. It is also famous for legendary night parties.

Gorgeous Views

Shirley Heights is one of the best viewpoints on the island, providing gorgeous views of the English Harbour. It is also the island’s best sunset viewpoint. On a clear day, you can see Guadeloupe and Montserrat Island from here. 

 

Sunday Night Parties

If you are after partying, you should come here on Sunday night. Shirley Heights is famous for its lively Sunday Night parties, which are pretty spectacular. Sunday barbecue with rum punch and a local steel drum band playing Caribbean music is an essential Antiguan experience. Make sure you don’t miss it because partying at Shirley Heights is one of the best things to do in Antigua

Shirley Heights is famous for its lively Sunday Night parties, which are pretty spectacular.

Sunday Night Parties are popular among tourists and locals. They start at 7 PM and finish at 10 PM.

 

TIPS:

  • Don’t miss Reggae Heights on Thursday. It’s a quieter experience on Thursday afternoons and a more relaxed atmosphere. 
  • Before joining a party, explore the ruins of military structures, such as a guard house, officers’ quarters, kitchen and a cemetery.

 

best things to do in Antigua: Visiting Shirley Heights Lookout is one of the best things to do in Antigua because this former military complex offers gorgeous views. Plus, it's the most famous sunset viewpoint on the island.

Did you know Shirley Heights also provides hiking opportunities? Challenging yet rewarding hiking trails lead to a hilltop viewpoint and offer beautiful views.

 

GOOD TO KNOW:

  • You can find Shirley Heights on the southerly tip of Antigua. Good news: you can drive up to the entrance. 
  • Admission to Shirley Heights (USD 10 for an adult) includes entrance to Nelson’s Dockyard in English Harbour, excluding Sundays.

 

6. Nelson’s Dockyard Antigua

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Not in the mood to get sand between your toes? Visit the Nelson’s Dockyard National Park and English Harbour. 

 

 If you want to learn more about Antigua’s past, head to Nelson’s Dockyard. It was a strategic docking point of the Royal Navy, hosting all sorts of ships. The Dockyard’s roots go back to a time when European nations wanted to control the profitable sugar-producing islands in the Eastern Caribbean. Some of the main buildings here date to the late 18th century, when the British ruled the island.

Explore this well-restored site, including the admiral’s former house. During your visit, you can learn more about Antigua’s rich history and spot artefacts such as Nelson’s telescope, ship models and maps. Besides the museum, you can find here the colonial-era buildings, restaurants and two hotels. 

The British modified English Georgian architecture to suit the hot tropical climate.

The British modified English Georgian architecture to suit the hot tropical climate. The construction would not be possible without the labour and skills of enslaved Africans. Their contribution played a crucial role in the development of the British Empire and trade. 

DID YOU KNOW?

 Today, Nelson’s Dockyard is a historical site with an Outstanding Universal Value. This UNESCO-listed cultural heritage site is also the only continuously operating dockyard in the world. Because of that, visiting Nelson’s Dockyard remains one of the best things to do in Antigua and Barbuda.

 

TIP:

Take a natural trail leading to a hilltop fort for beautiful views. 

 

GOOD TO KNOW:

Nelson’s Dockyard is open every day except Sunday. The entry fee is USD 10 for an adult, and you can visit it between 8 AM and 5 PM.

 

7. Fort Berkeley

best things to do in Antigua: Exploring Fort Berkeley needs to be on your list of the best things to do in Antigua because it's a UNESCO site. This fort is the oldest fortification in English Harbour. It played a crucial role in the island’s defence strategy.

After exploring Nelson’s Dockyard, hike to nearby Fort Berkeley, which is also a part of UNESCO World Heritage Site. Fort Berkeley played a crucial role in the island’s history. It dates to the colonial era and was a part of the island’s defence strategy. Fort Berkeley is, in fact, the oldest fortification in English Harbour.

You are right to think Fort Berkeley safeguarded the entrance to English Harbour. This military fort had 29 guns and a special iron chain across the harbour entrance. The chain linked Fort Berkeley to Fort Charlotte and stopped ships without permission from entering.

Even though it is in ruins, you can see the remains of its defensive walls. Imagine how Fort Berkeley looked like when the British Navy protected the island. Find a cannon and a gunpowder storehouse and enjoy beautiful views of nearby hills. 

GOOD TO KNOW:

Fort Berkeley is easy to access for English Harbour. Follow a short Fort Berkeley Trail, which will bring you to one of the most important forts on the island. 

 

8. Pillars of Hercules

Pillars of Hercules Antigua

If you love nature and dramatic landscapes, don’t miss the Pillars of Hercules. This iconic limestone rock formation formed from crashing waves from the Atlantic Ocean and wind. You can find the Pillars of Hercules near English Harbour.

 

GOOD TO KNOW:

  • The best views of the Pillars of Hercules are from a boat, especially in the late afternoon. The more adventurous souls can also hike here from the nearby Galleon Beach. This trail lies below Shirley Heights Lookout.
  • HOW TO GET THERE: The trail starts at the end of this small beach and goes upwards and around. After that, the trail goes back down, where you can find beautiful views.

TIP:

Do not forget to bring water and be careful, because the rocks can be slippery.

 

 

9. Betty’s Hope

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Antigua’s fertile soil was perfect for raising sugarcane crops.

 

If you want to learn more about the island’s colonial past, visit Betty’s Hope. Did you know Betty’s Hope was the first sugar plantation on the island? It also became one of the largest estates in Antigua. This plantation got its name after the daughter of one of the former owners. It dates back to the 17th century and is now a national heritage landmark.

WHY YOU SHOULD VISIT IT:

Visiting Betty’s Hope is one of the best things to do in Antigua because this sugar plantation played a crucial role in the island’s history. Betty’s Hope is a testament to colonial history and slavery during the sugar era on the island. This historic British plantation used to run on slave power for hundreds of years. Hundreds of enslaved Africans were forced to work at the mill, first as slaves and later as labourers. 

If you are a history enthusiast or seek connections to the island’s roots, add Betty’s Hope to Antigua’s bucket list. Even though it doesn’t have operating windmills, the locals restored the main mill with new sails and crushing machinery. The Betty’s Hope Foundation plans to restore it entirely. 

Travel back in time and explore Betty’s Hope plantation and see the original stone windmills, which once extracted the juice from sugarcane. While other buildings remain in ruins, you can visit a small museum in a former cotton house storeroom. You can spot various artefacts, pictures, maps and early estate plans. 

GOOD TO KNOW:

  • This sugar plantation lies outside the Village Pares, not far from Devil’s Bridge. Betty’s Hope opening hours are Monday to Thursday, 9 AM to 3 PM and Fridays, 9 AM to 1 PM. Betty’s Hope is not open on Saturdays, Sundays, and during Public Holidays. 
  • After extensive repairs, this open-air museum has bathrooms and also picnic areas. 

 

10. Museum of Antigua and Barbuda

Museum lovers looking for the best things to do in Antigua should visit the Museum of Antigua and Barbuda in St. John’s. Even though it is small, it can help you better understand the history and culture of both islands

The Museum of Antigua and Barbuda covers the geological origin, the colonial period, slavery and its journey to independence. Once here, look at models of sugar plantations and see exhibits displaying pottery and pre-Colombian artefacts. Don’t miss fossils and corals, which are a million years old. 

GOOD TO KNOW:

Find the Museum of Antigua and Barbuda in the Colonial Court House. It is the oldest building still in use in St. John’s. The museum is open every day except Saturday and Sunday from 8.30 AM until 2 PM. Entry fee to the Museum of Antigua and Barbuda is USD 3 or EC$8 for an adult. 

 

11. St. John’s Cathedral in Antigua

St. John’s Cathedral in Antigua

Afterwards, take a look at St John’s Cathedral, which sits at the highest point in the capital. This white Anglican church with twin towers is the most famous religious landmark on the island. The neo-Baroque building you can see is 48 metres (70 feet) long and 14 metres (46 feet) wide. It stands in the same place where two previous churches destroyed due to the earthquake used to be. 

The highlights of St. John’s Cathedral are dark pine furniture and two Biblical statues on the south face of the church. The legend has it the British navy took two statues from the French ship in Martinique waters. After that, they moved statues of St John the Divine and St John the Baptist to this church.

GOOD TO KNOW:

There is a major renovation at St. John’s Cathedral. Therefore, you can see it only from the outside.

 

12. Fort Barrington

things to do in Antigua: Exploring Fort Barrington is one of the best things to do in Antigua for history lovers because it is the only fort in Antigua that witnesses military action. Also, this historical landmark offers gorgeous views.

Fort Barrington is another testament to the island’s wartime past. 

 

As you explore Antigua, don’t miss Fort Barrington in the Five Islands area. This military fort was built by the British as protection from the French. It has played a vital role in monitoring ship movements and safeguarding the nearby St. John’s Harbour. In fact, Fort Barrington is the only fort in Antigua that witnesses military action. Though now in ruins, this captivating historical landmark offers gorgeous views. 

While Fort Barrington now stands in a state of disrepair, it remains open for exploration. Wander through the rooms and spot silent cannons and overgrown ruins of a circular battery and barracks. Fort Barrington, which sits on the top of Goat Hill, rewards everyone with stunning panoramic views of Deep Bay and the Caribbean Sea. You can even see Montserrat Island from here. 

GOOD TO KNOW:

The climb to the remnants of Fort Barrington may be steep, but the captivating experience makes it well worth a visit.

 

Best things to do in Antigua for nature lovers

 

13. Devil’s Bridge, Antigua

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If you find yourself on the northeastern coast, don’t miss Devil’s Bridge. This fascinating natural rock formation lies in the National Park only a short drive from Betty’s Hope. Devil’s Bridge is a geological wonder developed by sea erosion. But this famous natural landmark also has a dark history. 

Devil’s Bridge got its name because slaves committed mass suicide during the period of slavery here. They believed that if they crossed it, the devil would take them. Their chance of survival was low because of the rough waters near it. 

Today, seeing Devil’s Bridge is one of the best things to do in Antigua because it stands as a testament to the forces of nature. Also, this limestone arch offers beautiful views and excellent birding opportunities.

GOOD TO KNOW:

  • If you arrive when the tide is right, you can spot a blowhole at the far end in action. 
  • Devil’s Bridge can get very slippery from the powerful waves. Hence, walking across the bridge is at your own risk. 

 

14. Visit Montserrat Island on a day trip from Antigua

Antigua to Montserrat

When in Antigua, carve out some time to explore the nearby island. Montserrat may be small, and maybe you have never heard about it before, but this island is, in fact, truly exceptional. Did you know Montserrat Island is famous for its active volcano? It even has the modern-day Pompeii – a town buried by volcano activity. But don’t worry – the island’s exclusion zone is safe to explore now.

Numerous tour operators provide day excursions to the island. Yet, it’s even better to dedicate a few days to its exploration. Montserrat is easy to visit – the boat journey from Antigua to Montserrat takes approximately 90 minutes.

READ MORE ABOUT MONTSERRAT ISLAND:

Top rated attractions on Montserrat island in the Caribbean

 

15. Fig Tree Drive, Antigua

When exploring the southern coast, don’t miss Fig Tree Drive. It is a scenic road in Antigua that winds its way through the lush and breathtaking landscape of the island. Steep Fig Tree Drive takes you through the most thickly forested area, where you can see charming villages and a rainforest. Ironically, there are no fig trees here, but you will spot coconut palms, old mango and banana trees. Not only does Fig Tree Drive provide beautiful views and perfect photo opportunities, but you can also buy some fresh fruits and locally-made products.

 

FUN FACT:

Did you know that fig is the word for a banana in Antigua?

 

free travel planner for island Antigua

 

16. Jolly Beach in Antigua

best things to do in Antigua: Jolly Beach is one of the finest beaches on the island. Yet, it's not just pretty, it’s also a vibrant playground for water enthusiasts. Because of that, visiting Jolly Beach is one of the best things to do in Antigua.

Jolly Beach is a haven for both relaxation and adventure.

 

One of the prime spots to enjoy the island’s beauty is Jolly Beach on the western coast of Antigua. Jolly Beach is one of the finest beaches on the island. This stunning stretch of shoreline near Jolly Harbour has powdery white sand and gently lapping waters. It also offers gorgeous views of the mountains and Montserrat Island. 

Yet, Jolly Beach isn’t just a beautiful escape – it’s a vibrant playground for water enthusiasts. Dive into thrilling water sports adventures like jet-skiing or parasailing to add an exhilarating dimension to your beach day. Many day tours leave from here, making it very convenient for everyone in the area. 

Because of that, visiting Jolly Beach is one of the best things to do in Antigua and Barbuda.

Jolly Beach

GOOD TO KNOW:

Jolly Beach can get busy, especially during the peak tourist season.

 

17. Half Moon Bay

Half Moon Bay Antigua

If busy beaches are not your thing, head to Half Moon Bay in the southeastern part of Antigua. This pretty bay is one of Saint Philip Parish’s most idyllic destinations. Half Moon Bay has a white sandy beach with turquoise waters. Grab your mask and snorkel on the bay’s south side – it’s perfect for snorkelling and sunbathing. The northern part is excellent for surfing and windsurfing. 

GOOD TO KNOW:

Half Moon Bay in the remote southeast can be a bit challenging to locate. It’s a more off-the-beaten-path location, requiring about a 40-minute drive from the cruise port. If you opt for a taxi, expect to pay a hefty fare.

 

Other incredible things to do in Antigua and Barbuda

 

18. Meet giant tortoises

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Would you like to meet Earth’s oldest living creatures? If yes was your answer, visit Antigua’s offshore Laviscount Island. This pretty island, which lies only a short boat ride from Stingray City, is a sanctuary for over 50 Giant Aldabra Tortoises. These pretty creatures from the Indian Ocean have changed little since the days of dinosaurs. They can live up to 200 years and weigh over 270 kg (600 pounds). 

During your visit, you can learn about their unique physical features. Afterwards, you will understand their crucial role in the ecosystem and gain insight into ongoing conservation efforts. As you discover the island, you can spot tropical birds, including macaw parrots and native Lesser Antillean iguanas. That’s why visiting Laviscount Island is one of the unique things to do in Antigua.

TIP:

Don’t miss a chance to combine your day trip to Laviscount Island with a visit to the nearby Stingray City.

 

19. Try Antigua’s Black Pineapple.

pineapple

Antigua’s Black Pineapple may be smaller, but it is delicious. 

 

Did you know Antigua is famous for its Black Pineapple? It is a unique variety of pineapple grown on the island. But do not let the name fool you – the Black Pineapple is not actually black in colour. It only has dark outer skin, but the fruit is golden yellow. 

Antigua’s Black Pineapple boasts a distinctive flavour, making it one of the best. In fact, Antigua’s Black Pineapple is the world’s sweetest pineapple – it has a lower acidity than other types of pineapple. The locals say it is due to the unique environment in Antigua. The island with average rainfall has rich soil and endless sunshine. That’s why you need to try this tropical fruit with exceptional taste.

 

20. Donkey sanctuary in Antigua and Barbuda

Donkey sanctuary

Antigua has something for everyone, including a special place called the Donkey Sanctuary. The Donkey Sanctuary is not an attraction but an animal rescue organisation dedicated to the well-being and care of donkeys. It provides a home for retired and rescued donkeys who were hurt or sick during a drought on the island. Kids can have a great time feeding, petting and brushing donkeys that have found a loving home there. 

The Donkey Sanctuary places a strong emphasis on education. It also raises awareness about donkey welfare. When you visit it, you can help by making a donation. You can even go a step further and adopt one of the four-legged friends in the sanctuary. 

GOOD TO KNOW:

You can find the Donkey Sanctuary in Bethesda, near Falmouth Harbour. The sanctuary is open every day except Sundays and Mondays from 10 am until 3 pm.

 

21. Jolly Harbour

Jolly Harbour

It is easy to see why visiting Jolly Harbour on the southwest coast is one of the best things to do in Antigua. This pretty harbour is a bustling haven offering a perfect blend of leisure and excitement. Jolly Harbour has a vibrant atmosphere and various attractions. It is also a convenient starting point for day tours. 

Besides, you will find a stylish marina often filled with yachts here. Jolly Harbour has a lovely waterfront area, boat services and numerous shops, beachfront bars and restaurants. They are perfect for trying delicious local cuisine or sipping a refreshing cocktail while soaking in the sunset views. And the fascinating part? Some of the best beaches on the island are only a short distance from here.

 

22. Take a road trip around Antigua.

If you are eager to explore every corner of the island, renting a car is your best option. Many tourists only stay by the pool – they don’t know what they are missing out. Most hotels offer car rental services, so do yourself a favour and get one for a few days. 

Renting a car and taking a road trip around the island is one of the best things to do in Antigua because it offers multiple advantages

  • Flexibility: You can create your itinerary and explore at your own pace. This way, you can visit the famous attractions and also off-the-beaten-path locations.
  • Scenic Drives: Take scenic routes and appreciate Antigua’s natural beauty
  • Avoid Crowds: Visit popular sites before or after the peak hours of day trippers and cruise shippers.
  • Beach Hopping: Antigua is famous for 365 beaches, and driving allows you to explore multiple beaches in a single day.
  • Adventure: Driving around the island allows you to enjoy the thrill of exploration.

 

23. St. John’s in Antigua

St. John’s

If you have a spare hour or two while in Antigua, visit St. John’s. The colourful St. John’s serves as the cruise ship port and the capital of Antigua and Barbuda. St. John’s is a lively hub of activity with many colourful colonial buildings and bustling market stalls.

St John's murals

Shopping at Heritage Quay and touristy Redcliffe Quay are popular things to do in Antigua because you can find numerous duty-free shops and souvenir stalls here. There are also several cafes and restaurants where you can taste local flavours. Don’t forget to look at the Monument of Sir Vere Cornwall Bird – he was the first Prime Minister here. If you happen to be in St. John’s on a Saturday morning, explore an authentic market and buy local spices, fresh fruits and also souvenirs.

St John's streets

 

Now you know what the best things in Antigua are!

Have you been to Antigua and Barbuda in the Caribbean? Did we miss anything? Please let us know in the comments below. If you like our post, please save it also to Pinterest.

 

Pin top things to do in Antigua and Barbuda for later!

Pristine white sandy beaches, warm turquoise waters, coconut palm trees, Antigua and Barbuda is a paradise! Discover top things to do in Antigua and Barbuda in the Caribbean..

 

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Last updated: 17/01/2023


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