We love the Caribbean, so when we found a steal on airfare to Antigua, we couldn’t pass up the opportunity to visit a new island. If you’ve been following us for a while, you probably know that we like to be active and crave a good adventure. While Antigua is full of beautiful, pristine white sand beaches perfect for lounging around on all day, we honestly get bored just working on our tans. So here are our recommendations for 10 things to do in Antigua:
We did a lot of awesome things in Antigua, but the highlight was our visit to Stingray City. A speedboat whisked us out to the coral reef where Southern Rays swim and feed. The water is crystal clear and you can see straight to the sandy white bottom, where rays bury themselves in the sand. Southern Rays are known as the puppy dogs of the ocean and love attention. We had an amazing time feeding the rays and even a hawksbill sea turtle that didn’t want to miss out on a breakfast of squid. And is was incredible to get a hug from a massive Southern Ray!
A visit to Stingray City costs $158 per person and includes an eco-tour of the island. The tour and visit lasts about 4 hours and is great for both cruise ship passengers or visitors staying on the island like us.
Tarzan used vines to swing from tree to tree, but you can do it more safely with Antigua Rainforest Zipline Tours. There are a variety of courses from a short 45 minute zip-line tour to the full canopy tour, which lasts 2 1/2 hours. We opted for the full tour and worked our way through a zip-line adventure obstacle course complete with wooden plank bridges, rope swings, and a 328 foot long zip-line dubbed The Screamer because it’s been known to make grown men scream like little girls.
Antigua Rainforest Zipline Tours start at $85 per person and can be booked online. Be sure to wear closed toed shoes for safety reasons.
With such a spectacular view over the English Harbor, it’s easy to see why this location was chosen as a military lookout and gun battery. The former military complex was named after Sir Thomas Shirley, Governor of the Leeward Islands. These days it is a perfect spot to watch the sunset and from 4pm until 10pm every Sunday, party until the sun goes down on another week. With drinks, a barbecue, local bands playing a mixture of Caribbean music and international hits while overlooking one of the most stunning views in the world, it’s no wonder this is a favorite spot for locals and tourists alike.
Admission is $8US and includes entrance to both Nelson’s Dockyard and Shirley Heights. The Shirley Heights Lookout Sunday Party has an additional admission fee of $20EC (about $8US).
The only two surviving structures of the first large sugar plantation on Antigua are the two sugar mills. The British sugar plantation operated continuously for almost 300 years from 1651 to 1944. The two mills were restored under the Antigua Government and OEC/ESDU Eco-Tourism Enhancement Project as an important part of Antigua’s history. The mills serve as an open air museum.
The waves of the Atlantic Ocean have crashed into Antigua’s east coast for hundreds of thousands of years and formed the natural limestone arch known as Devil’s Bridge. Geysers and blowholes surrounded as as we crossed the Devil’s Bridge and the waves continuously broke on the coastal rocks. Devil’s Bridges gets its name from stories that slaves leaped to their death from the bridge during Antigua’s period of slavery.
Swimming at Devil’s Bridge is not allowed and because the bridge is slippery from the crashing waves, walking across it is at your own risk.
These days sailing yachts moore in the English Harbor off Nelson’s Dockyard, but it was once the haunt for many famous naval officers like Prince William Henry and Admiral Lord Nelson. It’s the only continuously working Georgian dockyard in the world and is a lovely spot to explore. The former Admiral’s House now contains the Dockyard Museum. There are numerous shops selling local wares and we got some excellent fresh black pineapple to snack on.
Admission is $8US and includes entrance to both Nelson’s Dockyard and Shirley Heights. Open Monday – Sunday from 8am – 6pm.
Defended by no less than 25 canons, Fort Berkeley was designed to be a crucial part of Antigua’s defense. The trail to the fort starts at the Superyacht Dock, behind the Copper and Lumber Store Hotel in Nelson’s Dockyard. We found more goats than people along the trail and postcard perfect views of the English Harbor at every turn. The stone quarry on the way to the fort supplied the stone to built the fort. Some interesting building in the fort include the 200 year old bomb-proof powder magazine which could hold up to 300 barrels of gunpowder.
The hike to the fort is quite rocky. Closed toed shoes are recommended.
All the hiking, swimming, and other adventure activities gave us a hearty appetite and we found Turner’s Beach Bar on Turner’s Beach. The beach bar has a perfect view of the island of Montserrat on a clear day, and we discovered that when you dine at night, you can see the glowing orange lava on Montserrat from the Soufrière Hills volcano, which has been active since 1995 and has rendered most of the island inhabitable. The volcano is so unpredictable, it inspired Jimmy Buffet to write the song “The Volcano”. But back to Turner’s Beach Bar – the lobster is so delicious, we returned several times to have it! The Caribbean spiny lobster are caught in traps right in front of the beach bar, split and grilled. The delicious lobster meat is then chopped into large chunks and served in a delicious sauce with pineapple and peppers.
Turners’ Beach Bar is located on Turner’s Beach at Crab Hill Bay, by Johnson’s Point on the South West coast of Antigua.
We had one of our most memorable day tours ever with Creole Cruises. It’s a family run business and boat captain Glen has the patience of a saint. We were traveling during hurricane season and a tropical storm came up on us while we were snorkeling off a deserted island off Antigua. While a couple other passengers freaked out, Glen made sure we were all okay and safe. My mom, dad, and Tim huddled under a tarp with the group of French who were more likely to die of giving themselves strokes than from the storm itself. I took refuge with Glen and the rest of the crew in the water just beside the boat. Shots of rum and the Caribbean Sea kept us warm. The storm soon passed and we went on about having a great day!
Brief storm aside, we stopped in several spots for excellent snorkeling and even swam with a hawksbill sea turtle off of Bird Island. Lunch is spiny lobster freshly grilled on the beach with pasta, green salad, potato salad, garlic bread, and dessert. And it is all washed down with Glen’s special rum punch.
Creole Cruises Lobster Lunch Cruise is $130US per person and $110US for children 3 – 9 years of age. Children under 2 are free. Book online for a 10% discount. Chicken, fish, vegetarian or hamburgers are also available on request.
The Pillars of Hercules are rock pillars formed from waves over thousands of years. Gorgeous secluded beaches surround the pillars and this is an excellent spot for both snorkeling and diving to see some rare fish. The Pillars of Hercules can be reached from a hiking trail from Galleon Beach. The trail itself is beautiful with cactus and towering agave that must be hundreds of years old. Prepare to scramble over rocks though and bring plenty of water!
Reader Question: What is your favorite non-beach activity?