Antigua is a popular port for cruise passengers. Formerly a British colony, Antigua is known for its beautiful white sand beaches, expansive coral reefs for snorkeling and diving, soft adventure opportunities, sheltered sailing harbors, and historic sites. If you’re planning to travel to Antigua, here are a few of the most popular things to do on your visit.
1. Check Out The City. St. John, the capital city of Antigua and Barbuda, offers historic venues as well as enticing opportunities for shopping and dining. The Museum of Antigua and Barbuda houses artifacts from colonial settlers and the Arawak Indians, who first settled the island around 200 B.C. With its baroque towers, St. John's Cathedral (built in 1845) provides a beautiful backdrop for pictures. Most of the city's shops are in Heritage Quay or clustered around St. Mary's Street and High Street, but Redcliffe Quay is also popular. If you're in town on a Saturday morning, don't miss the public marketplace for its tempting array of fresh fruits, produce, arts and crafts, and more.
2. Take in The Views. Nelson’s Dockyard National Park is one of Antigua’s top tourist attractions. The dockyard at English Harbour was developed as a base for the British Navy in the 18th century. As the only completely restored as the only Georgian dockyard in the world, it is a tourist magnet for history buffs and families who love attractions reminiscent of Pirates of the Caribbean. Several shops and restaurants are available here as well. It's fun to head to Shirley Heights, up above the harbor, for the great views across the Caribbean and live music on Sundays.
3. Head to the Beach. Antigua is blessed with over 365 beaches – one for every day of the year. With so many silky white strands to explore, it’s hard to choose just one to visit. Families and active types like to head to Dickenson Bay for its water sport rentals. Half Moon Bay, Runaway Bay, Long Bay, Darkwood Beach, Turners Beach and Deep Bay are other top beach locations on Antigua.
4. Chill at a Resort. All-inclusive resorts provide a relaxing, no-hassle base of operations for cruise passengers in Antigua. Several, such as the popular Elite Island Resorts (http://www.eliteislandresorts.com) offer day passes at their all-inclusive properties. Contact Elite Island Resorts in advance by e-mail or phone (800-858-4618 or 954-481-8787) to see if resort passes are available on your Antigua port date and to make reservations.
5. Get Out on the Water. A number of tour operators offer boat tours and adventures taking passengers to remote sites along Antigua’s rugged coastline. Highlights often include the Stingray City Marine Park where passengers can swim with stingrays and tropical fish, snorkeling over colorful coral reefs, a stop at uninhabited Green Island, tours of Nelson’s Dockyard, visits to Devil’s Bridge, and more.
6. Explore New Heights. See Antigua, Barbuda or Montserrat by air with Caribbean Helicopters. These unique excursions allow cruise passengers to see the sights in an unforgettable way. The Montserrat Volcano Tour takes passengers to view the live Soufriere Hills Volcano towering over 3,000 feet above sea level with sights of the crater, pyroclastic flows, and the former capital of Plymouth – buried in some spots under 40 feet of ash. If you have your heart set on a particular helicopter tour, make your reservations as far in advance as possible.
7. Adopt a Donkey. Families and kids enjoy visiting Antigua’s Donkey Sanctuary. Located on the eastern side of the island about 30 minutes from St. John’s, the Donkey Sanctuary is home to more than 150 donkeys. The Antigua & Barbuda Humane Society runs the Sanctuary and adoptions are available to help to feed and care for the animals. For more information, visit http://www.antiguaanimals.com.
8. Fly Through the Canopy. For those seeking excitement, the Antigua Rainforest Canopy Tour offers an adrenaline-filled experience. Located in the Fig Tree Drive area of Antigua’s countryside, the tour consists of 21 different elements and lasts approximately 2 1/2 hours.
9. Touch a Ray. Visitors can feed and snorkel with Southern Rays at Stingray City Antigua. Participants start their adventure at the tour’s land base in the company of monkeys and parrots. After a short boat ride to a shallow sandy area, guests can touch and feed friendly rays and snorkel amidst colorful coral reefs and tropical fish. Of course, plenty of opportunities for memorable pictures are available.
10. Go Island Hopping. Antigua’s location makes it easy to visit Barbuda or Montserrat by helicopter or ferry. Caribbean Helicopters operates trips to both islands and the Excellence catamaran makes day trips to Barbuda. For those who would prefer to stay closer to port, catamaran trips to uninhabited Bird Island National Park and Green Island are also available.