Antigua & Barbuda Feb 2018

So nice to escape the cold winter by heading down to the Caribbean!  After about a three and half hour flight, we arrived in Antigua of Antigua and Barbuda, an island in the West Indies.  Christopher Columbus discovered the island in 1493 and named it Antigua in honor of the Virgin of La Antigua in the Seville Cathedral.  Antigua means “ancient” in Spanish and to the locals, it is called Waladi which means “our own”.  Antigua and Barbuda was part of the British Empire before gaining sovereignty in 1961.  Antigua emerged from the Hurricane season of 2017 relatively unscathed whereas Barbuda was almost completely destroyed.  We stayed at the Sugar Ridge Resort near Jolly Bay which is one of the newest boutique resorts in Antigua for our short visit.

St. John’s, the capital of Antigua, is also the main port where the cruise ships arrive with hordes of tourists.  The white baroque towers of St. John’s Cathedral cannot be missed as it dominates the skyline of this candy-colored village.  Grab a drink in the restored Heritage or Redcliffe Quay with its stone warehouses and creole buildings.  Browse around the public market with all kinds of Caribbean fruit and vegetables and small boutiques, as well as the arts and craft market next door.


DSCF9304St. John’s Cathedral


DSCF9309Wandering around St John’s

DSCF9311Heritage Quay

Other places of interest are Shirley Heights Lookout and Nelson’s Dockyard in the south of Antigua.  Shirley Heights is a restored military lookout and gun battery with commanding views over English Harbour.  There is a Signal Station here to convey messages to St. John’s by way of Fort George on Monk’s Hill.  Shirley Heights is now known for its famous BBQ party with music and dancing every Sunday from 4pm on.

DSCF9347Shirley Heights Lookout


DSCF9342English Harbour

Nelson’s Dockyard is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and marina in English Harbour.  It is named after Admiral Horatio Nelson during the British colonial times.  This location was chosen as a naval base and dockyard because the harbour is naturally protected from the hurricanes every year.  In 1889 the dockyard fell into disrepair, when the British Royal Navy stopped using it, until 1951 when restoration began.  Nelson’s Dockyard was reopened in the 1960s with two hotels, a museum, and restaurants and shops.

DSCF9355Nelson’s Dockyard in English Harbour


DSCF9369Boat House Pillars at Nelson’s Dockyard


There is a famous saying in Antigua which is there are so many beaches here that you can have “one for every day of the year”.  Here in Antigua, life really is a beach.  Imagine white sand beaches, turquoise waters, and swaying palm trees.  Best time to visit is between mid-December and mid-April when the weather is coolest and driest.  However, with global warming and changing weather patterns, it was unusually wet during our visit.   One of the most famous beaches is Dickenson Bay which is a mile long beach with many hotels and beach bars.  Another popular beach is Jolly Beach set in a bay with white sand and palm trees.  As you head further south-west down the island, there are several beautiful white sand beaches such as Ffrye’s Bay, Darkwood Beach, Crab Hill Bay etc.  These beaches are most busy when the Antiguans come on the weekends or when cruise ships arrive for their land excursions.  Our resort has beach attendants on both Turner Beach and Valley Church Beach where they will set you up with a lounger and umbrella and serve you lunch and drinks.  We spent an afternoon at the Nest Beach Bar at Valley Church Beach.  It was relatively busy until all of a sudden most people left around 3pm.  I guess they were probably rushing back to the cruise ships.  The following day, because our day trip to Barbuda was cancelled due to rough seas, we parked ourselves at Jacqui O’s Beach House.  It is definitely one of the nicer beach clubs on the island with cocoon loungers for the guests.  The food was excellent too, probably the best we had on the island.

DSCF9315Valley Church Beach

DSCF9316Valley Church Beach

DSCF9319Valley Church Beach


DSCF9325Jacqui O’s Beach House

DSCF9326Jacqui O’s Beach House


It is truly a pity that we didn’t make it to Barbuda which is about a 90-min ferry ride north from Antigua.  Due to high winds and rough seas, the catamarans were cancelled and the airport has not reopened yet, so there was no way for us to get there. 😟 Most of its small population live in the town of Codrington.  With the massive destruction by Hurricane Irma in September of 2017, the island has been abandoned with all the residents evacuated to Antigua.  People are slowly returning to rebuild their homes.  The beaches there are more pristine and definitely less crowded than the ones in Antigua.  Most tourists come on a day tour with one of the catamaran or ferry companies to see the Pink Sand Beach and the Frigate Bird Sanctuary at Codrington Lagoon.  This is supposedly the largest frigate bird colony outside of the Galapagos.  Before Hurricane Irma, there was an estimated population of 100,000 frigate birds here.  These birds travel between Barbuda and Galapagos Islands during the different mating seasons.  They are known to be the oldest avian species tracing back some 50 million years.  They are also known as the man o’war bird because they are much larger and stronger, they intimidate weaker flyers such as pelicans and cormorants until they drop their catch.  The males have wingspans of over 7 feet and have a red pouch under their throats that puff up during the mating season for attracting females.  I saw them in the Galapagos and was hoping to see them again in Barbuda.
From Antigua, we continue our trip to Tobago.  Stay tuned!

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