Once a struggling island solely dependent on its sugar crop, Antigua has developed into a modern-day paradise. During your brief stay on this idyllic oasis of 108 square miles, you will fall in love with its glorious beaches, experience its serene British traditions and revel in its natural beauty and benevolent climate.
St. John'sThe capital and economic center of the island is St. John's, with a population of about 40,000. Located in a sheltered cove on the northwestern tip of the island, the city was an important trading center beginning in the 17th century.
Begin your tour with one of the most prominent architectural masterpieces on the island, The Cathedral of St. John the Divine, located between Newgate and Long streets. The original structure, built in 1681, has been destroyed and rebuilt more than once; currently, the interior is encased in pine pitch, intended to secure it against hurricanes or earthquakes. The figures of Saint John the Baptist and St. John the Divine at the south gate are said to have been taken from one of Napoleon's ships and brought to Antigua by a man-of-war.
The Museum of Antigua and Barbuda, nearby at Long and Market streets, is housed in the historic British colonial courthouse, built in 1750. Displays range from the handmade tools and religious objects of the Amerindians who once inhabited Antigua to various items recovered from recent shipwrecks. Another fascinating museum is the Museum of Marine Art, on Gambles Terrace at the outskirts of town. It features an outstanding collection of seashells, corals and relics salvaged from old shipwrecks.
Around the IslandFort James, on Fort Road, was named in honor of King James II, the British monarch in power at the start of its construction in 1704. This fortification is noted for its 36 powerful guns--10 of which remain today--that were never fired to repel an attack. Fort Barrington, situated nearby at Deep Bay, saw more action than any other fort during the wars of the 17th and 18th centuries.
Located in the village of Parham directly east of St. John's, the Anglican St. Peter's Church was once described as "the finest church in the West Indies." The original construction, built in 1755, was gutted by fire; the current church was designed by Thomas Weekes in 1840. An earthquake severely damaged the structure in 1843, but it remains one of Antigua's most beautiful churches.
To the south of Pares Village, Betty's Hope, the first major sugar plantation on Antigua, was built by Sir Christopher Codrington in 1674 and named after his daughter. Codrington's success was responsible for establishing sugarcane as the island's primary cash crop by the end of the century. Two old windmill towers and ruins of the still house remain.
East of Betty's Hope is Indian Town, believed to be the site of the first Amerindian landings centuries ago; Atlantic breakers crashing over the cliffs for eons have carved out a natural rock formation known as Devil's Bridge.
The 1669 construction of Fort George, situated atop Monk's Hill, was one of the earliest attempts at fortifying the entrance to Falmouth Harbour on the island's south coast. Within its walls you can see ruins of the original buildings, plus the water cisterns and sites for the original 32 cannons. And at the ruins of nearby English Harbour's fortifications--Shirley Heights--you can view Nelson's Dockyard below.
Also overlooking Nelson's Dockyard, Clarence House was built for Prince William Henry when he served as commander of the H.M.S. Pegasus here in 1787. This classic example of Georgian architecture now serves as the country residence of Antigua's Governor and is open to the public when His Excellency is away.
Columnar Supports for the Sail Loft Building at Nelson's Dockyard
A tribute to Lord Admiral Horatio Nelson, the restored Nelson's Dockyard, at English Harbour, functions today as a yacht chartering center and headquarters for the annual Sailing Week Regatta. The small museum, The Admiral's House, is a two-story wood structure featuring a display of memorabilia from the era of Nelson's tenure on the island. The Copper and Lumber store has been converted into a hotel, and The Officer's Quarters Building is now home to a gallery featuring the works of local artists.
South of St. John's, the Megaliths at Greencastle Hill, supposedly set in place by human hands for the worship of the sun god and the moon goddess, are more likely a natural geological formation.
One of the best ways to see many of these sights is by taking a Shore Excursion. Check with your Cruise Director for more information.
BeachesThe locals claim that Antigua has been blessed with 365 beaches, one for every day of the year.
On the eastern shore, locations such as Nonsuch Bay and Mercers Creek offer world-class beachcombing. The seashells that wash ashore are among the most beautiful you're likely to find on the island.
Pigeon Point, located in Falmouth Harbour on the southern shore, is a favored white-sand beach. But for real seclusion, it's the other beaches in the area that are a temptation. You'll find neither changing facilities nor food vendors, so prepare accordingly. The south shore offers the most colorful shoals and reefs for snorkelers and divers.
If you want a more festive atmosphere, head for Antigua's northernmost shore; the Dickenson Bay area is noted for popular beaches, resorts and party boats. Beginning divers and snorkelers might visit Fitches Creek, a particularly safe site with nearly waveless coves.
SportsAntigua offers a huge selection of recreational activities. Its balmy tropical weather is ideal year-round for a wide variety of sports.
Divers can explore the many reefs and shoals that are teeming with fascinating and exotic marine life. Dozens of harbors and coves supply colorful and safe access for windsurfing and other water sports. For sailing, there is a tremendous selection of crafts from which to choose, ranging from private catamarans for two all the way to party boats for two hundred. And deep-sea fishing is ideal here; the available charters range from powerboats to sailing vessels.
The Cedar Valley Golf Club near St. John's has been touted as one of the best 18-hole championship courses in the Caribbean. This 6,100-yard, par 70 course is also the site of the Antigua Open, usually held each March. Visitors will also find numerous tennis courts throughout the island. Other land-sports options include horseback riding and bicycle rentals.
ShoppingWhen it comes to shopping, the capital is not only the heart of the island; it's also where you'll find the most bargains on imported duty-free goods, Caribbean-made products and chic fashions, including those by Antiguan designers.
Two main shopping districts are located side by side. The shops at Heritage Quay, a waterfront complex at the foot of St. Mary's Street, have the best selection of luxury items like china, crystal, watches, perfume, jewelry and linens--all at duty-free prices. Next door, Redcliffe Quay was a 19th-century slave compound; carefully restored and converted into a traditional marketplace, the Quay now serves as the heart of the art community. Its boutiques offer handcrafted gold jewelry and trendy clothing, and its studios are filled with local art.
In addition to these complexes, you'll find Caribbean perfumeries, Batik boutiques and other shops along High, Redcliffe and St. Mary's streets.
DiningVisitors will find first-class gourmet restaurants here, as well as colorful alfresco caf‚s and fast-food outlets. The dress code is casual during the day. Most restaurants take all major credit cards, with the exception of Diners Club, which is often not accepted. Most restaurants also accept U.S. dollars or traveler's cheques.
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