What Travel Writers Say

Antigua & Barbuda - boat races, sandy beaches & a relaxed attitude

© by Mike Keenan
Jetty At Curtain Bluff, Antigua

From the air, Antigua & Barbuda resemble tropical gems in a turquoise sea. Their Spanish names translate as "ancient" and "bearded," but I think that "playa de arena" (sandy beach) is a far superior descriptor. The twin-island nation lies between the Caribbean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean and actually includes a number of smaller islands including Great Bird, Green, Guinea, Long, Maiden and York Islands and further south, the island of Redonda. It's nicknamed "Land of 365 Beaches," one for each day of the year due to an overabundance of pristine, sandy beaches that surround each island.
     I start my exploration at Nelson's Dockyard, part of a national park. It's the only existing Georgian naval dockyard in the world, built in 1725. It was once England's most important naval outpost in the Caribbean. Along the waterfront, buildings are signposted with dates of origin and former uses, from the Sawpit Shed to the Copper and Lumber Store. In the Naval Officer's House, a museum provides a history of the area.
     In April the dockyard buzzes with activity featuring Antigua's annual Sailing Week. Roughly 17 degrees north of the Equator, the trade winds from the Atlantic entice more than 1,500 sailors to vie in high-speed competition that involves a roundtrip from Dockyard to Dickenson Bay and back. April also features the Classic Yacht Regatta. Traditional craft built of wood and steel make this an aesthetic show more about beauty than speed. American Sailing Week is a June event filled with instructional clinics, races and day sails.
     St. John's, the island's animated main town, rises from the harbor, backed by a twin-spired cathedral. At the Antigua and Barbuda Museum, I view artifacts such as ancient stone pendants and flint knives, displays on cassava, and for sports fans, the cricket bat of Sir Vivian Richards, a favourite hometown athlete. (comparable to a Wayne Gretzky stick.) The English settled on Antigua in 1632; Sir Christopher Codrington settled on Barbuda in 1684. Slavery, established to run sugar plantations around 1684, was abolished in 1834. The British ruled from 1632 to 1981, with a brief French interlude in 1666.
     I stop in Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine for a quick glance, and at Redcliffe Quay, a series of historic buildings are transformed into a retail village. Originally a slave-trading yard, the buildings were used by merchants and innkeepers after emancipation. In the countryside, almost a hundred towers, remnants of Antigua's sugar mills, dot the countryside where 150 sugar-producing plantations once stood. At Betty's Hope, founded in the 1650s, twin mills have been restored to working condition.

Galley Bay Beach - Antigua   Catamaran - Antigua   Local Shop - Fig Tree Drive, Antigua   Market    Nelsons Dockyard - Antigua   St Johns Cathedral - Antigua

     Now, if it's peace and quiet that one seeks, head rather to lethargic Barbuda, the lesser-known of the two main islands, feeling untouched by progress with the principal inhabitants, the graceful frigate birds. You will encounter few people, but do take a boat ride through the Frigate Bird Sanctuary in Codrington Lagoon to view these amazing birds that spend most of their lives in the air because they can't walk or swim.

Pristine Beach - Barbuda    Jolly Beach Resort Sunset - Antigua   View From Bar - Cocobay, Antigua   View From Shirley Heights Of English Harbour    Wedding On Fryers Beach

     Here, there's nightly entertainment, nightclubs and casinos and sightseeing involves the museum, art galleries, Harmony Hall (an art gallery with restaurant and nearby beach), glass bottom boat trips, visit to the fruit, vegetable and newly opened craft market, a visit to the Antigua Black Pineapple fields, Parham village and visits to renovated forts and sites, such as Nelson's Dockyard and Shirley's Heights.
     Check out Martello Tower, Castle Hill, Highland Hill, Bryant Cave and many other caves. Snorkeling, scuba diving, turtle watching, bone fishing, horseback riding, hiking, cycling and herbal tours are more activities. Tours are available to neighboring islands, such as the active volcano island of Montserrat and Dominica, the island of rivers and waterfalls.
     V.C. Bird International Airport (ANU) to English Harbour is approximately 23 km (14 m) and a Toronto flight takes 4 hours. Average temperatures High/Low in winter are 28/ 24C (82/75 F) and the language is English.

Photo Credits
Courtesy of Caribbean Tourism Organization

Mike Keenan writes for QMI Agency (Sun Media) Canada's largest newspaper publisher, printing 44 daily newspapers as well as a web portal, Canoe.ca. Besides regular columns for the St. Catharines Standard, Welland Tribune and Niagara Falls Review. Mike has been published in the Globe and Mail, Toronto Star, Buffalo Spree, Stitches, West of the City and Hamilton-Burlington's View Magazine. His work is found in QMI published dailies such as the Toronto Sun, Ottawa Sun, Vancouver Sun, London Free Press, Calgary Sun, Winnipeg Sun and Edmonton Sun.

17°08'12"N 061°47'35"W

Click for V.C. Bird, Antigua Forecast

If you go
Caribbean Tourism Organization: http://www.onecaribbean.org/
Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Antigua_%26_Barbuda
Wikitravel: http://wikitravel.org/en/Antigua_and_Barbuda
About.com: http://gocaribbean.about.com/od/antiguaandbarbuda/bb/antiguabarbuda.htm
Places of worship: http://www.trivester.com/caribbean/antigua/churches/placesofworship.html
Fiction: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Category:Antigua_and_Barbuda_novels
Movies featuring Antigua & Barbuda: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Caribbean_films
Trip Advisor: http://www.tripadvisor.ca/Hotels-g150894-Antigua_and_Barbuda-Hotels.html

Travel Aid
Airlines (Wikipedia): http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_airlines
Currency conversion: http://www.xe.com/ucc/
Distance calculator: http://www.indo.com/distance/
Embassies/Consulates (Embassy World): http://www.embassyworld.com/
Health precautions (WHO): http://www.who.int/ith/en/
Maps (Google interactive map): http://maps.google.com/
Maps (Mapquest) U.S. & Canada: http://www.mapquest.com/maps/main.adp
Maps (Mapquest) World: http://www.mapquest.com/maps/main.adp?country=GB
Media Guide (local newspapers with current listings): http://www.abyznewslinks.com/
Temperature (Temperature World): http://www.temperatureworld.com/
Time zone converter: http://www.timezoneconverter.com/
YouTubes - Check These Out!

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