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Dreaming of turquoise waters, powdery sand, and abundant sunshine? An idyllic island haven soaked in warm rays of sun awaits in the Caribbean. Antigua is a destination for those looking to vacation in a real-life postcard. With a beach for every day of the year, it’s easy to laze the days away by the seaside—but there’s plenty more to keep you busy in between beach breaks.

From cultural experiences to culinary delights and outdoor adventures, Antigua is a destination with so much to explore. Get ready to plan an island getaway using these top things to do in Antigua as inspiration.

Step Back in Time at Nelson’s Dockyard

Old wooden house in Nelson's Dockyard

Nelson’s Dockyard

Experience the historical maritime cultural site of Nelson’s Dockyard in Antigua’s English Harbor, located on the southern coast of the island. Impeccably restored buildings from the 1700s that house restaurants and shops, as well as the Dockyard Museum, are all within the national park. This UNESCO World Heritage Site was the original British maritime hub host to the naval base, and the harbor served as excellent protection from storms.

Named after the famous Admiral Horatio Nelson, the dockyard is a place where history comes alive for visitors. Stop by the house that the admiral once lived in, explore the museum, visit an art gallery, and browse shops in buildings that have been standing for hundreds of years.

Other architectural highlights include the Copper and Lumber Store, constructed in 1789, which has been turned into a hotel; the Cordage and Canvas Store; Boat House; and Fort Berkeley, which was built in 1704. For a more active adventure, venture out on one of the hiking trails that lead from the dockyard area.

Taste Antiguan Rum

Bottles of Antiguan rum at a bar

Antiguan rum

Get a taste of Caribbean culture through the region’s most famous drink—rum. Produced and exported as early as the 1700s, rum has become a staple liquor of the Caribbean. Learning about the history and methods used for producing Antiguan rum with authentic island sugarcane is a great way to dive into island culture. Indulge in a rum tasting paired with Antiguan food for the ultimate experience.

In the capital city of St. John’s, you’ll find the Backyard Bar and Restaurant, known for its homemade food and various flavored rum tastings. Some of the most well-known rum brands produced in Antigua are English Harbour, top-shelf Cavalier, and Kokocaribe, all crafted by the historic Antigua Distillery Limited. See if you can detect the notes of vanilla, brown sugar, oak, floral, and black pepper that make up the flavors of Antiguan rum.

Lounge at Ffryes Beach

Beautiful turquoise water of Ffryes Beach

Ffryes Beach

Choosing a stretch of sand to enjoy on the island of Antigua can be a bit overwhelming with so many of the Caribbean’s best beaches at your disposal. Ffryes is an easy choice, just half an hour from St. Johns on the western shoreline, where sparkly clear seas beckon swimmers and snorkelers to explore the underwater world.

The beach is divided into two stretches of luxuriously soft sand: Big Ffryes and Little Ffryes. Other than lounging and swimming (which is easily one of the best things to do in Antigua), you can rent a jet ski or stop by the beach bar, which offers food and drink in a vibrant atmosphere. Ffryes Beach will have you relaxed for a day well spent.

Enjoy the View at Shirley Heights Lookout

Scenic Antigua view from Shirley Heights Lookout

Shirley Heights Lookout

One of the best things to do in Antigua is to admire the sprawling island views from Shirley Heights Lookout on the south coast. This old military lookout and battery offer panoramic views from about 500 feet above sea level.

To reach the lookout, you can choose between driving or hiking from Galleon Beach. You’ll gaze upon English and Falmouth Harbors, Guadeloupe, and Montserrat from above for an iconic postcard-perfect scene. Every Sunday, locals and visitors to the island enjoy a Caribbean barbeque and live music at Shirley Heights, a fun tradition to take part in.

Although the views are impressive at any time of day, sunset is known to be especially stunning.

Stroll Redcliffe Quay

Waterfront of Redcliffe Quay with colorful buildings

Redcliffe Quay

Experience the culture of Antigua’s capital in St. John. Stroll the quaint streets of Redcliffe Quay, the waterfront heart of the city, where you’ll find history, shops, and restaurants in vibrantly colored buildings that date back to the 17th century.

What used to be a bustling trading spot for goods such as rum, sugar, and coffee, Redcliffe Quay is now a top shopping district in St. John with clothing, souvenirs, artisan goods, jewelry, and more. Check out the fish market to see the island’s fresh catch bounty in action. Grab an ice cream as you stroll through historic alleyways, stop for a glass of vino at the wine bar to people-watch in this lively waterfront destination, or enjoy some Caribbean fare on a patio with the sea breeze keeping you cool.

Visit Fort James Beach

Couple relaxing in Fort James Beach

Fort James Beach

With so many incredible beaches in Antigua, visiting one is a must-do experience. Perched on the northwestern coast of the island, Fort James Beach is a gorgeous stretch of sand on Fort Bay less than ten minutes from St. John and the cruise port. Lounge the day away in the sun and sand, get active with a swim or beach volleyball game, and watch a local cricket game.

This lengthy beach is perfect for relaxing in your own space, with plenty of room for visitors. Chairs and umbrellas are available for rental, as well as restaurants and bars for refreshments throughout your fun-filled day.

If you’re looking to immerse yourself in local island history, make sure to stop at the nearby Fort James, a historical fort built in the 18th century to guard the harbor. Walk the fort’s remains and view the ancient cannons as you admire sweeping views of the picturesque harbor.

Embark on a Catamaran Cruise

Things to do in Antigua - Catamaran cruise

Catamaran cruise

One of the best ways to experience the island of Antigua is by boat. View the beauty of the shore with the cooling sea breeze as you sail in the waters surrounding the island.

Laze on the boat’s deck as you glide through impossibly blue waters. Stop for a swim or set out on a snorkel adventure to encounter tropical fish, turtles, and stingrays. All of that sailing is sure to make you hungry, so an authentic Caribbean barbeque is in order while admiring the views from the boat.

Explore the Pillars of Hercules and Mermaid Gardens

Unique rock formation of Pillars of Hercules

Pillars of Hercules

Hike the Carpenter Rock Trail from Galleon Beach in English Harbor or get into the water to find the Pillars of Hercules, an incredible limestone rock formation. This natural attraction that skirts the coast will take your breath away.

The marine life in the waters by the Pillars of Hercules is incredible, as sea turtles and various species of fish are often found swimming in the area. You’ll also encounter the Mermaid Gardens along this trek within the national park. Make sure to bring your swimsuit as you’ll want to take a dip in this natural pool set amongst stunning scenery.

Kayak Through Mangroves

People kayaking in North Sound Marine Park

North Sound Marine Park

North Sound Marine Park on the eastern coast of the island is host to a fantastic kayaking experience. Paddle through the coastal inlets filled with red mangroves, which are the heart of Antigua’s ecosystem. You’ll spot various species of birds and unique marine life such as the sea cucumber and colorful tropical fish of all sizes.

A guide will share information about the biodiversity, wildlife, and fragile ecosystem habitat of the mangrove forest, which is protected by an offshore reef. This peaceful activity is a win for nature lovers and a great way to get active and explore a lesser-known region of the island.

Drive Your Own Reef Rider

Things to do in Antigua - Reef Rider

Reef Rider

Captain your own two-person boat on a guided tour to some of the best places to snorkel in Antigua. On the southwest coast, the two-mile-long Cade’s Reef awaits with a rich underwater world to explore.

This is a premier destination for snorkelers and divers, where abundant marine life lives in warm waters with usually excellent visibility. You’ll have the chance to see angelfish, parrotfish, spiny lobsters, conch, eels, damselfish, eagle rays, and barracudas. Reef and nurse sharks have also been known to make an appearance in the area.

Swim With Stingrays

Snorkeling in Stingray City

Stingray City

Just off the northeastern coast of the island, you’ll find what is referred to as “Stingray City.” Visitors have the opportunity to swim in the clear, azure waters of the Caribbean Sea, greeted by the local stingrays gliding through the water.

A sandbar provides an ideal spot to relax and watch these sea creatures from above or below the water with snorkel gear. You may even get the chance to feed them!

Zip Through the Rainforest

Things to do in Antigua - ziplining


One of the top things to do in Antigua is going for a thrilling zipline ride through the rainforest canopy. Experience a bird’s-eye perspective of the lush island greenery as you traverse through a series of ziplines. Fly through the flora and fauna native to the island, rest in the amazing treehouse, and marvel at the tree giants like the silk cotton tree. You’ll see waterfalls, rock pools, tropical fruits, massive boulders, and vines galore that will have you feeling like you’re on an adventure movie set.

Challenge yourself on the incredible 12-zipline course featuring several suspension bridges for an immersive journey through the island rainforest. Or, choose the more family-friendly endeavor for a more relaxed yet still adrenaline-inducing course involving eight zip lines complete with gorge crossings.

Read: Best Zip Lines in the World

Climb Goat Hill

Goat Hill towering over the water

Goat Hill

Fort Barrington was built in 1779 on Goat Hill, a prominent strategic point overlooking St. John’s harbor. It was paired with Fort James on the opposite side of the bay to defend the anchorage.

The fort saw much action during its active life, which lasted to about 1850 and included the American Revolutionary War. However, its present state owes more to weather, age, and neglect than the many bombardments it withstood from enemy forces.

Remains include a circular battery, the gunpowder magazine, and former barracks. Sadly, the fort’s cannons were sold off for scrap in 1869 at a price of ten shillings per ton.

Lush landscape of Goat Hill

Goat Hill

There are ambitious plans to restore the site and add extra “eco-adventure” facilities for visitors. While those are in hand, one of the best things to do in Antigua is still to climb to the fort for the view.

From the top of Goat Hill, you have a magnificent panorama of the harbor, Deep Bay, and well out to sea.

See the Devil’s Bridge

Devil's Bridge, one of the best things to do in Antigua

Devil’s Bridge

Antigua’s underlying rock is limestone, easily eroded by wind and water. At Devil’s Bridge, you can see some of the sculpted formations that result.

Here, the ocean has carved away rock over millennia to form a natural arch. The resulting “bridge” stands at a point where the Atlantic Ocean and Caribbean Sea meet.

Rocky landscape of Devil's Bridge

Devil’s Bridge

Actually walking across the Devil’s Bridge is not a good idea, especially if it’s wet from the nearby blowholes. Its name is said to come from tales of those who jumped off to escape the horrors of enslavement.

Swimming near the bridge is equally dangerous because of the strong currents. Stay behind your camera to take in the views and dramatic wave action.

Hear the Story of Sugar

Betty’s Hope, one of the best things to do in Antigua

Betty’s Hope

Betty’s Hope was Antigua’s first sugar plantation, dating to 1650 and named after the owner’s daughter. In subsequent centuries, sugar became central to Antigua’s wealth, as it did on many Caribbean islands.

Planting sugar cane led to the island’s deforestation, an issue which still affects daily life. African slaves were imported to work the fields and about 87% of the island’s population is of African descent.

All of Antigua’s sugar plantations were in private ownership until the early 1900s. A central processing mill established in 1904 led directly to self-government and then independence from colonial rule in 1981.

Pathway leading to Betty’s Hope windmills

Betty’s Hope

This fascinating history of sugar is explored in depth in the present Betty’s Hope, now a heritage landmark. Two windmills form a centerpiece, one restored to full working order with some original 18th-century machinery.

At its height, the plantation cultivated and processed the sugar under exhausting and often dangerous conditions. The mills were worked all night during harvest season to crush the cane and extract its juice.

An interpretive trail around the site explains the whole process, from field to making Caribbean rum. Take a guided tour to hear stories that will bring the plantation and all its people back to life.

Go Duty-Free Shopping

Heritage Quay, one of the best things to do in Antigua

Heritage Quay

Heritage Quay is a dockside shopping center that greets visitors arriving in St. John’s. It’s a colorful area, with a boardwalk, pedestrianized streets, and duty-free shops.

This far from home, you’ll find lots of things for sale you may not need, but will certainly want. From Caribbean fashion and diamonds to leather and fine cigars, there is a wide range on offer.

One of the most popular stores is the Shipwreck Shop, which has imaginative, high-quality souvenirs. An area of the complex has also been set aside for local vendors to show off their crafts.

Continually being expanded and revamped, Heritage Quay is one of the most popular shopping complexes in the Caribbean and among the best things to do in Antigua. Stroll around, relax in a restaurant, or listen to some of the local entertainment that brings the complex alive.

See History at Antigua’s Museum

Exterior of Museum of Antigua and Barbuda

Museum of Antigua and Barbuda

The tiny Museum of Antigua and Barbuda belies its size with its wide, eclectic collection. From shards of ancient pottery to photos of present-day island heroes, it covers a lot of history.

You’ll find it in a building that is itself a period piece. Thought to be the oldest structure in town, the former St. John’s Courthouse was built in 1750.

Exhibits include studies of the Amerindian peoples who first inhabited the islands. Artifacts include animal skeletons, old books and maps, and photographs.

The gift shop is equally tiny, but quirky. It includes work from some prominent local artists. Outside, you’ll find picturesque remnants of the trains that once served the Antigua Sugar Factory.

Admire the “Big Church”

Beautiful facade of St. John's Cathedral

St. John’s Cathedral

The handsome St. John’s Cathedral stands on the highest point of Antigua’s capital. Consecrated in 1848, it replaced two earlier churches, the first of which dated to 1681.

With an architect from Bath, England and a builder from nearby Bristol, it’s no surprise the building has an English look to it. Its twin white towers, visible from all around St. John’s, have a baroque air.

View inside St. John's Cathedral

St. John’s Cathedral

The interior is of pitch pine, resistant to tropical rain, and is lined with memorials. Some were salvaged from the two earlier churches and are centuries old.

The pillars of the south gate bear lead statues of St. John the Divine (author of the Book of Revelation, after whom the cathedral is officially named), and St. John the Baptist. These are said to have been taken from a French ship in 1756 during the Seven Years’ War.

Once a symbol of colonial power, the “Big Church” became more accessible to local people during World War I. Now that it needs expensive restoration work, the community is pulling together to preserve this precious part of Antigua’s history.

Bask on Darkwood Beach

White sands of Darkwood Beach

Darkwood Beach

Only 15 minutes from St. John’s, Darkwood is a lovely beach in a lovely setting. Backed by green hills, its white sands and blue seas stand out even more.

The beach slopes gently into the water, offering warm shallows much enjoyed by families. There is good snorkeling at the northern end, always one of the best things to do in Antigua.

Piña colada in a glass

Piña colada

The southern end of the beach is dominated by a bar and restaurant that serves tasty Caribbean food. The piña coladas and other tropical drinks are even more popular.

You’ll find plenty of sun loungers and umbrellas for rent. If they are all busy, the sand is more than soft enough to relax on if you bring a towel to protect you from the heat.

Out to sea, the view takes in the island of Montserrat on a clear day. “The Emerald Isle of the Caribbean” might look close but it is about 80 miles away.

Adopt a Donkey

Donkeys at the Donkey Sanctuary

Donkey Sanctuary

The Antigua & Barbuda Humane Society runs a busy Donkey Sanctuary just outside Bethesda, north of English Harbour. One of the hidden gems in the Caribbean, it has some 150 animals you can pet and even help brush.

Donkeys have been part of life on Antigua for centuries. They were first imported in the 1630s to help in the sugar industry. The donkeys were bred with horses to produce mules and powered many of the sugar-crushing machines. They were also beasts of burden for farmers in the days before tractors.

Donkeys at the Donkey Sanctuary

Donkey Sanctuary

The island’s last sugar factory closed in the 1970s and many of the animals were subsequently abandoned. Hundreds of their descendants still roam wild on Antigua, living a precarious existence amid an ongoing drought.

Many of the donkeys that arrive at the sanctuary are pregnant, so it’s not unusual to see a newborn foal. You can do your bit to help just by visiting, buying a T-shirt, or adopting a donkey.

The center is fully wheelchair accessible and has several donkeys that are real characters. It’s a lovely alternative to the beach for anyone who admires these faithful animals.

Cool off at a Floating Bar

Dickenson Bay, one of the best things to do in Antigua

Dickenson Bay

Dickenson Bay on Antigua’s northwest coast is the island’s most developed beach. From restaurants to water sports and even an art gallery, there is plenty to see and do here.

It goes almost without saying that the beach is among the best on Antigua. With fine white sand and clear turquoise water, it’s a picture-perfect representation of this beautiful Eastern Caribbean island.

Dickenson Bay is just over two miles east of St. John’s and has a taxi stand right behind it. Only 15 minutes after leaving the capital, you can be lying in a deck chair with a tropical punch in hand.

If there’s a bit more effort left in you, take the free boat ride out to a floating bar. Lounge here while you watch more energetic holidaymakers zoom past on wave-riders or Hobie-cats.

Iconic phone booth along Dickenson Bay

Dickenson Bay

The offshore reef here protects the bay from big waves, making it ideal for swimmers and snorkelers. A landmark for every photographer is the traditional British red phone box (it’s K6-style, if you’re an enthusiast) among the palms.

Discover Cricket

Exterior of Sir Vivian Richards Stadium

Sir Vivian Richards Stadium

Anywhere you turn in Antigua you’re likely to see people playing the game of cricket. Whether on the beach, in parks or in the two major stadiums, it’s a local passion.

Although it might look very different, cricket has the same basic rules as baseball. As the saying goes: “You throw the ball, you hit the ball. You catch the ball.”

The island’s most famous cricketer is Sir Viv Richards. He played for the West Indies team for almost 20 years, hitting 8,540 runs for them, including 24 centuries (scoring 100 not out).

You’ll see a statue of the “Master Blaster” outside the national stadium that’s named after him 20 minutes’ drive from St. John’s. Another major local name in the sport is Curtly Ambrose, once the most feared fast bowler (pitcher) in the world.

The cricket season lasts from January through July, with official games on Thursdays, Saturdays, and Sundays. However, you can find someone to tell—or show—you how it’s played at any time of the year.

Go See V.C. Bird

Statue of V.C. Bird in Antigua

V.C. Bird Monument Photo by amanderson2 on Flickr, licensed under CC BY 2.0

Statues have become such controversial subjects in recent years that it’s easy to forget many are great works of art. Some not so much, of course.

St. John’s has the two important statues at the cathedral, and that of cricketer Sir Viv Richards. However, the most prominent is that of Sir Vere Cornwall (V.C.) Bird, the country’s first Prime Minister.

You might recognize his name from Antigua’s International Airport, called after him. He led the nation of Antigua & Barbuda to independence from Britain in 1981.

His colorful, 20-foot-tall monument, by Cuban artist Andres Gonzalez, is topped by a bust of him in a smart suit, red tie, and vest. It’s right next to the public market in central St. John’s, but be careful as it’s a busy intersection.

The best way to see this memorial to a much-loved local hero is on a guided tour. Putting his achievements into a historical context will give you a better understanding of him and of Antigua.

Taste Some Odd Fruit and Veg

Soursop in a basket


At local markets you’ll see many colorful tropical fruits you are familiar with. You’ll no doubt also sample orange, pineapple, or banana in fruit juices, or in a tropical punch.

Others may not be so familiar, but vendors will be happy to show them off or give you a taste. How familiar are you with breadfruit, soursop, June plum, or bitter melon?

The tastiest of these is soursop (also called guanabana, or graviola), which is often used in juices or desserts. It’s a prickly green fruit with a creamy texture and a strong flavor that might bring to mind pineapple or even strawberry.

Breadfruit tree in Antigua


Breadfruit is a starchy fruit, cooked, and eaten much like potato, with an interesting history. This is the fruit Captain Bligh sailed with from Tahiti in 1789, before the famous mutiny on HMS Bounty.

Bitter melon is a green, warty fruit with a bitter taste. Like many such sour fruits, it’s believed to have medicinal properties.

Callaloo on a plate


As well as fruit, you’ll see vegetables such as callaloo, or dasheen. These perhaps unfamiliar ingredients also make their way onto restaurant menus, much the best way to add them to your vacation memories of Antigua.

Read: Best Time to Visit Antigua

Aerial view of small Prickly Pear Island

Prickly Pear Island

Your Antigua adventure awaits! If you’re ready for sun, sand, and sea paired with culture, history, and Caribbean cuisine, a cruise to Antigua will check those boxes.

From tropical exploits in the rainforest to multiple opportunities for wildlife encounters both on land and water, Antigua has an abundance of activities for any type of traveler. Browse cruises to Antigua on our website and book your island paradise vacation today.

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