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
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
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. Johns, 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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
Your Antigua adventure awaits! If you’re ready for sun, sand, and sea paired with culture, history, and Caribbean cuisine, a luxury 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.