For a Caribbean getaway, you can’t top Antigua. This island, with an area of 108 square miles and a little more than 80,000 residents, is a wonderland of beaches, villages, and stunning inland scenery. Christopher Columbus named it “Antigua,” although it also goes by the moniker “Wadadli,” which natives bestowed upon it. Whatever you call it, the island certainly boasts many thrilling attractions, including the following eight.
1. Galley Bay Beach
As you stroll along the water at Galley Bay Beach, you might feel as though you’ve entered a “Pirates of the Caribbean” movie. Its sand is white and its water bright turquoise. Sea turtles frequently nest here, and you might be so lucky as to spot a hatching egg. Further, Galley Bay Beach’s surfing conditions are first-rate.
2. Betty’s Hope
History buffs simply must go to Betty’s Hope, located in Pares Village. Betty’s Hope was once Antigua’s biggest sugar plantation, back when the island was a British colony. Today, this attraction offers visitors a vivid feel for plantation life. There are windmills with authentic equipment, as well as a visitor’s center that used to be a cotton house.
3. Nelson’s Dockyard National Park
History also comes to life at the elaborate Nelson’s Dockyard National Park. The “Nelson” in the name refers to Admiral Horatio Lord Nelson, who made this spot his headquarters between 1784 and 1787. Nelsonian artifacts, including his personal telescope, are on display at the Dockyard Museum. And the area is rife with charming shops and marina-side cafes.
4. Heritage Quay
Popular among cruise ship passengers, Heritage Quay is a two-story shopping mall. The plaza beside the mall, where steel-drum musicians often perform, is lined with palm trees and offers beautiful views of St. John’s Harbor. Two hotels can be found in the vicinity.
5. Shirley Heights
Adjacent Nelson’s Dockyard is Shirley Heights. The top of this hill, which is about 492 feet above sea level, lets you soak in the sights of the volcano Montserrat, the island Guadeloupe, and the Antiguan sunset. Shirley Heights was once a military lookout point; you’ll see remnants of military fortifications all over. Be aware that the hike up is strenuous, so you may want to reward yourself afterwards with a drink or some barbecue at Shirley Heights Lookout Bar & Restaurant.
6. Devil’s Bridge
Devil’s Bridge is a national park in eastern Antigua, a place where the Caribbean meets the Atlantic. The park’s most notable feature is a gigantic arch made of limestone, the product of millions of years of natural forces. Indeed, this “bridge” is stunning to behold, but you should think twice before crossing it. It’s slippery and very dangerous to walk on, and people do so at their own risk.
7. Stingray City
A journey to Stingray City begins at Seaton’s, a northeastern Antiguan settlement. At Seaton’s you’ll be delighted by parrots and monkeys, and then you’ll board a speedboat for the five-minute trip to Stingray City. Stingray City is a large, shallow pool in the midst of an extensive coral reef. Here you can pet and feed stingrays, and even snorkel if you so choose.
8. Antigua’s Donkey Sanctuary
Many children adore the Donkey Sanctuary, a shelter for more than 150 donkeys managed by the Antigua and Barbuda Humane Society. It’s open Monday through Saturday, and visitors may pet, feed, and otherwise spend quality time with these faithful creatures. One of the most popular donkeys is Stevie, a gentle animal who loves the attention he receives from his human friends. Stevie was blinded after being hit by a vehicle.