Island Activities

 

Antigua is a holiday island and although many people come to the island to relax on a beach or beside a pool, there are also many activities which can spice up a holiday and these are as applicable to someone arriving by yacht as by any other means.

Antigua’s National Park, in particular, Nelson’s Dockyard in English Harbour, now with World heritage status, is Antigua’s main tourist attraction well known to most yachting visitors. Around the National Park there are plentiful signs of the occupation by British soldiers in the 18th & 19th Centuries including a variety of buildings in differing states of repair, ancient graveyards, water gathering systems, etc., many of which are accessible by road but some only by the walking trails which are maintained by the Royal Naval Tot Club of Antigua & Barbuda.  These trails are well used by tourists and local inhabitants of Antigua including school children researching nature projects and marking different species of plant life which grow on the island. A map of the trails is available from the museum in Nelson’s Dockyard. Anyone interested in flora and fauna will find there is much to see on the trails.  Also cleared by the Royal Naval Tot Club were the surrounds to Clarence House exposing it to Nelson’s Dockyard and causing its importance to be recognised. Clarence House has now been restored following the donation of funding by one of Antigua’s regular yachting visitors.
Shopping
Shopping

A trip along Fig Tree Drive, Antigua’s rain forest, will give a very different perspective to the island and has a large variety of well established trees and smaller plants.  One way of seeing the rainforest is from a tree top tour through the forest canopy on zip lines.  An abundance of flora and fauna can be viewed from a completely different perspective whilst enjoying an exciting high level ride. For those wanting a little more there is always the assault course and, afterwards, you can relax in the bar and buy a souvenir T-shirt and photos of your ride through the tree tops.  Whilst in the rain forest take a moment to stop at Lovely Lynn’s bar not only for a refreshing drink but also to buy the hottest sauce found on the island. Fresh fruit is also available.


To those wishing to try a little ‘trail blazing’ but find the thought of climbing hills on two legs a bit daunting, an ATV or 4 x 4 will get you to most places.  Take a map but don’t rely on it as none of them is too accurate and there is no GPS on the island. Most mobile ‘phones will have a compass, use that with a map to get around.

Above the water there are all kinds of different ways to get around from kayak eco tours to high speed RIBs and 70 foot catamarans.  There are a  number of boat charter companies and it is possible to charter your own yacht or motor boat by the day, some skippered, but others you can drive or sail yourself. Windsurfing for the beginner or the experienced surfer can be found at several spots around the island. In restricted areas, jet skis can be hired but, like their land equivalent, must be treated with respect together with consideration for other users of the water.

Antigua is not without its sports facilities. There are two golf  courses  open to visitors.  Cedar Valley is located in the centre of the island and the other course is in Jolly Harbour.  Many of the resorts have tennis courts and pools.  Jolly Harbour has a pool open to the public.  Temo Sports in Falmouth has squash and tennis courts.  Most of these courses, courts and pools are available to visitors for a small fee.

Shopping
Stingray City

We cannot emphasise enough how good the visit is to Stingray City where you can swim with these surprisingly gentle and friendly sea creatures and observe other marine wildlife. The pictures don’t lie, you can stroke and feed the stingrays and, almost as enjoyable, watch the reactions of others as the stingrays swim between your legs but be careful not to tread on them.  Stingray City makes several trips a day out to the feeding grounds and it is wise to book in advance.

Just a few of the other activities available are deep sea fishing, diving on coral reefs, swimming with manta rays, eco tours, round the island boat trips, yacht racing in Falmouth Harbour as well as the zip lining through the rain forest.  You can even take a helicopter trip around Montserrat’s smoking volcano

There are several charter fishing companies on the island and big fish can be caught if you are guided by an expert.  Based in Nelson’s Dockyard, probably the best known deep sea fishing vessel is Overdraft with her skipper, Frank Hart, who is a many times winner of Caribbean deep sea fishing competitions. Equally exciting can be viewing marine life whether by scuba diving or just snorkelling.  A number of reefs exist quite close to the shore and can be reached by dinghy or a short swim. Stingray City is certainly worth a visit where you can swim with these surprisingly gentle and friendly sea creatures and observe other marine wildlife. For those who wish to keep their feet dry a glass bottomed boat could be the answer.


The Caribbean airline, LIAT provides a regular air service between islands and day trips to nearby islands are perfectly feasible. Travel agents on the island can sort flights at short notice or you can go on-line to LIAT.com and make your own booking.

There are also regular flights and a ferry to nearby Montserrat with its active volcano. Access to the deserted and ash filled Plymouth is now permitted under certain conditions.  Take a taxi and visit the famous and now derelict Air Studios where pop groups such as the Rolling Stones once performed.

Rainforest zipline

Shopping is always a major activity on a romantic island such as Antigua duty free jewellery abounds.  As the saying goes, ‘diamonds are a girl’s best friend’ and diamonds, together with many other precious stones are for sale, duty free, in the shops around Heritage and Redcliffe Quays.  Antigua has its own special fashion and if you forgot that little cocktail dress then do not despair, you are bound to find something in Redcliffe Quay and, when you get home, you can guarantee that you will never meet the same dress at a party.  
The historic district of Redcliffe Quay on the edge of St. John’s harbour was once the slave-trading area for the town. Along the peaceful quayside are the original Georgian buildings interspersed by small courtyards and now restored, renovated and painted in a large variety of dazzling colours.

The old buildings of Redcliffe Quay comprise around 30 shops selling gifts, pottery, paintings and other locally made gifts, as well as clothes, shoes and accessories.  Most goods are priced in U.S dollars, are duty free and aimed squarely at tourists, particularly those from the cruise ships which dock nearby.  Always ask if the price is U.S dollars or E.C. dollars as U.S dollars are about three times more.  

Pick up an artistic painting, a length of the local Antiguan Batik cloth or a local piece of handmade artefact. You will be amazed to discover what a polite greeting could do to the final price of an item. If you feel an item is a little more than you wish to pay, don’t be afraid to ask for ‘the best price’ and don’t be afraid to walk away if the price is not to your liking.  If you don’t see what you want, just ask.  Many items are hidden away in store rooms with only a fraction on display.  If you would like a particular design or wording on a T-shirt, one can be printed up while you wait and you could end up with a totally unique memento of your visit to Antigua, again just ask.

Redcliffe Quay is a great photo opportunity.  What is now a dock for visiting yachts was the main quay for trading slaves, rum, sugar and coffee between Antigua, Europe and Africa. To purchase duty free goods take your passport and your ticket showing the date you are leaving the island, shops are quite strict on only selling duty free goods to tourists. Within the courtyards, shaded by awnings and palm trees are several cafés and restaurants.  In addition to being a place for shopping and dining, If you see the superstructure and funnels of one or more cruise ships as you approach downtown St. John’s you know it will be busy and you may wish to explore Redcliffe Quay on another day.

St. John’s is small enough to walk around in less than a day.  At the top of the town is the cathedral, erected between 1845 and 1848 following the destruction of the two previous churches in earthquakes and is described as the most imposing of all the Cathedrals of the West Indies.

Whatever the length of your stay there is never enough time to sample all of what Antigua  has to offer.  It takes more than one visit and there are probably a thousand and one things you would like to do  before you go. If nothing else, you must not  forget to go to Shirley Heights and look west as the sun settles into the Caribbean sea. With luck you might just catch the ‘green flash’ as the sun ‘touches’ the indigo coloured water.

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