You finally made it. You found it – you’ve landed on that tropical beach island you were longing for so long, located in the Caribbean with one wonderful beach for every day of the year. Expect to stroll no less than 365 beaches when you land on the Antiguan white soft sand and adapt to the island time.
With so many of them, you can probably sense that most of what you’ll find here is exactly that, the beaches of Antigua. And that’s just a small taste of what locals are hiding there. Like the taste of the world’s sweetest pineapple or Antiguan black. Antigua black pineapple is worldwide known as the sweetest pineapple.
Antigua and Barbuda is one of the best destinations on the Caribbean, and who doesn’t love the Caribbean turquoise waters and the perfect tropical weather. It is a small nation in the Caribbean Sea with a population of nearly 100,000. A country that’s highly influenced by the British. It is an independent Commonwealth country with a Queen Elizbeth II being the head of the state. Most of the people that live in Antigua are a mix of British and Africans while English is the official language. Antigua is the most populated and the biggest island. Because of the many beaches that surround the island, it is known as the island with 365 beaches, one for every day of the year.
St. John’s is the capital city, where the cruise ships dock and arrive. A city that is easy to be explored on foot. There is a shopping mall full of colorful buildings housing restaurants and duty-free shops. Pay a visit to the Museum of Antigua and Barbuda housed in the colonial Court and the St. John’s Cathedral.
Betty’s Hope is a sugar mill that stands on where once was a sugarcane plantation. It’s a place that speaks a lot about the history of the island and the slavery, the tough life of the people in those days and how this island came to be what it is today. Worth visiting too.
BEACHES of Antigua
Every beach in Antigua has a public access. Instead of thinking about which beach you’ll be allowed to visit or not, your biggest worry will be about which one best suits your mood. The beaches are simply amazing, quiet, tranquil and relaxing. Exploring all of those beaches on your own is a perfect way to spend your vacation in Antigua. Beaches are everywhere and couples as well. When discovering new beaches on the island the best way to do that is in two, and three would probably mean party. Anyway, Antigua’s beaches do get a little bit busier and crowded on a cruise day, when ship cruises arrive for a day.
Regardless of the resorts located on some of the beaches anyone can visit any beach in Antigua and stay as long as they want. Usually, the ones that have hotels, resorts or restaurants will provide chairs and parasols for rent, water sports activities or tours that take off right from those beaches.
For example at the wonderful Hawksbill beach, where the Hawksbill Resort and Spa is located anyone is allowed to access. It’s a long stretch of sand with enough of a room for everyone even the nudist. For total resort experience though, the two of a most popular and beautiful are Dickenson Bay and Runaway Bay.
It’s no surprise that most of the locals would live in the capital St. John’s. So, naturally, the local’s favorite Fort James would be where else if not located very close to the St. John’s. But, attractive enough for the cruise visitors as well that arrive on the St. John’s dock. Near the capital is another amazing beach, the Deep Bay beach which is a quite popular spot for shipwreck diving.
Half Moon Bay beach is located below a National Park and it’s a great option for family vacationers. The clue is in the name, signifying that the form of this tranquil beach is in a half moon, with calm water on the one side but a bit more wavy on the other end. No wonder is so popular among Antiguans too which makes it a bit crowdy during the weekends. Very nice beach with wonderful underwater beauty easily accessible for anyone to enjoy.
Long Bay is just another beautiful beach for chilling and feeling, where you can relax under the tropical sun or snorkel right off the beach. This is a great beach for snorkeling so if you’re staying for a while here you can take the excursions, which will include a visit of this beach, accommodate in the hotel that has access here, or just come and explore on your own. Pineapple Hotel has access to this beach, but a lot of vendors sell beach accessories in nice colorful houses here too. Mama’s Pasta restaurant is quite a popular place for a nice lunch break. Another cozy beach that gets a bit busier when the cruise ships arrive and with not only tourist but locals too it can be much crowded than on other beaches. So, it can be really nice, when is not overcrowded which in general stands for any beach.
Most of the names of Antigua beaches are with bay implying exactly that, that they are all located in bays, protected from winds with calm and crystal waters. Antigua is simply great for some alternative types of vacationing and touring around. So many beaches to be seen and enjoyed available for a visit on a bus or taxi that can drive you to every spot. Just don’t expect amenities and facilities to be available on every one you see. And you’ll have to be more careful on the beaches that don’t have lifeguards. On an island like Antigua with so many beaches, you should ask a local for advice, like which ones are safe without tides or possible hazards.
The Jolly beach is more than a kilometer stretch of soft white sand located in front of the Jolly Beach Spa and Resort. This small village is home to the Jolly Marina Harbour that houses many shops, restaurants, and bars that soon will make you feel like never wanna leave. The area simply offers you everything for at least one full day on this beach.
South of the Jolly Bay is Valley Church beach. It is one of those you have to love. Uncrowded, rich in marine life where turquoise waters meet soft powder sand with stunning views. No rocks or noise just calm sea and soft sand with small shells and the beach bar at the end. It’s probably the best beach in the area. It’s just off the road and has a very nice access and parking close to the shore. On this beach, you can be accommodated in very nice tents and have that first-row perfect view, light up a fire in the nights and enjoy the sounds of the ocean. Finally, Ffryes beach is to many a favorite one. It’s truly a nice one. One of those where you can rent anything, and there is a nice restaurant at the end as well.
Another relaxing beach, the Turners beach, a long white sand and crystal waters challenging you to dip into. Very tidy and clean beach. Don’t miss out and meet the sea on your plate with the people in Turners bar and restaurant here (hence the name of the beach). Expect a lot of the tour boats and catamaran parties to end up here, on this beach and this restaurant. So, it can be quite lively.
Galleon beach. If you’re looking for a beach to snorkel from the shore in Antigua, you’re in the right place. Probably the best one that we know about with such an easy access to underwater shipwrecks. You can swim with sea turtles, stingrays, and lots of beautiful fish. It’s a quiet, sandy beach protected from winds with calm crystal waters. Pure enjoyment with a great view over the English Harbour. You can hire a water taxi to take you to some great spots for snorkeling if you’re not up to for a little bit of swimming.
The list just goes on and there are so many beaches in Antigua that it’s unbearably hard to choose the best one or the most beautiful. The best advice would be to visit as much as you can. They are simply perfect, pure enjoyment.
Not to be missed
English Harbour is a small town where you can pay a visit to Nelson’s Dockyard National Park which is a cultural heritage site and a marina. Nelson’s Dockyard is an old British harbor where Admiral Nelson and the British fleet harbored. This National Heritage area is amazing and an absolute must see for all visitors of Antigua. It’s quite a picturesque site too. Really beautiful location with some nice places for a drink and lunch or dinner. The Dockyard Museum provides an interesting insight into the history of the area. Admiral’s House Museum is a small museum part of the Nelson Dockyard area revealing an interesting history that speaks about those times with artifacts about Nelson and the army. Probably it won’t take more than an hour of your precious time to look all of what this museum speaks about, and being part of the Nelson Dockyard the doors are open.
Back to the present. Today the modern sailing and luxurious yachts have replaced the old fleet and old sailing ships. The Dockyard can accommodate boats year-round with two of the major events taking place here: the annual Sailing Week and the Yacht Show. Vessels of all types and sizes anchor in English Harbour for the popular Antigua Sailing Week. The coast has ideal conditions for cruising. It takes place during the first week of December every year. The place to be seen. Nevertheless, any visitor can experience a real yacht race with a fully trained crew. There are well-organized tours in Antigua that will give you the real feel of the trill when racing in a sailing boat. If you book this tour your sailboat will be racing another for real.
The Stingray City should be on top of to do activities when visiting Antigua.
For many visitors, it’s the highlight of their vacation. This tour includes swimming with stingrays and snorkeling. The short boat ride takes you to the Barge reef which is the home of the Antigua Stingray City. The favorite spot for stingrays in Antigua where they come to mingle. Here you’ll be able to swim, hug, kiss and feed them. There is a swim platform from where you can safely enter the shallow waters. Then you can go snorkeling and explore more of the beautiful reef and its colorful tropical fishes. It’s fun for everyone even for non-swimmers.
Whoever visited Antigua and stayed for a couple of days, probably has a night to remember at Shirley Heights Lookout.
Every Sunday in the restaurant located in the 18th-century old building there is a hip party going on. So, Sunday afternoon at Shirley Heights it’s the place to be. A joyful atmosphere from 4 p.m. to 10 p.m. for tourists and locals alike, thanks to the fantastic band that makes a wonderful atmosphere with delicious barbeque and a rum punch made of Antiguan rum. There are also vendors, so bring some extra money for shopping too. Although it is a party, it’s 150 m above sea level so be sure to have comfortable clothes or even sneakers if you’d wanna hike. You can visit Shirley Heights and hike the trail any time though, enjoy the breathtaking views, and incredible sunsets to remember.
So, here is where history and nature met in Antigua. Could you imagine that someone once was thinking of battles from here with that same incredible view at sunsets? How come those soldiers managed to be tough with such a blessed view and be focused on a battle? It’s not an easy task that’s for sure. Someone in the past, like the British naval captain Sir Thomas Shirley (hence the name) because of the strategic view overlooking the island and the English Harbour set up the fort here so he can strengthen Antigua defense.
I couldn’t agree more that this is a superb choice for a party location. Anyone that visits Antigua should see that iconic picture of Antigua in live from this historic spot. Beautiful views at the end of an amazing hike. But, the view is here perfect any time of the day. Overlooking the English Harbour and Galleon Beach, Shirley Heights is one of the best spots to get a view of the island. They are spectacular, especially at sunsets. Most of the iconic photos of Antigua are taken from here.