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CruiseDirection - Magazine May 2019

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Antigua is an island known primarily for its water-related activities. It is also a haven for pleasure craft and there are several docks where you can see the expensive yachts of the rich and famous who visit the island.  

Antigua is known as the “Gateway to the Caribbean” and it is about 14miles long and 11miles wide. St. John’s is the island’s capital and is home to over a third of the country’s population, which is primarily of West Indian descent.  

The island boasts many facilities for tourists, including cultural sites, most of which are centred in the English Harbour area. These include restored buildings, hilltop forts and a small collection of museums. Nelson’s Dockyard, an 18th-century British naval base, is the harbour’s main attraction and visitors can view the yacht basin, have lunch at one of several restaurants and bars in the area, see the governor’s unique Georgian-style residence and check out the 18th-century fort ruins of Sandy Heights.

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Why visit Antigua ?

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Gateway to the Caribbean

A haven for pleasure craft

Other tourists attractions include the Fort James area, where visitors can roam among some of the original cannons, which protected the island’s population from invaders who came by sea; visit St. John’s Anglican Cathedral, the town’s dominant landmark dating back to 1847, with a unique interior encased in pitch pine and unusual twin spires. Also worth a visit, is the Museum of Antigua & Barbuda, which is a community-run facility, with an eclectic collection of artefacts depicting the island’s rich cultural and social history.  

There are lots of resorts on the island, with a range of accommodation that will fit everyone’s tastes and budget. Dickenson Bay is Antigua’s moderate-range resort area and hotel and condominium properties line the beach. There is an abundance of water sports booths and open-air restaurants.  

The island has some 365 beaches, one for each day of the year and all are open to the public. Amongst the most popular are Deep Bay, Dickenson Bay, Falmouth Harbour and Runaway Bay. Most of them have either white or light golden sand and are virtually all protected by coral reefs. The best beaches for those who want a complete resort experience would be the ones along Dickenson and Runaway Bay, while the most convenient to the capital of St. Johns would be Fort James and Deep Bay. Deep Bay is a haven for surfers in the winter months since the waves are superior here.  

Antigua also has some excellent snorkelling and diving, with coral canyons, sea caves and steep wall drops. There is abundant marine life to be observed, including sea turtles, sharks, barracuda and various kinds of reef fish. Big game fishing is also very popular here and the island is also popular with windsurfers.  

Eco tourists will love Antigua, as there are plenty of offshore deserted islands to see, with hidden caves and amazing scenery. For the more adventurous, there are a variety of off-the-beaten path excursions, including wildlife encounters, dolphin or whale watching, nature hikes, reef snorkelling and even a helicopter tour that takes you high above the island and over the outlying islands.  

The climate is almost perfect all year long, which is a good thing, since so much of the island’s allure is its fantastic beaches. While many tourists arrive by air, the island is particularly attractive to cruise ship passengers who arrive via one of the two cruise ship docks, the newer Heritage Quay or Deepwater Harbour, both of which are in St. John’s.  

Whichever way you get there, just go. A visit to Antigua is sure to be a memorable holiday experience.

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