General – The sovereign state of Antigua & Barbuda is located in the middle of the Leeward Islands chain, between the Caribbean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean. In 2017, most of Barbuda’s infrastructure was destroyed by Hurricane Irma and the population was evacuated to Antigua. Rebuilding has been a slow and painful process as resources are extremely limited.
Where You’re Docked – The cruise ships normally dock at Heritage Quay or Redcliff Quay in the downtown area of St. John’s, the capital and largest city on the island. If there are a lot of ships in port, some may dock at the Deep Water Harbour Terminal approximately 1.5 miles from the city. It is best to take a taxi from this area as there are no sidewalks going into St. John’s from the Harbour Terminal. There are plenty of shops and restaurants in the Quay area but many are closed on Sundays and public holidays. There are also several spots that offer WI-FI for either a small fee or free with a purchase. The beautiful St. John’s Cathederal which dates back to 1845 is a historic site to visit near town.
Transportation – There are lots of taxi cabs available from the cruise dock area. Many taxis have a fixed fare set by the government but you can try to negotiate your fare before agreeing on the trip. There is limited public bus service and it can be complicated to use and time consuming. Rental cars can be expensive because, in addition to the rental rate, a $20.00 temporary driving permit is required by the Antiguan government.
In addition to taking a ship’s shore excursion you can usually negotiate an island tour with local taxi drivers. It’s common aso to work out a round trip fare to places like English Harbour or Shirley Heights where the driver will return at a specified time.
Money – The official currency is the East Caribbean dollar (EC) but US dollars are widely accepted. The current exchange rate is US $1.00 = EC$2.70.
Attractions – Antigua is said to have 365 beaches, one for every day of the year. For tourists, one of the more popular beaches is Dickenson Bay, approximately 15 minutes by taxi from St. Johns. It offers a lively atmosphere with restaurants, bars and beach resorts.
Best view of the island is from Shirley Heights which also provides a nice restaurant for a meal with a spectacular view. A visit can be easily incorporated with a trip to English Harbour and Nelson’s Dockyard, the only working Georgian Dockyard in the Caribbean.
The nation is actually Antigua & Barbuda but 95% 0f the population lives on Antigua. Barbuda is actually one of the few unspoiled islands left in the Caribbean with a large park and bird sanctuary famous for its Flamingo colony. A visit to Barbuda is possible via the Barbuda Express, a 90 minute ferry service operating from the ferry dock in St. John’s. The ferry runs every day with one departure and one arrival daily. Adult r/t tickets run EC$85.00 (there is also a EC$15 landing fee from the government) and children’s fares are less. Advance reservations are recommended. A roundtrip and tour of Barbuda is scheduled every Tuesday and Thursday.
English Harbor is the main historic sight on Antigua and is a large natural harbour on the south coast. English Harbour is best known for Nelson’s Dockyard, a former British Navy base; it displays restored 18th and 19th-century buildings, a museum and other historical artefacts from the colonial period of the dockyard, especially from the time it was commanded by Horatio Nelson. The Royal Navy had begun using English Harbour as a safe anchorage in the 17th century and in 1704 Fort Berkeley was built on a spit across the harbour entrance to defend it. Later additional fortifications where built on the high ground above the coast at Shirley Heights.
English Harbor is the heart of the yachting community. Antigua Sailing Week is considered the Caribbean’s most prestigious regatta. Held annually at the end of April it features the Round Antigua Race on a Saturday followed by five days of competitive racing off the rugged south coast of the island. Yachts come from all over the world to attend the races and most venues on the island are packed.