Three Days in Antigua

This eastern Caribbean isle is well worth a weekend getaway.

By Terry Ward

Most travelers are just passing through when they first visit Antigua. But once you’ve laid eyes on its curvaceous coastline and beautiful beaches—not to mention mingled with Antigua’s friendly people—the desire to return is inevitable. An uptick in nonstop flights (with JetBlue from New York City) and this summer’s 60th anniversary of Carnival add to the reasons to set off on a Caribbean adventure.

Friday: Hit the Beach

The island’s oft-repeated mantra is that there are 365 beaches to discover on Antigua—one for every day of the year. Crowds looking for water sports and a lively restaurant and bar scene usually stay put on Dickenson’s Bay. But there’s so much else to discover.

Half Moon Bay, a national park on the island’s east side, draws windsurfers and snorkelers to its blush-hued sands and placid lagoon. To the west, Darkwood Beach affords spectacular views of the neighboring isle of Montserrat. These vistas are best enjoyed in the late afternoon, when the cruise ships have packed up and the sun begins to set. Afterward you can head to Jacqui O’s BeachHouse for dinner. This hideaway restaurant at Crabbe Hill serves up gourmet dishes such as foie gras burgers, mahimahi ceviche and fresh lobster. On a nearby headland, Dennis Cocktail Bar & Restaurant is a low-key spot for seafood specialties such as whole red snapper curry, conch and Creole shrimp.

Saturday: Go Wild

Antigua has its own Stingray City, where you can snorkel with southern rays that frolic like puppies. When you’re done swimming, you’ll return to the land base, where you can spot monkeys and parrots. For a more intrepid day on the sea, sail due north to Antigua’s less-developed sister island, Barbuda. Tropical Adventures Antigua organizes day trips to see the second-largest frigate bird colony in the world. It’s about a 90-minute voyage each way. Once here guides will take you across Codrington Lagoon and through mangroves for up-close views of the enormous birds. Consider winding up the day lazing on Barbuda’s blissfully deserted pink-sand beach, Low Bay. Turtles are known to nest on the beach in spring and summer, so keep an eye out for tracks.

Sunday: Make History

In the morning you can take a stroll around Nelson’s Dockyard, Antigua’s largest national park. The Georgian-era dockyard was once the most expansive British Navy base in the Caribbean. Here you’ll find remarkably preserved 18th- and 19th-century buildings that house a museum, shops and restaurants. You can take the free boat shuttle to the new Boom restaurant in the historic Admiral’s Inn, where tables overlook yachts bobbing in Nelson’s Dockyard. Highlights include the lobster sandwich and the sleek infinity pool, which you can take a dip in while waiting for your meal to be served.

Starting at around 4 p.m., locals and tourists alight at the restaurant Shirley Heights Lookout for Sunday sunset gatherings, a weekly tradition that’s been partying strong for more than 30 years. Snag a Wadadli beer and a picnic table overlooking the sailboats moored far below in English Harbour, then tuck into a plate of tangy barbecue. Once you’ve had your fill, you can greet another spectacular sunset as you sway to the beat of a steel-drum band.

Admiral’s Inn, Nelson’s Dockyard, English Harbour; 268-460-1027;; lunch for two, $60*
Half Moon Bay
Freetown, St. Philip
Darkwood Beach
Valley Road, St. Mary’s
Dennis Cocktail Bar & Restaurant
Ffryes Beach, St. John’s; 268-462-6740;; dinner for two, $50
Jacqui O’s BeachHouse
Crabbe Hill, St. Mary’s; 268-562-2218; dinner for two, $75
Low Bay
Nelson’s Dockyard National Park
Dockyard Drive, English Harbour; 268-460-1379;; $8 a person (free with prior restaurant reservation)
Shirley Heights Lookout
Shirley Heights, English Harbour; 268-728-0636;; dinner for two, $20
Stingray City
Seaton’s Village, St. Philip; 268-562-7297;; $50 a person, kids 4 and under, free
Tropical Adventures Antigua
Lower Redcliffe St., St. John’s; 268-480-1225;; $150 a person (includes lunch), kids 7–12, $95, kids under 7 not permitted to join
  • *Prices have been converted to U.S. dollars. Estimated meal prices do not include drinks, tax, or tip.
  • NOTE: Information may have changed since publication. Please confirm key details before planning your trip.
  • Published: April 2016