The sister islands of Antigua and Barbuda are the perfect places to visit, both for the lively atmosphere of small coastal towns and complete escapism on empty beaches.
Antigua is one of the archetypal Caribbean islands.
Bordered by stunningly white beaches and clear waters; teeming with world renowned resorts; and sun-soaked throughout most of the year, it truly warrants paradise destination status. Its lesser known sister island, Barbuda, meanwhile, is much more of a hidden oasis.
Princess Diana was one of its biggest fans, but thankfully the royal love for it hasn’t led to a huge commercial influx. Not just yet, at least.
A trip to Antigua should be on everyone’s travel bucket list, but you should also tag on a few extra days in Barbuda to ensure you get both the bustling upbeat party vibes of one and the remote escapism of the other.
St John’s is the capital and largest city of Antigua and Barbuda, boasting an impressive population of about 22,000. It is also the commercial centre of the small commonwealth nation and is where most large cruise lines tend to dock.
Heritage Quay is the starting point for most visitors keen for duty-free shopping. You can get virtually anything here: high quality cigars are the favourites alongside spirits and fragrances.
While living the island life, travellers should only be consuming the freshest fruit throughout the hot days.
Public Market is the place to get all the best fruit and veg while enjoying the local culture and doing some good old-fashioned people watching. Next door is the Arts & Crafts Market, which is equally fun to wander around.
And if you need a break from lying about on beaches all day and drinking all manner of cocktails from the early morning (yes, life can be hard) then get your arts and culture fix at the Museum of Antigua and Barbuda. Cool off inside and learn a little about the history of the island you’re visiting.
As the name suggests, the English Harbour is a product of Antigua’s colonial past. Rich in history, this restored area contains most of the island’s top sites, fine dining destinations, and epic parties at the Lookout on Shirley Heights every Sunday.
Even if you’re not a party person, you should still venture south to Shirley Heights Lookout to witness stunning panoramic views that will make all your followers on Instagram insanely jealous.
Fort Berkley, Fort George and Nelson’s Dockyard are other must-see spots for any proper island explorer. Spend a day dashing about from one to the other, stopping in at a few beaches and bars along the way.
And talking of beaches, you’re spoilt for choice here. Pigeon Point offers proper seclusion and quiet while Dickenson Bay is where all the water sports, bars and nightlife are located.
But you can easily just throw down your map and get lost searching for some of the hundreds of other swim spots dotted about the island.
Too often do visitors head to Antigua without even knowing that Barbuda exists. And it’s such a shame. This island to the north is covered with mysterious abandoned forts, Neolithic caves, long-winding beaches without anyone else in sight, and an enormous wild bird sanctuary set within a lush lagoon.
It’s also perfect for snorkelling and scuba diving thanks to the countless shipwrecks located just off the coast. Here, little coral reefs have flourished, making for the perfect underwater adventure.
This is what brings the day trippers, but we highly recommend you stay a few nights at one of the island’s few hotels and villas. That way you have more time to enjoy places like the unbelievable – yet aptly named – 11-mile Beach.
Such is its rolling splendour visitors can spend the entire day walking along it, stopping every now and then to swim and tan. It’s doesn’t get any better than that.