Antigua and Barbuda are located in the Eastern Caribbean’s Leeward Islands approximately 17 degrees north of the equator. Antigua is the largest of the English-speaking Leeward Islands, and encompassing 108 square miles, measuring 14 miles long and 11 miles wide. The highest point is Boggy Peak (1,319 feet) in the southwestern corner of the island. Barbuda is a flat coral island encompassing only 68 square miles, and lies approximately 30 miles due north of Antigua. The nation also includes the tiny uninhabited island of Redonda, a nature preserve.
St. John’s, the capital and largest city, is dominated by the white baroque towers of St. John’s Cathedral. Built in 1845, the church is now in its third incarnation following earthquakes in 1683 and in 1745 which destroyed the previous structures. Antigua’s cruise ship dock is located in St. John, and the island is a favorite Caribbean port-of-call for cruise ships. St. John also features several hotels and is a lively hub for shopping and dining. English Harbour is Antigua’s historic district, located on 15 square miles in Nelson’s Dockyard National Park. Developed as a base for the British Navy, the harbor served as the headquarters of the fleet of the Leeward Islands during the turbulent late 18th century.
Other historic attractions include Shirley Heights, an array of gun emplacements and military battlements named for General Shirley, Governor of the Leeward Islands when the area was fortified in the late eighteenth century. The site overlooks English Harbour, and informal Sunday afternoon gatherings here feature barbecue, rum punch, and the plangent steel band and reggae music. The Museum of Antigua and Barbuda tells the nation’s story from its geological history through the present day. Located in St. John’s, the museum features a variety of noteworthy objects and exhibits, including a life-size replica of an Arawak dwelling and the bat of Viv Richards, one of the greatest cricket players of all time.
Sea View Farm Village is among Antigua’s signature cultural attractions. Antiguan folk pottery dates back to the early 18th century, when slaves fashioned cooking vessels from local clay. Today, Sea View Farm Village is the center of this cottage industry. Folk pottery can be purchased at outlets in the village and at several stores around the island. Buyers should be aware that Antiguan folk pottery breaks easily in cold environments.
Antigua claims to have 365 beaches, one for each day of the year. Most are inside the protected waters of the island’s Caribbean side, and all are open to the public. Dickenson Bay and Runaway Bay, located along the island’s developed northwestern coast, offer a complete resort beach experience. Most convenient to St. John’s are the beaches at Fort James and Deep Bay. Galley Bay attracts surfers in the winter months and joggers during the evening. There are four highly regarded beaches at Hawksbill, one of which is nudist.
Antigua is served by several major airlines departing from the United States and Europe; several operators also offer inter-island air service. Taxis are available throughout Antigua. Fares between the airport, harbor, and many hotels and destinations are fixed and can be obtained upon arrival. There is some local bus service; schedules and routes can be obtained through hotels.
Antigua temperatures generally range from the mid 70s in the winter to the mid 80s in the summer. Rainfall averages only 45 inches per year, and the island receives nearly constant tradewinds from the northeast. Antigua features low humidity year-round.