The largest of the English-speaking Leeward Islands, Antigua is the big sister in the twin island nation of Antigua and Barbuda. Antigua is best known for its soft beaches, serene coves and extensive coral reefs, but it is also a crucial historical site, o ering a unique perspective on colonial life in the Caribbean.
The English settled on the island in 1632 but they were unable to gain permanent control until 1667, due to erce resistance from native Carib Indians and Dutch and French forces. By the 1800s, Antigua was a leading producer of sugar cane and a thriving port, earning it the nickname “Gateway to the Caribbean.”
Today the steady trade winds that drew British naval vessels to Antigua fuel the island’s most popular pastime, sailing. Antigua Sailing Week is a premier annual event that takes place in late April or early May, and is considered to be one of the top three regattas in the world.
St. John’s, the capital city, is home to the Cathedral of St. John the Divine, which dates back to the 17th century. It was rebuilt in
1845 after the previous two incarnations were destroyed by a series of earthquakes. Boasting intimidating white towers and a fragile stone shell, this iconic church is currently undergoing an extensive restoration project.
Another Antiguan gem, Nelson’s Dockyard, stands as a testament to 18th-century nautical life. The dockyard blends the old world with the new, showcasing restored colonial architecture as well as a very modern, premiere yachting marina. Be sure to visit the O cers’ Quarters which now hosts a gallery where local artists’ works are displayed. For a more historical museum experience, the Museum of Antigua & Barbuda is in the historic St. John’s Court House, which was built in 1750. The museum’s exhibits trace the story of Antigua from its geological birth to political independence.
The coral reefs that once protected Antigua from foreign invaders now attract divers and snorkelers from all over the world. The protected waters of Long
Bay feature many exclusive resorts for vacationers who want to swim among the island’s famous fringing reefs.
Taste of St. John’s
A popular dish in Antigua is Pepperpot Soup, a savory blend of salt pork, onions, okra and hot peppers.