Wednesday 4 September 2019

The History of Antigua | 5 Things to do in Antigua

I haven't travelled much beyond the UK.   

Well, that is likely to change in the very near future because I've been invited to stay in West Palm Beach, Florida, United States. Looking forward to living the life of Americano, blue jeans and chinos. 

It's funny how holiday destinations come to mind from vicarious routes, not so much from flicking through brochures but the people we meet. My good friend has travelled widely and runs the excellent website Best Antigua

I feel I have learned much about this tropical paradise and, who knows, I may well go there myself. 

I think the best way to learn about a new holiday destination is to investigate. I haven't any knowledge of the history of Antigua so I thought I would appreciate the history of this idyllic island retreat with a little research. 


Firstly, Antigua is an island in the West Indies, known by the local population as Wadadli. It is one of the Leeward Islands in the Caribbean. Did you know Antigua and Barbuda became independent within the Commonwealth of nations on 1st November 1981? 

The name Antigua means ''ancient'' in Spanish, relating to an icon found in the Seville Cathedral.    

Interesting Antigua:

  • The island is roughly 87 km in circumference  
  • Population of 80,161 (2011 consensus)
  • Economy is reliant on tourism and agriculture
  • 32000 live in the capital St John's 
  • English Harbour called Nelson's Dockyard (after Lord Nelson) 

English Harbour

On the south-eastern coast is a noted destination for its yachting and sailing. In fact, at the end of April - the beginning of May the Antigua Sailing Week holds the annual world-class regatta.   

Antigua Economy 

Antigua is reliant on tourism and known as a luxury Caribbean escape. The island has a single airport. The official currency is the East Caribbean dollar although many prices are shown in US dollars. 

Early Antiguan History

Originally the homeland for the Guanahatabey people. Christopher Columbus was the first European to visit in 1493.

The first people to settle in Antigua were the Arawaks who migrated to the island by canoe from Venezuela. 

Christopher Columbus

Named the island ''Antigua'' in 1493 in honour of the ''Virgin of the old cathedral'' in Saville, Spain. It was known as Britain's ''Gateway to the Caribbean''. Lord Nelson, a famous figure in Antiguan history, arrived in the 18th century to preserve the commercial shipping routes. 

Antigua Sport

Cricket is a leading sport in Antigua. In fact, Vivian Richards came from this Caribbean island, playing for the West Indies, captain of the team. There are a number of golf courses in Antigua, while football and basketball are becoming more popular. 

However, sailing is one of the most popular sports hosting the Antigua Sailing Week and Antigua Classic Yacht Regatta. Hundreds of yachts arrive from across the world. 

Also, it's a great haven for sports fishing, featuring many big competitions. Windsurfing is a popular attraction although in recent years kite-surfing has surpassed this activity. Kite-surfing or kite-boarding is a regular sight at Jabbawock Beach. You may be familiar with Andre Phillip who is one of the major names in kite-surfing and resident of the island. Barduba is a popular destination too. 


If you love wildlife, Antigua is home to one of the rarest snakes in the world, the Antiguan racer. This harmless reptile, which was close to extinction with just 50 left at one time, has been boosted by conservation efforts. Once only found on Great Bird Island, it has been reintroduced to Rabbit Island, Green Island and York Island. 


Ringed with coral reefs, the island is ideal for scuba diving. 

5 Things to do in Antigua

  1.  Cruises, Sailing & Water Tours (ideal snorkelling and kayaking)
  2.  Historic sites (Shirley Heights, a restored military lookout for beautiful harbour views)
  3. Museums (Betty's Hope, was a sugarcane plantation) 
  4. Nature and Parks (Nelson's Dockyard, Half Moon Bay, Darkwood Beach)    
  5. Horseback Riding Tours