Antigua

Antigua is the largest of the archipelago constituting the independent country of Antigua and Barbuda. The island is only 11 miles wide and 14 miles long. This West Indies jewel offers history, charm, a tropical climate and 365 beaches.

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1 Skyline of St. John’s, Capital of Antigua and Barbuda

Formerly known as Wadadli, the West Indies island of Antigua was given its name by Christopher Columbus in 1492 in honor of the Santa María La Antigua. About 30,000 people live in St. John’s, its capital city. Dominating its skyline is St. John’s Cathedral. The two islands of Antigua and Barbuda, along with several much smaller ones, became an independent state from the United Kingdom in 1981.

Bryson's Pier, High St, Saint John's, Antigua and Barbuda
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2 Fort Barrington on Goat Hill in St. John’s, Antigua

The first fort located on top of this rocky promontory at the southern mouth of St. John’s Harbour in Antigua was built in the 1650s. It was attacked several times during the 17th century. The current fortress on Goat Hill, which was constructed in 1779, is named Fort Barrington after a French Admiral. It is largely in ruins but it is worth a visit for the spectacular panoramic views.

RobRace Dr, Antigua and Barbuda
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3 Cruise Ship Bow and Catamarans in St. John’s, Antigua

Antigua is only 11 miles wide and 14 miles long but offers 365 beaches and year-round temperatures in the 70s and 80s so it is no surprise that over half of its economy is derived from tourism. The deep harbor at St. John’s welcomes one-day visitors from cruise ships. Or if you prefer to spend several days basking in the Caribbean sun, then there is an excellent selection of resorts, hotels and cabins to pick from.

Bryson's Pier, High St, St John's, Antigua and Barbuda
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4 Couple Wading into Water at Dickenson Bay in St. John’s, Antigua

Dickenson Bay, which is just 15 minutes north of St. John’s, is repeatedly voted as the island’s number one beach. So don’t be surprised when you find crowds enjoying the pristine sand and engaging in all kinds of watersports. But it is also the perfect setting to wade into the aquamarine water of the Caribbean Sea while romantically holding your partner’s hand.

Belvedere Rd & Anchorage Rd, Antigua and Barbuda
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5 Kayaks on the Beach at Dickenson Bay in St. John’s, Antigua

If you are not the type to sit all day on a tropical beach but are thrilled by the idea of watersports on the Caribbean Sea, then head to Dickenson Bay. You’ll find everything you need including kayaks, jet skis, windsurfing, snorkeling, scuba diving, fishing, boat tours and lots more.

Belvedere Rd & Anchorage Rd, Antigua and Barbuda
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6 Abandoned Bra on Rocks at Dickenson Bay in St. John’s, Antigua

The slogan of one of the hotels along Dickenson Bay is, “World’s Most Romantic Resort” and what better proof is there than this bra that was abandoned on the rocks next to the beach?

Buccaneer Beach Club, Dickenson Bay, St John's, Antigua and Barbuda
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7 Horse Sand Sculpture at Dickenson Bay in St. John’s, Antigua

Typically you will see children building castles on a beach but it takes time and talent to create a detailed sand sculpture like this one of a horse on Dickenson Bay in Antigua.

Belvedere Rd & Anchorage Rd, Antigua and Barbuda
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8 Sandals Resort’s Bayside Restaurant at Dickenson Bay in St. John’s, Antigua

The Sandals Grande Antigua Resort and Spa is a six star, all inclusive hotel in the center of Dickenson Bay which is considered to be the premier beach in Antigua. This couple is sunbathing in front of the hotel’s Bayside Restaurant.

Belvedere Rd & Anchorage Rd, Antigua and Barbuda
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9 Red British Phone Booth at Dickenson Bay in St. John’s, Antigua

The first red British phone booth was designed by Sir Giles Gilbert Scott in 1926. Over the next several decades it became an iconic symbol for the United Kingdom. Today it is hard to find any public phone so I was delighted to see this relic with its characteristic crown emblem at Dickerson Bay in Antigua.

Buccaneer Beach Club Dickenson Bay, St John's, Antigua and Barbuda
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10 Capsized Sailboat Buried into Sand at Dickenson Bay in St. John’s, Antigua

Everything should be perfect when you are on a tropical island during your vacation. But, as evidenced by this capsized sailboat that is buried into the sand at Dickenson Bay, sometimes you can have a bad day even in paradise.

Buccaneer Beach Club, Dickenson Bay, St John's, Antigua and Barbuda
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11 Cannon at Fort James in St. John’s, Antigua

This is one of 10 cannons around Fort James at the northern entrance of St. John’s Harbour in Antigua. Each of these 2.5 ton cannons could fire a 24 pound ball up to 1.5 miles. Surprisingly, these museum quality guns are rarely visited. Instead, they are rusting away among the ruins of the British fort. Yet these smooth bores are still pointing out to sea as if waiting since 1706 for a battle that never happened.

Fort James, St John's Harbour, Antigua and Barbuda
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12 Fort James Building Ruins in St. John’s, Antigua

In the early 18th century, the British built Fort James as a deterrent against a French invasion of Antigua in the West Indies. Today, during high season, cruise ships pass by it almost daily as they enter St. John’s Harbour yet the fort stands watch in ghostly ruins. Although it is only a few minute drive from the capital city, this historic site rarely sees visitors. This seems odd for a Caribbean Island whose primary industry is tourism. I think it is well worth a visit and, if restored, could become a major attraction.

Fort James, St John's Harbour, Antigua and Barbuda
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13 St. John’s Cathedral in St. John’s, Antigua

From on top of a hill the twin, 70 foot bell towers of St. John’s Cathedral rise high above the skyline of Antigua’s capital city that shares its name. It is the third Anglican church on this site. The previous two, which were built in 1681 and 1746, were both destroyed by earthquakes. This baroque structure was finished in 1848. Although still beautiful it appears in need of renovation.

Newgate St & Gutter Ln, St John's, Antigua and Barbuda
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14 Museum of Antigua and Barbuda in St. John’s, Antigua

The oldest structure still in use on the Caribbean Island of Antiqua was built in 1747 as the Court House. It is now the Museum of Antigua and Barbuda. On exhibit are artifacts of the Arawak people who were also called Taíno. This ethnic group dates back to 200 B.C. but became extinct by the end of the 16th century because of war and disease resulting from European colonization. The museum also features other historic displays.

Long St & Soul Alley, St John's, Antigua and Barbuda
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15 Heritage Quay Outdoor Tourist Mall in St. John’s, Antigua

As cruise ship passengers disembark at St. John’s in Antigua, they immediately walk through Heritage Quay. It is two rows of duty-free stores, souvenir shops, restaurants and bars that stretch for a couple of blocks. Although the official currency of this independent country is the East Caribbean dollar, this outdoor mall with about fifty retailers is designed to capture as many tourist dollars as possible. Frankly, everything is overpriced and it conveys none of the charms of this West Indies island.

Thames St & St Mary's, St, St John's, Antigua and Barbuda
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16 Boardwalk Leading to Redcliffe Quay in St. John’s, Antigua

Parallel to Heritage Quay, which is an unabashed tourist trap, is a shopping district called Historic Redcliffe Quay. This waterfront boardwalk leads to charming old buildings, some of which date back to the 17th and 18th century when this area was the main trade center for ships from Europe. The boutiques, art galleries and upscale restaurants are tucked among alleys and are painted in a rainbow of colors.

Exotic Antigua, Redcliffe St, St John's, Antigua and Barbuda
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17 Parliament Building and Government Complex in St. John’s, Antigua

Although Antigua and Barbuda became independent from the United Kingdom in 1981, its monarch is still Queen Elizabeth II. The government is managed by a governor general, a prime minster and a parliament that consists of a senate and house of representatives. It is considered to be a unitary parliamentary monarchy with democratic free elections. This colonial style Government Complex houses the country’s major political branches.

Prime Minister's Dr, St John's, Antigua and Barbuda
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18 Holy Family Cathedral in St. John’s, Antigua

This white, octagonal structure in St. John’s is the Holy Family Cathedral. The Roman Catholic church was built in 1987. Its sleek, modern design is in sharp contrast to most of the buildings in Antigua and Barbuda.

Michael's Mount & Queen Elizabeth Hwy, St John's, Antigua and Barbuda
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19 Gunthorpe’s Sugar Factory in Ruins in Piggoffs, Antigua

Sugar plantations emerged on Antigua around 1650 and flourished because of unpaid slave labor. The sugarcane was processed in localized windmill-powered mills until the introduction of a centralized, steam-driven plant on Gunthorpe’s Estate. Called the Antigua Sugar Factory, it opened in 1905. It eventually had an extensive railway network that connected the largest plantations and also led to the Sugar Terminal at St. John’s port. But as the island’s economy shifted from agriculture to tourism in the early 1970s, the ASF was closed and now stands in abandoned ruins.

Antigua Sugar Factory, Sir Sydney Walling Hwy, Piggotts, Antigua and Barbuda
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Barbwire Fence Around Cattle Pasture in Countryside of Antigua

The per capita income of Antigua and Barbuda’s 100,000 people is around $18,000. 25% of its $1.6 billon GDP is spent on importing food. With such stretched financial resources, the country’s government is trying to encourage a growth in agriculture. But farming continues to decline precipitously and is limited to family plots of vegetables, sugarcane and small livestock operations that raise cattle, sheep and goats for local markets.

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20 Our Lady of Perpetual Hope Church near Liberta, Antigua

Along Matthews Road in the countryside of Antigua is this pink church with a red roof called Our Lady of Perpetual Hope. The Roman Catholic, Tyrells Parish church was built near the town of Liberta in 1932.

Tyrells Church Our Lady of Perpetual Help, Jonas Rd, Antigua and Barbuda
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21 Green Stone Wall and Building in Liberta, Antigua

Most of the homes on the island of Antigua are very small and built from wood with tin roofs. It is not uncommon to see them in various stages of disrepair. But an interesting feature can be seen among these buildings in the town of Liberta. Notice the retaining wall which is constructed from basaltic green-stone. It is unique to the southern districts of Antigua and has volcanic origins. Behind it is a structure with an elaborate arch made from the same material.

St. Barnabas Anglican Church, Liberta, Antigua and Barbuda
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22 Woman Beneath Parasol to Shield Hot Sun in Liberta, Antigua

Although Antigua is one of the driest Caribbean islands, it is common to see the locals carrying a parasol because their tropical climate averages eight hours of sunshine a day with year-round temperatures in the 80s. When it does rain, the showers come fast and then just as quickly reveal the sun again.

St. Barnabas Anglican Church, Liberta, Antigua and Barbuda
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23 St. Barnabas Anglican Church in Liberta, Antigua

Originally built by Bishop William Coleridge as a school in 1842, this building became the St. Barnabas Anglican Church a year later when an earthquake destroyed the St. Paul’s Church in nearby Falmouth. It is constructed with red brick and local Antigua green stone which brightly reflects the afternoon sun at the back of the church.

St. Barnabas Anglican Church, Liberta, Antigua and Barbuda
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24 St. Barnabas Church with Extension in Liberta, Antigua

Although Saint Barnabas has served as the Anglican parish church since 1843, the congregation around Liberta in Antigua outgrew the quaint yet cramped building. So, in 1989, an extension was added (shown on the right) while maintaining the original Italianate architectural design.

St. Barnabas Anglican Church, Liberta, Antigua and Barbuda
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25 Family of Goats Running Wild Along Road in Liberta, Antigua

The prominent livestock in Antigua are goats. It is estimated that 36,000 of them live on this West Indies island. Most of them appear to roam free in order to graze on the shrubs and vines growing along the roads. In contrast, the majority of the estimated 19,000 sheep are typically constrained behind fencing.

Tyrells Church Our Lady of Perpetual Help, Jonas Rd, Antigua and Barbuda
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26 Shirley Heights Guard House in English Harbour, Antigua

This Guard House, which was built in 1791, is one of the few buildings that have been restored at Shirley Heights, a former British military complex on the island of Antigua. Six days a week it attracts visitors for its panoramic views and gorgeous sunsets from an elevation of almost 500 feet. But every Sunday it hosts a large party that includes a barbeque, plenty of rum punch, plus calypso and reggae music played by talented steel bands.

Shirley Heights, Antigua and Barbuda
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27 Elevated View of English and Falmouth Harbours in English Harbour, Antigua

From the Battery platform, better known as The Lookout, at the former British fort Shirley Heights is this magnificent view of the southernmost point of Antigua. In the foreground is Fort Tyler at the end of the small peninsula stretching into English Harbour. On the right is Falmouth Harbour. In the background are Sugar Loaf (1,042 feet) and Signal Hill (1,207 feet).

Shirley Heights, The Battery, Antigua and Barbuda
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28 Shirley Heights Officers’ Quarters in English Harbour, Antigua

Between 1781 and 1825, Shirley Heights contained sixty buildings that housed several British regiments. One of the largest buildings was this Officers’ Quarters. Although it now stands in ruins and is fenced off to visitors, hints remain of its once elegant architecture.

Shirley Heights, Antigua and Barbuda
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29 Shirley Heights Cemetery Obelisk in English Harbour, Antigua

Hidden from view of most vistors to Shirley Heights is this white obelisk that stands in the middle of the British military cemetery. It lists the names of about 50 soldiers and officers from the 54th Regiment, Second Battalion Dorsets, who died in service during the mid-19th century. Their final resting place has a commanding view of English Harbour.

Shirley Heights, Antigua and Barbuda
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30 Eric Clapton Mansion on Indian Creek Peninsula in English Harbour, Antigua

At the Blockhouse section of Shirley Heights you will be treated to this elevated view of the southeast coast of Antigua. But if you look closely at the peninsula called Indian Creek you will see the sprawling mansion of Eric Clapton, the English guitarist who played with the Yardbirds and Cream. He is the only three-time inductee into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. In 1998, he helped create the Crossroads Center in Antigua, a drug and alcohol rehabilitation center.

The Blockhouse, Antigua and Barbuda
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31 Boat House Pillars at Nelson’s Dockyard in English Harbour, Antigua

English Harbour, at the southern tip of Antigua, began as a British garrison at the turn of the 18th century. For almost two hundred years it evolved into an elaborate complex of buildings now called Nelson’s Dockyard. The fort was named after Horatio Nelson. The vice-admiral arrived in 1784 and later became its commander. When the Royal Navy base was abandoned in 1889, it fell into disrepair until an extensive restoration was finished in 1961. It is now a national park and a major tourist attraction. In 2016, this historic property was inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. These boat house pillars are among the most recognizable and photographed features.

The Admiral's Inn Dockyard Drive, English Harbour, Antigua and Barbuda
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32 Sick House at Nelson’s Dockyard in English Harbour, Antigua

The former Pitch and Tar Store and Engineer’s Office at Nelson’s Dockyard, which was built in 1778, has been transformed into a hotel and restaurant called the Admiral’s Inn. Behind it is this red brick, single story Georgian building that once served as the British Navy’s Sick House. It is now the inn’s Annex named the Pillar’s Bar and Restaurant.

Nelson's Dockyard and English Harbour, Nelsons Dockyard, St Johns, Antigua & Barbuda
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33 Sailboats Moored in English Harbour, Antigua

After an organization called the Friends of English Harbour was formed in 1951, it took ten years of reconstruction before the Nelson’s Dockyard reopened as a national park. Today the harbor is filled with yachts, sailboats and other private watercraft. It is also the site of several international regattas each spring.

Nelson's Dockyard and English Harbour, Nelsons Dockyard, St Johns, Antigua & Barbuda
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34 Copper and Lumber Store at Nelson’s Dockyard in English Harbour, Antigua

The Copper and Lumber Store, which was built in 1789 to store materials for building and repairing British ships, is another example of the renovated Georgian architecture at Nelson’s Dockyard. It was converted into a hotel in 1982. Each of its suites is named after one of Lord Nelson’s British ships and contains antique furniture.

Copper & Lumber Store Historic Inn, Nelsons Dockyard, St Johns, Antigua & Barbuda
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35 Nelson’s Dockyard Boat House Under Palm Tree in English Harbour, Antigua

Imagine a very large, two-story structure that stood just below this palm tree. This was the location of the Nelson’s Dockyard boat house in English Harbour, Antigua. The structure was extensively damaged during an 1845 earthquake and then its roof was torn away by an 1871 hurricane. However most of the other 18th to early 20th century British Navy buildings within this national park have been restored to resemble their original appearance.

The Admiral's Inn Dockyard Drive, English Harbour, Antigua and Barbuda
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36 Boat House Remains at Nelson’s Dockyard in English Harbour, Antigua

These pillars are all that remain of the boat house at Nelson’s Dockyard that was built in 1797. What is now a sandy beach used to be a central channel or wet dock where British ships in need of repair would moor. While the vessels’ hull was overhauled in the lower level, its sails were hoisted into the second story for mending.

The Admiral's Inn Dockyard Drive, English Harbour, Antigua and Barbuda
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37 Sailboat with UK Red Ensign Flag in English Harbour, Antigua

British Naval ships first used the English Harbour as a safe haven against hurricanes in 1671 and then started to establish an extensive base at Nelson’s Dockyard in 1725. It would remain as a military garrison until it was abandoned in 1889. However, the United Kingdom retained control over Antigua and Barbuda for almost another century until it became an independent country in 1981. Yet, it appears the tradition of a civilian ship flying a Red Ensign flag when visiting UK waters lives on.

Nelson's Dockyard and English Harbour, Nelsons Dockyard, St Johns, Antigua & Barbuda
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38 Pigeon Beach along Falmouth Bay near Falmouth, Antigua

The leeward side of Pigeon Point in southern Antigua offers the exquisite aqua water of Falmouth Bay which splashes gently across the white sand of Pigeon Beach. On weekends it is filled with tourists and locals, especially families with children. But during the week the atmosphere is as calm as the tropical breeze.

Pigeon Point Beach, Antigua and Barbuda
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39 Shade Trees at Pigeon Beach near Falmouth, Antigua

Spending a day at a tropical beach always sounds heavenly. But when the Antiguan sun beats down for over eight hours and the temperature rises into the high 80s, it is often a welcome respite to sit beneath a shade tree, cool off for a while and perhaps take a nap.

Pigeon Point Beach, Antigua and Barbuda
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40 Pigeon Beach Near Falmouth Harbour Marina in Falmouth, Antigua

This view from Pigeon Beach showing a handful of sailboats floating calmly in the bay is deceiving. You’d never guess that just around the corner is the Falmouth Harbour Marina which offers docking facilities for mega-yachts up to 330 feet in length.

Pigeon Point Beach, Antigua and Barbuda
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41 Woman Zip Lining in Rainforest in Wallings, Antigua

If you want a thrill of a lifetime while visiting southwest Antigua, then take the zip line and rope challenge course operated by the Antigua Rainforest Company. They offer 16 different zip line routes which range from easy to scream inducing. It is located on Fig Tree Drive near Wallings.

Antigua Rain Forest Canopy Tour, Fig Tree Dr, Antigua and Barbuda
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42 Elevated View from Old Road Bluff of Carlisle Bay, Antigua

This elevated view of Carlisle Bay in southern Antigua is yours for a quick photo op from the top of the Old Road Bluff. I was mesmerized by how the gentle waves formed almost symmetrical ovals across the beach. In the background is the Curtain Bluff Resort.

Boxer Shack Old Road, Antigua and Barbuda
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43 Rocky Southwest Shoreline Off of Old Road in Crab Hill, Antigua

The Old Road is a delightful scenic drive to appreciate the beauty of southwest Antigua. While hugging the Caribbean Sea coastline, you will be treated to the sights of several bays from elevated points and bluffs then travel down again to enjoy exquisite, isolated beaches. You’ll also catch glimpses of nearby islands and spectacular sunsets.

OJ's, Crabb Hill Beach, Valley Rd, Antigua and Barbuda
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44 Crabb Hill Beach and Fishing Nets in Crab Hill, Antigua

Crabb Hill Beach, also called Turner’s Beach, is a gorgeous stretch of pristine sand. During the week it is virtually empty. You will feel like it is your own private slice of heaven. When you get hungry or thirsty, it’s a short walk to OJ’s Restaurant and Bar. Their unique décor consists of items washed up on shore like this fishing net. Their slogan is, “If you are not barefoot, then you are overdressed.”

OJ's, Crabb Hill Beach, Valley Rd, Antigua and Barbuda
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45 Old Weathered Door and Windows in Crab Hill, Antigua

Many of the homes in Antigua are small, simple and built from wood yet they enjoy spectacular views of the Atlantic Ocean or, like this one, the Caribbean Sea. However years of salt water spray, storms and the beating sun take a heavy toll. I suspect in decades to come many of these weather-beaten facades will disappear. But for now they are an intrinsic part of the island’s charm.

OJ's, Crabb Hill Beach, Valley Rd, Antigua and Barbuda
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46 Elevated View of Darkwood Beach near Jolly Harbour, Antigua

It would take you a full year to spend one day enjoying each of Antigua’s 365 beaches. But if your vacation to this West Indies island isn’t that long, then consider adding Darkwood Beach to your short list of places to wear your bathing suit and sunglasses. One look is worth a thousand superlatives.

Darkwood, Valley Rd, Antigua Guatemala, Antigua & Barbuda
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47 Darkwood Beach near Jolly Harbour, Antigua

Jolly Habour is a small town on the southwest coast of Antigua that has everything you need for a perfect vacation. For starters, there is Darkwood Beach where the dress code is a bathing suit with a dab of suntan lotion. You’ll also find resorts, shops, restaurants, bars, golf course, casino, marina, deep sea fishing, snorkeling … well, you get the idea. Oh, one more thing: exquisite sunsets.

Darkwood, Valley Rd, Antigua Guatemala, Antigua & Barbuda
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48 Two Loungers on Sand at Darkwood Beach near Jolly Harbour, Antigua

These two beach chairs are currently available for you and your best friend to savor the tropical sun. Unlike cable TV, the Internet or your smart phone, they only offer one view of the flawless sand, calm Caribbean Sea and puffy white clouds as they float across the blue sky. If your fingers get itchy to be doing something, then wrap them around an adult beverage or, better yet, hold your partner’s hand. Sit back, relax and savor every moment!

Darkwood, Valley Rd, Antigua Guatemala, Antigua & Barbuda
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49 Magnificent Frigatebird in Flight in St. John’s, Antigua

As your cruise ship leaves the port at St. John’s, it will probably be followed by several magnificent frigatebirds. They soar effortlessly in the sky without ever flapping their wings which can span seven to eight feet. You may hear the local Antiguans call them either weather birds or man-o-war. Their aerometric design is so perfect that they can stay aloft for days and up to a week. The longest recorded flight was nearly 140 miles.

Bryson's Pier High St, St John's, Antigua and Barbuda
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