The Incredible Island of Antigua!
I'm thrilled about the subject-matter of this entry of what I call "The Island Lover's Guide to the Caribbean", because this is one of my all-time favorites--Antigua! In fact, I have so much awesome information that I want to share with you about this Caribbean hot spot, I'm going to break this feature into several entries!
Even though most of my initial visits to the islands were during my
days as a lawyer/lobbyist and considered "working trips", I quickly
learned that each island has its own particular style.
Now that I travel mainly for the purpose of experiencing what each
island has to offer, I can tell you that the only way to get a real
feel for the islands-the varied landscapes, exotic flora, bustling waterfront towns, and friendly laid-back people-is to venture beyond the confines of the beach, resort, or cruise ship, and dig a little deeper!
I can't tell you how difficult it is for me to say that "you must
occasionally leave the beach"! I am a true beach lover! However,
you can never really experience the Caribbean until you get off of
that beach and truly explore the islands! In fact, one of my rules
of thumb has become, "the better the beaches, the more developed
the island". You will find this to be, OH SO TRUE!
Selecting the right combination of ingredients for a perfect
Caribbean vacation needs a little research- okay, maybe more than a
little- but, that's why I'm here! I'm going to give you tips on
how to enjoy all the islands have to offer - including the beaches! In turn, I would love to hear from you on your experiences in the Caribbean, so I can share all of our thoughts with interested individuals!
If this will be your first visit to the island, it is well worth
your time to learn just a bit of Antigua's incredible history.
Otherwise, you could spend your entire vacation wondering why there are people making a constant reference to this guy named 'Nelson'!
Antigua, whose name means "ancient" in Spanish, has a rich history
full of the intersections of different people and the layers of
culture they left behind. At 108 square miles, it is also the
largest of the British Leeward Islands.
In 1493, Christopher Columbus landed on the island and christened
it Antigua, taking the name from the Sevillan Church, Santa Maria
The island was inhabited by English settlers in 1632,but abandoned
when the English were attacked by the Caribs.
The English tried to settle the island again in 1663, only to have
it taken again, this time by the French.
Antigua was returned to British in the Treaty of Breda and resettled
by British Colonists.
By the late 17th Century, Sir Christopher Codrington brought sugar
cultivation to the island on a grand scale and a century later, the
island was a bustling sugar producer, growing and processing sugar
If you happen to enjoy windmills as the subject matter of your
photography, Antigua is an absolute must for you! Ruins of over
100 windmills used to grind cane still remain on the island!
One windmill that I consider a "must see" is Betty's Hope. It is a
restored ruin located on the former estate of Sir Codrington, which
was Antigua's very first sugar plantation!
Antigua was used as a strategic port in the 18th century. Known as
"The Gateway to the Caribbean," it was full of military
reinforcements to ensure that it remained in the proper hands.
Antigua remained under British rule until 1981, when it gained
independence as the state of Antigua and Barbuda. Today, the sugar growing process has been replaced by tourism as the main industry of the island.
Speaking of tourism! A visit to Nelson's Dockyard, named after
Admiral Horatio Nelson, and located at English Harbor, will take
you back to the days when some 2,000 sailors would be cooped up for months every summer, swilling grog and brawling!
The Dockyard museum recaptures the 18th century era of privateers, pirates and battles at sea. Its naval buildings remain as they were when Admiral Nelson was there. Absolutely fascinating!
Once you have visited Nelson's Dockyard and taken the 20 minute
tour, I suggest a stop at Admiral's Inn. Admiral's Inn maintains a
shady waterfront lounge where a very dignified waiter will serve
you a delicious cup of tea on the patio. This also happens to be a
great vantage point from which to check out the sleek modern yachts moored in the marina! I will tell you more about the modern yachts in my next issue!
Nelson's Dockyard is no longer just an incredible piece of history.
It is now a National Park with beaches, tropical vegetation, and
great nature trails with fabulous coastal views! You can easily
spend an entire day there taking in all that is offered! Come
The nature trails at Nelson's Dockyard can last anywhere from 30
minutes to 5 hours. I can't offer a personal opinion of the 5
hour hiking trails, and I don't plan to! I'll leave it up to you
real hikers to fill me in on that one!
The locals claim that the very best nature trail on all of Antigua
goes up the hill from English Harbor to Shirley Heights. Since I
haven't personally experienced all of the trails, I can't honestly
make that statement.
I have, however, been to Shirley Heights. The trail is an easy
hike; you are at the summit in less than an hour; and at a peak of
490 feet that is one AWESOME panoramic view of the Harbor!
Shirley Heights just also happens to be "the place to be" on Sunday
nights for jump-ups!
It didn't take me long to discover that "jump-up' is just another
term for impromptu dance! Of course, now that the Sunday night
jump-ups at Shirley Heights have become so well-known, we can't
exactly say they are impromptu anymore!
Nevertheless, Sunday evenings kick-off at Shirley Heights with an
all-welcome barbecue and then continue on with drinking and dancing to live local music late into the evening. Well-known celebrities can often be seen mingling with the tourists. I have crossed paths with Eric Clapton once there myself. The people, music, food, drinks and incredible view of the Harbor make Shirley Heights another Antigua "must see"!
I have just touched on Antigua's magnificent history. If you desire
more, I highly recommend a visit to the Dow's Hill Interpretation
Center, located just 2.5 miles southeast of the Dockyard. The only
one of its kind in the Caribbean, the Center offers multimedia
presentations that cover six periods of the island's history.
In the next entry, we will move from the southern end of Antigua
both east and north on the island! You don't want to miss it! I
love this island and so will you!