The beach is just the beginning.
Powdery white sand, azure waters and coconut laden palm trees. It can be difficult to imagine ever wanting to leave your sun lounger and explore one of the small roads that winds itself around this tropical paradise. Any yet, this is exactly what we implore you to do.
Certainly Antigua's 300+ beaches are stunning - but there is still much to excite the traveller on this small Caribbean island.
Here's our guide to help you plan the perfect trip, including 15 of the best things to do in Antigua and Barbuda.
Learn How to Sail
Our stay in Antigua happened to coincide with one of the biggest weeks for tourism on the island - Sailing Week. In fact, this annual seven day extravaganza is one of the most famous regattas in the world, known for its spectacular racing and, naturally, in a country of rum, its serious partying.
Should you plan to visit in one the other 51 weeks of the year however, do not fear - there's still plenty of opportunity to feel the wind in your hair and salt-spray on your face.
Take a Road Trip
Naturally, most of us go to Antigua because we want a well earned rest; a chance to put our feet up, slap on some sunscreen and read a good book. However, even the most sun-worshipping of tourists will likely find themselves a little bored after a few days, and hopefully wondering what actually goes on on this little island outside of your perfect Antigua all-inclusive resort.
Whilst this is possible by taking a few well-organised tours, we think that an independent adventure is much more fun. With minimal public transport options in Antigua, the very best way to get out and about is with your own car.
Many of the island's hotels have car rental facilities, but we'd actually recommend renting directly from the airport (use AutoEurope for an overview of all the best deals from a variety of local and international rental companies) when you arrive. Firstly, it's much cheaper to do it this way, and secondly, you could rent the car a little longer and then, instead of trying to squeeze all your sightseeing into a couple of days, you can spread it out - a morning by the pool and then an afternoon of explorations!
Be sure to check out our article on '10 Things to Know Before Renting a Car in Antigua'.
Take in the View at Shirley Heights (especially on a Sunday)
Ask any local Antiguan what is the one thing you can't miss on the island, and one answer will be provided more often than anything else - Shirley Heights. Or, more specifically, Sunday nights at Shirley Heights!
With spectacular views from the lookout over English Harbour at any time of the day, under the setting Sunday sun, it becomes quite the party spot until the wee small hours. Think barbecues, rum punch, steel drum bands, and a bloody good time!
Find more details here.
Donate at the Donkey Sanctuary
We have promised each other that when we eventually lay down some roots in a small but perfectly formed country cottage in Europe, that a permanent house guest will be a rescued donkey.
A visit to the local donkey sanctuary in Antigua then was a no-brainer.
We were surprised to discover that, whilst no longer used for work, Antigua has a relatively large wild donkey population. And although many live their lives out happily roaming the island, illness and car accidents mean that this small sanctuary has a constant, and ever-growing, troupe of four-legged friends to look after.
The sanctuary is located on the eastern side of the island near Bethesda and is open Monday - Saturday from 10 a.m. til 4 p.m. There is no entry fee however the sanctuary relies heavily on donations in order to survive. You can either simply put money in the donations box, or instead buy one of the many fund-raising items that they sell.
As ever, treat the animals with the respect they deserve when visiting - most are really friendly and love to be brushed by visitors.
Indulge in an all-inclusive
Just like the beaches, whilst there is more to do in Antigua than maroon yourself on a lilo in your hotel pool, staying at one of the excellent all inclusive resorts is an absolute must do during your time on the island.
We were lucky enough to spend a week in the delightful Verandah Resort and can't recommend it highly enough. Fantastic food, a great cocktail selection (which even with a valiant effort we still failed to make our way entirely through), several pools, beautiful grounds, and probably one of the best balcony views we've ever had from our room.
Verandah is owned by Elite Island Resorts and they have a number of other equally excellent all-inclusive hotels on the island including Galley Bay, Pineapple and St James'.
Want to find your own perfect resort? Then check out this post featuring six of the best all inclusive resorts in Antigua.
Set Your Tongue on Fire
It is no secret that one half of Along Dusty Roads has a serious hot sauce addiction (exhibit one: the 16 bottles from around the world currently taking up half a shelf in our kitchen), and so seeking out the best this little island had to offer was a no-brainer!
Served alongside pretty much every hotel buffet, street-stall and supermarket is the ubiquitous Susie's Hot Sauce but the island is home to a number of other small producers including Dennis' (from Dennis' restaurant) and the concoctions that can be found at Elaine's Culture Shop. Sold from her road-side shack, this woman drives a hard bargain but the sauces on offer are pretty darn incredible!
You can find Elaine's shop on the same road which takes you to the zip-lining centre (see below).
Take a Hike
We were surprised to learn of the numerous hiking trails in Antigua, and jumped at the opportunity to join the local hiking group Wadadli Trail Blazers.
In bright pink t-shirts, they do hikes most Sunday mornings which members of the public can join - it was a lovely walk, and a welcome opportunity to see a slightly different side of Antigua. The Trail Blazers are also very fun company.
Ten years ago, strapping ourselves to a metal wire suspended mid-air seemed like a wonderful thing to do. These days however, we've gotten a little cautious.
For those with similar sensitivities, zip-lining in Antigua may be a good compromise. Still high, and with enough variety as to keep you entertained (they have 10 zip-lines varying from 16 - 100 metres), we have it on good authority that the wires aren't nearly as far off the ground as those elsewhere in the world, and the amount of foliage keeps your eyes diverted from the ground.
For more information, follow this link.
Find your perfect beach
Okay, we know what we said at the beginning, but you don’t come to the Caribbean and NOT fantasise about the picture postcard slices of heaven here; it's just worth remembering that your very favourite beach in Antigua may well not be the one that edges your resort.
No, sometimes you have to go out and find it.
If you're not keen on checking out all 365 beaches on Antigua (one for every day of the year), and instead want to know exactly where to go for the most idyllic setting, whitest sand, or best water, then you'll be pleased to know that we've done the hard work for you - these are our best beaches in Antigua.
Take a boat to Barbuda
Little Barbuda is the sister island to Antigua - and together they from the nation of Antigua & Barbuda.
Most visitors spend their time exclusively on Antigua, but it is very easy to take a day trip or spend a couple of nights over in Barbuda for an even more intimate Caribbean island experience. The island was badly affected by the 2017 Hurricane Irma, much more so than Antigua, and so its regeneration does depend on increased tourism. Twitchers will be happy to know that it’s one of the world’s best spots for frigates.
Boats leave six days a week (Wednesday is available to charter only) from the ferry dock in St John's harbour, and cost $45 USD one way, or $85 USD for a return journey. More information can be found on this website.
Discover St John’s
The island of Antigua lives and breathes the go-slow mentality that we love about the Caribbean. However, there remains one place here with a bit more life and action; St John's, the colourful capital.
If you are driving around the island, then you'll inevitably pass through or by the city of just over 22,000 - so why not stop off for an hour or two? Check out the market, find some tasty local dishes, visit the Museum of Antigua and Barbuda, and explore its photogenic central streets.
Too get a little more flavour of St John, check out our photo journal.
Take A Cooking Class
We've learnt to cook authentic paella in Valencia, a mean tagine in Marrakech, and traditional Brazilian cuisine in Rio de Janeiro, In fact, we strongly believe that one of the very best ways to understand a country's culture is to learn how to prepare its food.
And Antigua is no exception!
There are a few highly-recommended cooking classes on the island, with Nicole's being particularly popular. Choose from a curry class, a rum-infused special (seriously, it even goes into the soup!), or a jerk special.
And make sure you go to class with an empty stomach - you'll be doing a whole lot of eating!
Head Beneath the Ocean
As we mentioned in our 'Things to Know Before You Visit Antigua' post, one of the activities for which Antigua is most famous is swimming with stingrays. Unfortunately however, for a number of reasons, this is the type of animal tourism that we simply can't get on board with.
For those keen to get their feet wet however, the good news is that the crystal-clear waters are a fantastic spot for sorts of other water-based activities - especially snorkelling.
Cades Reef Snorkel Cruise | 6 hour cruise to Cades Reef, one of the island's top snorkel sites. Lots of swimming, fresh fish lunch on the beach and rum punch! Click here for more information.
Snorkel and Kayak Day Trip | Six hour excursion to Bird Island including snorkelling, kayaking and lunch. Click here for more information.
Reef Riders | Buddy up and take out your own 10 ft inflatable motorboat into the ocean and dive in for a snorkel whenever you fancy! Many of our friends did this activity, and still haven't stopped raving about it! Click here for more information.
In stark contrast the calm clear waters of the island's beaches, a stop at Devil's Bridge reveals a torrent of angry crashing waves against jagged rock.
Located just outside the village of Willikies, this naturally formed limestone bridge is however a poignant part of Antigua's history, with it reported that a number of slaves came here to end their lives whilst the island was under British rule.
The waters which swirl here remain dangerous and unforgiving, so please do exercise caution when exploring.
Hang out in English Harbour
Although St John's is the capital, most visitors to Antigua will spend much more time in and around English Harbour. It's got Antigua's most famous attraction, the yacht-filled harbour, plus a number of tourist focused facilities and businesses in its small centre.
Enjoy a drink at one the marina-side bars, do some souvenir shopping, enjoy the view from the ruins of Fort Berkley, or visit the restored 18th century bastion of Nelson's Dockyard (a UNESCO World Heritage site). Abracadabra is the most popular night spot in town.