Cruise and Beach Destinations
in the Caribbean, Mexico & Beyond

15 Great Antigua Tourist Attractions

St. John's, Antigua, has plenty to see on a guided walking tour. Credit: Wikimedia Creative Commons license
St. John's, Antigua, has plenty to see on a guided walking tour. Credit: Wikimedia Creative Commons license

The best Antigua attractions and things to do for cruise and resort visitors include St. John’s, Stingray Village and the historic English Harbour naval base.

1) St. John’s

Like most Caribbean cruise ports, the capital city of St. John’s on the northwest coast of the island is an easy attraction to explore for anyone on foot.

Guided walking tours cost about $50-60 per person and last about two hours, although anyone can easily tour on their own.

Highlights include the white towers of St. John’s Cathedral, which was built in 1845. It is easy to spot from the harbor for anyone visiting the island by cruise ship. St. John’s also has one of the nicer shopping districts among top Caribbean destinations.

Walkers will find easy access to shopping in St. John’s. Heritage Quay is a higher priced, duty-free shopping area overlooking the city. The nearby Redcliffe Quay also offers shopping in one of the oldest neighborhoods in the city.

An arts and crafts market is by the west end bus terminal. A fruit and vegetable market with more shops is by the arts and crafts market.

2) Stingray Village

Grand Cayman’s most famous attraction and one of the best in the Caribbean is called Stingray City, where visitors get out of boats and hang out with friendly stingray on a shallow sandbar.

Antigua has its own Stingray Village where visitors take a short boat ride to a shallow pool on the coast and interact with the rays. It is available as a cruise line shore excursion; resort vacationers can buy it directly from a tour operator.

Prices vary widely depending on the length of time and other factors. Less expensive options cost about $75 per person and last three hours. Prices are subject to change.

3) English Harbour

English Harbour is one of the best Antigua tourist attractions and among the best historical attractions in the entire Caribbean. The British navy built this important base in the 1700s and maintained it until closure in 1889. It is now part of the 15 square miles of Nelson’s Dockyard National Park.

This is a common shore excursion from cruise lines and is popular with history lovers. Resort visitors will likely need a rental car to get there. The harbour is 40 minutes southeast of St. John’s. Prices are usually within $50 to $100 per person depending on the amenities for a three- to four-hour tour.

Points of interest include Clarence House, a home built for the future King William IV (1765-1837) when he served under the legendary British admiral Horatio Nelson as captain of the H.M.S. Pegasus.

Colonial-era structures of interest that line the shore include Admiral’s Inn, the Copper and Lumber Store, and the Sailmaker’s Loft. One of the most popular points of interest is Shirley Heights:

English Harbour Antigua
English Harbour. Credit: Wikimedia Creative Commons license

4) Shirley Heights

The numerous gun emplacements and military buildings at Shirley Heights overlook English Harbour. It is named after General Shirley, who was Governor of the Leeward Islands during the 18th century when the area was fortified.

The nearby cemetery includes an obelisk honoring soldiers of the 54th regiment. Visitors on Sunday afternoon will find barbecue, rum punch, steel band and reggae music. Shore excursions of English Harbour usually include a visit to Shirley Heights. They also usually include Dow’s Hill:

5) Dow’s Hill Interpretation Centre

Visitors to this facility by English Harbour can view a multimedia presentation of Antigua’s history. Observation decks at the center and at Fort Berkley give visitors a vantage point for seeing the harbor.

6) Beach Attractions

Antigua claims 365 beaches or one for every day of the year. But only a few are worth considering for anyone who wants to visit one. Otherwise, hotel visitors have plenty of their own beaches right outside of their hotels.

Ffryes Beach
Ffryes Beach. Credit: Wikimedia Creative Commons license

Fort Bay Beach, also known as Miller’s Beach and Fort James Beach, is one of the most convenient beaches for cruise passengers to reach. It’s a 10-minute taxi ride from St. John’s. This one is a good option for anyone who goes on their own rather than taking a paid excursion. We found that few amenities such as restaurants are there.

Some excursion operators offer another getaway to the more popular Runaway Beach for about $50 per person. It is just to the north of the nearby Fort James Beach. Prices include transportation and usually include a lounge chair, shared umbrella and complimentary beverage.

Otherwise, anyone who wants a better beach experience can take a 25-minute taxi or excursion bus ride to Ffryes Beach on the west coast. A four-hour excursion again may cost around $50 per person. That said, we found Fort Bay Beach was quiet, more than adequate and quick to visit.

7) Fort James

Forts from the Caribbean’s European presence in previous centuries are common on Caribbean islands, and Antigua has an example with Fort James. Anyone who goes to Fort Bay / Fort James Beach can walk to the remains of the fort.

Its location at the entrance of St. John’s Harbour makes it a quick excursion for anyone visiting Antigua for the day by cruise ship. This one is a good option in combination with the Fort James Beach, although be aware there isn’t much left to see.

The fort and beach are two and a half miles from the cruise docks, so passengers will need a taxi, rental car or excursion bus to reach them. Some tour operators recently were offering a tour of them with Segways.

8) Zipline Tours

The Antigua Rainforest Zipline Tour has 13 ziplines with heights of up to 300 feet and lengths of up to 328 feet. As a shore excursion, the cost is about $135 per person depending on the program.

The excursion lasts about four hours. The facility is 30 minutes south of St. John’s.

Antigua sailing
Antigua and especially English Harbour attracts quite a few sailors. Credit: Pixabay license

Shore Excursions On Your Own

Antigua visitors who want to explore the island in depth for an entire day can rent a car. They can visit any of the attractions above and go to more options below that aren’t available from excursion operators.

In our experience, hotel visitors on a budget might take a taxi from the airport to their hotel and rent a car for just a day to visit all of the major Antigua tourist attractions. Visitors can do St. John’s, Stingray Village and English Harbour in one full day.

9) Jolly Harbour and Cedar Valley Golf Clubs

Both golf courses on Antigua are 18 holes and par 70. Jolly Harbour green fees are $57.50. Cedar Valley fees are unavailable at the time of this writing. Jolly Harbour is about six miles southwest of the St. John’s cruise port and Cedar Valley is in St. John’s.

10) Sea View Farm Village

The village showcases folk pottery made from clay of nearby pits and then fired in open fires under layers of green grass in the yards outside potters’ homes. Folk pottery on Antigua dates back to the early 18th century. Visitors can buy the pottery at shops in the village and elsewhere on the island.

11) Donkey Sanctuary

The donkey sanctuary is a charitable project of the Antigua Humane Society that shelters about 150 at-risk animals. It is on the southeast side of the island near Bethesda, about 12 miles or 30 minutes by car from the cruise docks. The sanctuary is open 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Saturday.

12) Half Moon Bay

Anyone with a rental car can see Half Moon Bay on the eastern side of the island. This bay located on the far western tip of the island is indeed shaped like a half moon. It’s a popular destination for walking, riding or just enjoying the pink sand beach.

The beach is 16 miles or 40 minutes by car from the St.John’s docks. Car renters might want to visit it in combination with English Harbour.

13) Betty’s Hope

One of the first full-scale sugar plantations on the island, built in 1674, is near Pares Village on the eastern side of Antigua. It represents more than 300 years of island history.

14) St. Georges Anglican Church

This colonial era church five miles east of the docks was built in 1687 and remodelled in 1735. A marble ledger has the name of the first English settler to be interred within a place of worship on the island, according to the Ministry of Tourism. The location overlooks Fitch’s Creek and Parham Harbour.

15) Museum of Antigua and Barbuda

Cruise visitors who are history and culture buffs with a little extra time can visit the Museum of Antigua and Barbuda on Long Street, just a quarter mile northeast of the docks.

It offers the history of Antigua and Barbuda starting with its birth and going through the present. Exhibits include a wide variety of objects, from a life-size replica of an Arawak dwelling to the bat of Viv Richards, one of the greatest cricket players of all time.

Scott S. Bateman is a professional journalist who has traveled widely throughout the Caribbean and the Americas.
October 11, 2023