Antigua is the biggest among the Southern Caribbean islands, with hundreds of small, picturesque bays along its coast. The local are very proud of the many beaches on the island: they can choose amongst almost four hundred, and many of them lie in completely closed bays and only can be reached by boat through the sea.
The cruise ships are docking in the harbor of St. John’s, a nice little Caribbean town. The downtown is located next to the coast, with tidy streets and narrow malls. On the hill above the town there is a spectacular cathedral with silver domes, its towers are the easiest to spot in the town. Under the hill there are old but charming wooden houses with balconies and huge gardens.
The malls of St. John’s are always busy, but the high season is during winter, just like on the other Caribbean island. The modern shopping mall of Heritage Quay awaits the tourists next to the port with its tax-free shops. This quarter at the port is naturally the most important and busy part of the town. Next to Heritage Quay there is an indoors market hall, crammed with souvenir booths, and Redcliff Quay, a little further from the water is a nice shopping mall as well. Its renovated wooden and stone buildings are occupied today by galleries, bars and restaurants of every variety, from the expensive and elegant cafés to the smaller and convenient outdoor restaurants. These places regularly offer live music, mostly reggae and other popular Caribbean styles.
There are two old forts at the entrance of the harbor of St. John’s with a spectacular view on the region. In the colonial times Antigua was the main stronghold for the British Navy because of its many hidden bays where it was safe to dock and it was easy to protect from the enemy. Antigua’s several forts – many of them have never been occupied by enemy forces – are reminder of those times.
Behind Fort James, on the north side of the harbor of St. John’s, lies the perhaps nicest and most convenient coast of Antigua, Dickinson Bay, on more than one mile. because of the fine white sand covering the beach, the water is crystal clear, and there are only four hotels standing in the background, surrounded by gardens with beautiful tropical trees. The lovers of beaches can really have a good time here, in Dickinson Bay, with opportunity for water sports, too.
The famous Nelson’s Dockyard National Park is far from St. John’s, but given the time, it’s really worth visiting. It can be found on the southern part of the island, next to Falmouth Harbour, the old capitol of Antigua. The national park is named after admiral Nelson, the famous British hero and strategic genius of the 18th century. When he only was a captain, he was assigned to Antigua and spent three years here. The Nelson Dockyard, renovated in the sixties, is on the area of the national park, right next to the coast. The Dockyard Museum, exhibiting various interesting artifacts about the building of ships, is in the old house of the admiral himself.