Antigua

This page will encapsulate many of the travel destinations we’ve managed to get to – along with some of our thoughts about each place.

St. John's

St. John’s is the capital and key port of the Caribbean island nation of Antigua and Barbuda. The city is home to the Museum of Antigua and Barbuda, with exhibits on indigenous tribes and plantation life. St. John’s Cathedral, a 19th-century Anglican church, is on a hill near the 17th-century Government House. A monument to the nation’s founder, V.C. Bird, is next to the Public Market, which sells crafts and produce.

The Verandah Resort and Spa

Surrounded by 12 hectares of palm trees and oceanfront coastline, this sprawling, all-inclusive resort is 6 km from snorkeling at Stingray City Antigua and 17 km from VC Bird International Airport.

Nelson's Dockyard

Nelson's Dockyard is a cultural heritage site and marina in English Harbour, located in Saint Paul Parish on the island of Antigua, in Antigua and Barbuda. It is part of Nelson's Dockyard National Park, which also contains Clarence House and Shirley Heights, and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. 

Shirley Heights

Shirley Heights is a restored military lookout and gun battery. The Lookout. This high point (about 490 ft.) affords a superb view of English and Falmouth Harbours, the best view in Antigua. The view is spectacular, especially at sunset and early evening when all of English Harbour is all lit up.

The Verandah Resort and Spa, Shirley Heights, Nelson's Dockyard and St. John's

We were not huge fans of Antigua, unfortunately. It’s an island in the British West Indies and because of that the weather was fantastic other than a couple of raging yet short rain storms. With a small and very friendly population of only 80,000, and with the small size of the island, there just isn’t a lot to see or do.

We stayed at the Verdah Resort and Spa on the eastern side of the island. This is a four star all-inclusive and we were there on the off-season, so only about 150 or so people were there with us. Frustratingly, the Beach Bar & Grill was only open every 2nd day so there was nowhere near the beach to grab a lunchtime meal, and worse, the beach bar wasn’t serving alcohol. A server would run up to the main bar to grab any required alcohol but the service at the beach bar was fruity non-alcoholic drinks only. We have never encountered this at any resort we’ve stayed at, high season or low season. All of the staff were friendly and accommodating, so at least there’s that.

The 2nd (non-main) beach was a little too out of the way so other than a brief look, we didn’t spend any time there. This is a huge resort so one must take golf cart shuttles to get around. We did, however, spend a day at the adult pool which was not an unbearable walk from the main pool and bar. It was quiet and had a man-made waterfall. Kind of fun to play in and around with if you have an action cam.

The main buffet restaurant, Seabreeze, was good, but strangely they didn’t have a carving station on any of the nights we went there (which was all but 2 nights). Our worst meal was at the fanciest restaurant – Nicole’s. The calamari was bland and chewy – exactly what it is not supposed to be. The lobster, too, was bland. The dessert, apple pie, could have been cut from any inexpensive store brand pie, and the ice cream that was supposed to come with it wasn’t the one that was supposed to come with it. The resort charges a $40 US premium, each, to eat here. Fortunately we were comped so the sting is only in the memories and not in the wallet. Oh, and due to the dim lighting it was extremely difficult to read the menus. We had to resort to taking flash photos of it with our smartphones and zooming on the image. Grr. The Buccaneer – an a la carte dining restaurant serving Caribbean-inspired, family-friendly fare, was much better. The poolside evening dinner was a smash hit, for us. Great food, good prizes and fun. We won a bottle of champagne which we donated to some newlyweds.

The main pool area was a mess in the early morning – mostly because staff failed to clean up the previous evening’s glassware and towels, and straighten the chairs. Towel availability was hit-and-miss too. The coffee bar needs a major facelift. So many things could have been improved that it felt like the resort owner, whom we met, was cheaping out. Maybe that is just an effect of it being the off-season. But that’s no way to attract guests in high season. Maybe they don’t need to.

We went on 2 excursions – the first being to St. John’s – the country’s capital. Disappointing is an understatement. Up to 4 cruise ships can dock in the harbour and the outflow of people from these ships really have only one place to go – to the exclusive shops on the pedestrian concourse. After that, you have 3 options: the market, the museum, and Saint John the Divine Cathedral Cemetery. The visited the latter 2, but visitor beware – the sidewalks are absolutely treacherous and from all accounts have remained so for the last 30 years. There’s gaping holes in them revealing a flow of water beneath, slanted concrete slabs and 2′ cliffs aside some of them. This is not a place you’d want to traverse if you have a physical disability. Buildings and infrastructure is in such bad shape it makes one wonder if the city is receiving remuneration from all of the passenger ships docking at its port, and if so, where is the money going? And the price gouging! We had 1 donut and 2 small coffees for $11 USD (about $14.50 CDN).

Our second excursion, and much better, was to Shirley Heights, the Blockhouse Fort and Nelson’s Dockyard. Unfortunately, we arrived in Antigua in the afternoon on a Sunday, and Sunday evening happens to be when the weekly celebration happens high up on Shirley Heights with food vendors and music and the best sundown on the island. So we didn’t make it then, but it was quiet when we did go and still worth it if crowds are not your thing. You can even see the island of Montserrat from this vantage point.