Famous for seafaring since Admiral Nelson first sailed into port in the late 18th century, Antigua & Barbuda is at the centre of the Leeward Islands, floating in the eastern Caribbean just about 17˚ north of the equator.
The country’s small, English speaking, trimmed with some of earth’s loveliest beaches and made for outdoor adventure and gently great fun family holidays.
Confused by the Antigua & Barbuda connection? Don’t be. Antigua is simply better known and best loved for exceptional resorts, restaurants, water sports and bustling harbour towns.
Barbuda is smaller, less visited and a nature lover’s paradise. But, taken together, they’re one idyllic country.
Antigua’s historic quarter, English Harbour, contains the only Georgian Dockyard in the world. It was built by Admiral Nelson in the late 18thcentury.
Barbuda has a population of just 1000 and is known for the Frigate Bird Sanctuary, cave art and completely deserted pink sand beaches. John’s combination of grand Baroque buildings, colourful Creole traditions and Colonial architecture make it one of the prettiest Caribbean capitals.
Direct flights from London to Antigua. Flying time just under nine hours.
Temperatures of between 25 and 30˚C all year. Hottest months July and August.
A beach for every day of the year
Antigua has 365 different beaches and they’re all public.
Stunning coral reefs
Both Antigua and Barbuda are completely surrounded by coral reefs and exceptional for diving and snorkelling.
Where to go
Antigua’s capital is about as far from an urban sprawl as it’s possible to get. Quaint and charming but still plenty lively, the city bustles with as much energy in sunny winter as it does in hot, hot summer. It’s also the island’s main cruise port and enormous liners regularly loom large over the brightly painted harbour-side buildings and neighbouring city streets. But, in idiosyncratic St. John’s, the modern behemoths are likely to be moored alongside graceful 19th century tall ships.
Island capital and good for restaurants, shops, markets and local festivals.
John’s Cathedral’s twin towers dominate the skyline – the present church was built in 1845 after the 17th and 18th century versions were destroyed by earthquakes.
John’s is at the heart of Antigua’s legendary 11 day summer carnival – a spectacular celebration of Caribbean culture, music, dance and outrageous dressing up. Great fun for kids.
Don’t miss: local markets on Friday and Saturday morning, the Museum of Antigua & Barbuda, Dickenson Bay for water sports and beach games, Runaway Bay for quieter sands, family-friendly Fort James Beach.
The world’s only remaining Georgian Dock is Antigua’s historic district. Most of the construction was carried out under the command of Admiral Nelson in the late 18th century and English Harbour itself is just a small part of the 24km² Nelson’s Dockyard National Park.
Vantage points like Shirley Heights and Dow’s Hill are prime locations for spectators during Antigua’s Sailing Week in December.
Well-marked walking trails all over the park are perfect for exploring Antigua away from the beach.
Don’t miss: Dow’s Hill Interpretation Centre, Clarence House, Shirley Heights for views over the sea to Montserrat and Sunday afternoon barbecues.
Round and about Dickenson Bay is where most families choose to stay on Antigua. An archetypal Caribbean beach it has everything from barbecues and cool beach bars to any water sport your kids can name – plus long, pure white sands and blue, blue sea, naturally. The resort hotels in this area are very child-friendly and, if you get tired of the lively atmosphere on Dickenson, you can sneak along a few metres to peaceful Runaway Bay.
If you have very young children and want complete and utter solitude, basing a holiday in Barbuda is as close to a desert-island fantasy as it gets. For any kid over two, it’s a bit on the quiet side but a day’s visit from Antigua is a wonderful experience.
Catamaran ferry crossings from Antigua to Barbuda take 90 minutes – they’re scheduled to allow visitors to spend almost an entire day on the island.
Frigate Bird Sanctuary is home to over 170 species of native birds.
Don’t miss: flawless pink and white sand beaches, snorkelling, exploring northern Barbuda’s caves, beachcombing and historic plantation house ruins.
Barbuda is a coral island so the diving here is amazing.
What to do
Reef Rider Snorkelling, Jolly Harbour Marina
Take the kids on a snorkelling cruise at Cade Reef just off the coast. It’s self-drive so you have to be confident handling an inflatable reef rider – not too tricky.
Explore the Georgian Dockyard, climb up to Shirley Heights for the view and walk the trails round Nelson’s Dockyard National Park.
Cruise the 22 islands off the north coast of Antigua, visit a turtle conservancy and take a nature walk to the top of Bird Island.
Antigua Rainforst Zip Lines
Dozens of zip lines, tree top walks, courses and aerial trails through dense, tropical Antiguan forest.
D-Boat Amusement Centre, Maiden Island
A de-commissioned oil tanker off the coast of Antigua converted into a family-friendly fun day-out with waterslides, reef snorkelling and stingray encounters.
Antigua Nature Tours, North Sound Marine Park
Spend the day kayaking, eco-touring and climbing in and around Antigua’s remarkable Red Mangrove forest. Antigua Nature Tours
Barbuda Day Sail
Catch the morning catamaran ferry to beautiful Barbuda and spend hours exploring the beaches and caves, visiting the bird reserve and snorkelling the reef.
Wadadi Animal Nature Park, Lion’s Estate
Not a city zoo by any means, this sweet animal park is big on conservation and very engaging for younger kids.
Antigua’s Donkey Sanctuary, St. John’s
Over 150 donkeys live at this friendly animal centre, kids can get up close to the animals and even adopt a donkey – don’t worry, it stays on the island.
Barbuda Caves are home to several of the country’s rarest native species and a lovely walk from the main village, Codrington. Indian Cave contains petroglyphs drawn by the Arawak, the earliest Caribbean inhabitants.
Educational value for kids
The Museum of Antigua & Barbuda in St. John’s has a good archaeological collection and interesting Arawak Indian exhibits.
An island of sailors, Antigua is a wonderful place for kids to learn some basic yacht craft.
John’s weekend market is a fun morning visit and packed with local life.
Visit for carnival and kids can see where Notting Hill came from originally.
The sheltered waters round Antigua are ideal for diving lessons and the island has several excellent schools.
Spend the day at the English Harbour and put the British element of Antigua into context for kids.
Dickenson Bay is water sport heaven and almost everything’s taught by well-qualified local instructors.
Getting around with kids in Antigua and Barbuda
Antigua’s a small island but dense with interesting places to visit, hiring a car is the best way to get about. Cycling is very common too and there are several bike hire shops in St. John’s. The catamaran ferry runs to Barbuda every day and walking on the island is the only way to go.