Written by Missy Johnston
There’s no better way to visit Antigua and its neighboring island, Barbuda, than on a luxury yacht charter. Antigua and Barbuda Islands are among the Caribbean’s hottest destinations. The diverse experiences that these islands offer distinguishes them from other island destinations in the Caribbean.
With far more to offer the curious traveler than just drinking tropical cocktails while lounging on the beach, Antigua and Barbuda have a blend of unique, unforgettable experiences. Enjoy pristine beaches, natural wildlife sanctuaries, ancient petroglyphs, hidden caves, and colonial history, especially that of the mark Admiral Horatio Lord Nelson left on the island of Antigua. Both islands are the ideal destinations for your private luxury yacht cruise.
Together, the two islands of Antigua and Barbuda, along with other smaller islets, form a sovereign (English monarchy) country in the Lesser Antilles. Barbuda lies just 25 miles north of Antigua. This short distance between the two islands makes them the perfect destination for luxury yachting and a one-week cruising yacht charter itinerary, exploring the two larger islands and the little islets.
Both islands are famous for their beaches. Antigua is more populated. It is dotted with many resorts, hotels, and villages that attract more tourists than Barbuda. In contrast, Barbuda is barely populated, with its only settlement, Codrington, located in a lagoon to the west giving a more remote feel.
The contrast between these two islands means that there will always be an anchorage or island location to match your mood.
Antigua: A Beach for Everyone
Antigua’s coastline is an intricate, undulating border of bays and headlands. This geography translates into plentiful beaches—365 according to locals. Reefs and shoals fringe the island, which makes the water mild and the snorkeling and scuba diving superb.
Antigua has beaches for every kind of activity: swimming, scuba diving, snorkeling, jet-skiing, people-watching, or just relaxing, and more. Because Antigua is small, even when inland, you are never far away from a tantalizing tract of white-gold shoreline.
Antigua Beaches for Playtime
Antigua beaches provide ample social opportunities and fun in the sun, especially in the hustle and bustle of Dickenson Bay. The extended length (over a mile) of Dickenson’s beach stretches in between shimmering turquoise water and modern oceanfront developments.
There are plenty of places to visit ashore to socialize with beach bars, restaurants, cafes, and food trucks just steps away from the water. Dine on local favorites at the French-Caribbean Coconut Grove or Papa Zouk’s, Antigua’s most popular fish and rum spot.
There is great snorkeling nearby at Paradise Reef if you’d rather mingle with aquatic life. Paradise Reef is a mile-long stretch of coral garden teeming with marine life. You might even see a sea turtle or two in these calm waters.
Ever pictured yourself riding along a turquoise coast on the back of a noble stallion? Well, you can do just that on Runaway Beach at Fort James with Uprising Horses. The nostalgic ruins of 18th-century Fort James tower above this beach.
Solitude on the Beach
Antigua Beaches for Solitude
If you’re in the mood for a secluded beach or even a deserted island cove where you can watch a sunset in serene silence, there are many low-key beaches in Antigua.
Rendezvous Bay is one of Antiqua’s most isolated beaches. It’s tucked away on a remote section of the coastline. The best part about Rendezvous Bay is that it is only accessible by water or by foot along a challenging trail. Its relative inaccessibility makes it likely you’ll enjoy quiet time at Rendezvous Bay and may be the only ones there.
Dennis Beach Bar & Restaurant, a local culinary gem, is located nearby, as is Sheer Rocks, famous for its innovative tapas. Sheer Rocks is set directly into a vertical cliffside, with tiered terraces of wooden decks that stow away curtained dining nooks. It’s easy to make Sheer Rocks a whole-day affair with its stunning views, fine dining, private infinity pools, and comfortable loungers.
Best Snorkeling in Antigua
Snorkeling in the Caribbean
If snorkeling is your thing, there are numerous secrets of the seas tucked around the island. Make sure on your charter to head to Deep Bay Beach, where you can explore the Wreck of the Andes. This three-masted ship sank more than 100 years ago while sailing from Trinidad to Chile. After snorkeling this shipwreck, head ashore to climb nearby Goat Hill to enjoy the great views from Fort Barrington, the current ruins of which date to 1779.
Similar to Deep Bay beach, Morris Bay is another excellent destination for both snorkeling and hiking. Many consider this bay to be one of the best snorkeling sites on the Island. Mt. Obama towers over the beach, offering breathtaking views from its summit.
Antigua’s Historic Locations
If history fascinates you, then ensure you visit these two Antigua historical sites. The first is Nelson’s Dockyard National Park, located in English Harbour. What is now Nelson’s Dockyard was established by the British Royal Navy in the 18th century as a haven for their ships during hurricanes and as a monitoring station for French naval activity in the region.
Admiral Horatio Nelson (the British hero of the Battle of Trafalgar) enforced English law on Antigua from 1784 to 1787, while serving as the captain of H.M.S. Boreas. Nelson’s Dockyard was Nelson’s home base during this period.
Nelson’s Dockyard was used by the English until the middle of the 19th century, when sugar production declined and England was lured by the prospect of colonizing other parts of the world. Antigua began restoration of the military facility in the 1950’s and its name was changed to Nelson’s Dockyard National Park. Today, the original structures built from cut coral blocks still stand, repurposed into hotels, shops, sailing lofts, restaurants, and an excellent museum. Tie up stern just as yachts have for decades, and explore the park on your own or a private tour can be arranged with a National Park Service guide.
Shirley Height’s, Antigua
Up at nearby Shirley Heights where additional outbuildings still survive, on Sunday nights herald the sunset over English and Falmouth Bays at the weekly Caribbean “Jump Up” with local rum punch, barbecue, and a steel band playing reggae music.
Antigua’s Most Interesting and Unique Itinerary Destinations
There’s more to Antigua than its beautiful beaches. For example, Hell’s Gate Island is a great option for a day trip. It’s accessible only by water, and its natural arch and rock caves offer endless photographic opportunities.
Travel to the southern part of the island to visit the Donkey Sanctuary. The Antigua and Barbuda Humane Society operates this sanctuary, which can shelter over 150 donkeys. You might want to include a visit to Stingray City, where you can interact with wild stingrays. While you’re there, be sure to explore the Aldabra Tortoise Sanctuary as well.
Barbuda’s Remote Beaches and Coves
Some say Barbuda is the best-kept secret of the Caribbean. There are no international flights into Barbuda, so all visitors must travel to Antigua first. After enjoying all Antigua has to offer, it’s a short yacht cruise to Barbuda.
Pink and white sand beaches trim Barbuda’s coastline. Barrier reefs protect these pristine, nearly deserted beaches, creating a rich environment for marine life.
Fine white sand covers most of Barbuda’s beaches. Some beaches; however, are the color of pink cotton candy. This is from tiny pink shells that wash ashore onto these beaches and are crushed into sand
Pink sand beach on Barbuda Island made of tiny pink shells
Explore the Hidden Caves of Barbuda
Barbuda Island is composed of limestone; so there are many caves and sinkholes you can explore. Guides are available for the island’s more well-hidden caves, but in Two Foot Bay National Park, it is easy to visit Indian Cave without a guide filled with ancient petroglyphs.
Find the entrance to this mysterious cave at the top of a bluff adjacent to a stone ruin. This three-chambered cave is carved into the cliffs. It’s dotted with petroglyphs created by the original inhabitants of Barbuda, the Arawak—or the Ciboney—Indians. There are stunning views of the ocean from above the cave.
Shadows under palm branches at Ffryes beach Antigua and Barbuda
Another fantastic day trip is Darby Cave, a giant sinkhole in the middle of the Highlands. After a 45-minute or so trek on foot, the deep hole will appear suddenly in front of you! It’s so deep that the tops of tall palm trees growing inside the sinkhole are at eye level. View magnificent stalactites, some of which are eight feet long. And don’t worry about getting lost. Local people know this area well, so just ask.
Historic Attractions in Barbuda
The ruins of Codrington House hark back to the colonial history of Barbuda. The Government House is another old colonial site. This building, which dates back to 1694, was inhabited until 1976. If you explore Codrington village, you’ll find many original buildings, old houses, and dry stone walls.
Barbuda: An Animal Paradise
Barbuda is very different from Antigua. Much of the island is underdeveloped, making it the ideal habitat for many sea birds and animals. Be careful because much of this wildlife is now endangered elsewhere in the Caribbean. Sea turtles, armies of land crabs, guinea birds, deer, and wild boar abound, along with wild donkeys, horses, and cattle.
Your customized luxury yacht charter to Antigua and Barbuda will take you above and beyond a typical trip to the Caribbean Islands to this distinctive Caribbean nation. As different as these two islands are from one another, this nation of two islands is just as different from other Caribbean nations and is awash with many unique things to do, and see. Let us create your custom Antigua and Barbuda luxury yacht charter itinerary today.