Antigua is one of those places that I only seem to hear about when I watch the Commonwealth Games opening ceremony and then forget about again. At 108 square miles and only 86,500 people, it is a small country and just a speck on any map. However, for some reason, places that I know barely anything about always excite me the most, and I was excited for our day in Antigua on our Caribbean cruise.
Part of my excitement was also because, unlike our Caribbean cruise stops in the US and British Virgin Islands, Antigua has public buses that we could use to see more of the island. This meant that we were able to easily and cost effectively see more of Antigua than our other stops. It also meant that we felt more like travellers and less like cruise passengers for our day here. Antigua did not disappoint!
Here is some things to do in Antigua with kids on a budget of $50 which included a return back to the ship for lunch and a nap. There are not many attractions in Antigua, but it is easy enough to fill a day. We have also included some information for people who are staying longer
Nelson’s Dockyards is Antigua’s most popular tourist attraction, although that is not saying much. There were three cruise ships in port the day we came here and it was far from being over run.
Nelson’s Dockyards is a former British naval base. It is now used as the main port of entry for yachts and is the only working Georgian marina in the western hemisphere. It has been restored beautifully, and it is a lovely tranquil spot that we quite enjoyed. There is a museum on the grounds as well as various informative signposts. One of the buildings is an inn, and I would love to stay here if I ever come back. There are places to eat and drink, and we bought some ice creams and beers at the shop and ate them by the water. Just beautiful!
English Harbour is a tiny town right outside Nelson’s Dockyards. It is small and gorgeous. I would have loved to have a better look around here, but it is not really made for pedestrians.
The bus to Nelson’s Dockyards leaves from the St John’s West Bus Station about every 30 minutes (we waited 40 minutes though). It is EC$3.75 each way or they charged us US$4 for three seats. It takes about 30 minutes. The bus route starts and finishes at the entrance to Nelson’s Dockyards. Nelson’s Dockyards cost US$8 each and kids were free.
St John’s is the capital of Antigua and also where our ship docked. Another thing to do in Antigua is to explore this “city”.
Our first impressions were good. As we left the cruise ship, there was a steel drum band playing, and we entered St John’s through a pretty shopping mall full of colourful buildings. The rest of St John’s is not quite as pretty, but I did find it a charming place.
It is not very big so it is easy to explore on foot. There isn’t much to see here either, but it is nice to have a wander around. As soon as we left the duty free shopping mall at the cruise ship terminal, we felt like we had left all the other cruise ship passengers behind. We wandered up to St John’s Cathedral which was unfortunately shut for renovations. We also made it to the public market.
The bus was very easy to catch. The West bus station was about a ten minute walk from the ship and once we were there, everyone was helpful and it was easy to find the bus to English Harbour and Nelson’s Dockyards. Not many cruise ship passengers seemed to take the local bus which is a shame as it is very easy, very cheap and much more interesting. There were some taking buses to some of the beach destinations, so this is very possible as well.
The buses varied in quality. We caught a newish mini bus to Nelson’s Dockyards and an older van back. Both were fine. Both drivers were polite and helpful. We only have positive things to say about the Antiguan buses.
If you are staying longer than a day in Antigua, here are some great resorts:
Antigua uses the Eastern Caribbean dollar although we had no problems using US dollars in all our transactions here. People converted the cost fairly, although they of course rounded up. We were going to exchange some money, but we were unable to find a currency exchange place easily. I’m glad we didn’t bother. It was far easier to just use US dollars, and we wouldn’t have lost out by much. We were always given change in US dollars (and cents) as well.
The day was quite a bargain at US$33 including the buses, Nelson’s Dockyards, ice creams, beers and a snack. I am sure you could have fitted in half a day at a beach as well and stayed within the $50 budget if you take local buses.
We loved Antigua.
The people were very friendly and helpful. No one expected money or tried to rip us off. Being able to catch the bus definitely made a difference to our level of enjoyment as we like getting out on our own. It is lush and green with the countryside speckled with tiny houses, and lots of churches and preschools (a surprising amount of those!). Everything was a bit run down but cared for and without the rubbish that can ruin too many places that we have travelled to.
I would happily come here again, although I do not think it is somewhere I would want to spend more than a few days simply because there is not many things to do. If I was to come back, I would want to base myself in English Harbour or Nelson’s Dockyards. It did look lovely. Antigua is a great place to stop on a Caribbean cruise.
After Antigua, we stopped in the British Virgin Islands and then in the cruise port of Nassau, Bahamas. You can also read about our tips for travelling with young kids on a Caribbean cruise, our overall thoughts about our Caribbean cruise on the Carnival Freedom and our stop on the US Virgin Islands.
Have you been to Antigua? What did you think?