Antigua is one of the most fascinating islands in the Caribbean Sea. It is awash with gorgeous beaches, outdoor pursuits such as snorkeling, hiking, and mud buggy adventures. But that’s not all it has to offer. Antigua excursions into culture and history are a must-do when visiting the island.
Devil’s Bridge is a natural limestone arch in eastern Antigua. The arch is surrounded by blowholes – natural sea caves that blast seawater and air during certain weather conditions. It can get very slippery when wet and walking across the bridge can be dangerous.
The history of Devil’s Bridge is shrouded in tragedy. It’s said to be a place where enslaved people would go to commit suicide to escape the horrors of slavery. The arch got the name “Devil’s Bridge” because people at the time believed that the devil must live there
I know what you’re thinking…what’s a girl who doesn’t eat sugar doing at a sugar mill? Well, I love history so I had to explore this site. Ruins of sugar plantations sprinkle the Antiguan landscape. Betty’s Hope, constructed in 1651, is a plantation site where one of the two sugar mill towers has been fully restored complete with sails.
Nelson’s Dockyard is a UNESCO (2016) working Georgian era (1714-1830 George IV) naval dockyard in English Harbor that is set in some of the most picturesque scenery found anywhere. The site contains a unique combination of history, heritage, and the environment with scenic beauty, beaches, and sailing. It includes Clarence House and Shirley Heights.
The historic site is named after Admiral Horatio Nelson, who lived in the Royal Navy Dockyard from 1784 through 1787.
NOTE: I did the above three Antigua excursions with Pink Panther Jeep Tours. Here’s a short video of those and a couple of other sites:
Capital and largest city of Antigua and Barbuda, St. John’s was first colonized in 1643 and currently has a population of 22,219.
Candy-colored shops and restaurants line the downtown area and the skyline is dominated by the white baroque towers of St. John’s Cathedral. The Botanical Garden has shaded benches and a gazebo providing a quiet refuge.
Government House is the Governor’s residence in St. John’s, originally a 19th-century parsonage building. It is included on the World Monuments Fund’s 2018 list of monuments at risk, following exposure to severe weather events.
Fort James guards the entrance to the harbor of St. John’s. The fort was built to guard the harbor and is one of the many forts built by the British in the 18th century due to the threat of a French invasion.
The local fish market in St. John’s is a fascinating place. I arrived early one morning and watched a local fisherman deliver his just-caught lionfish onto the dock. I followed him into the market, watched him clean the fish, after which we purchased them to deliver to our hotel chef to prepare for our private dinner party later that night.
Lionfish, you ask? Lionfish are not indigenous to the Caribbean but somehow got there from Southeast Asia. They are very invasive, repopulating quickly and causing the ecosystem to suffer.
I think the new solution is ingenious: fish them out and eat them, aka “kill it and grill it!”
Hells Gate Steel Drums
This was the sleeper surprise of all of my Antigua excursions. Hell’s Gate Steel Orchestra blew me away. The amazingly talented orchestra consisting mostly of young adults has won dozens of awards.
I was allowed the privilege of being present during one of their practice sessions. The first song they struck up was classical “William Tell Overture.” I was neither expecting that song, nor the diversity and intensity of the sound of the steel drums. I won’t lie; it brought tears to my eyes.
It was also a special treat when they invited me up to play with the band. One young woman instructed me for a few minutes, and voila! I played “Mary Had a Little Lamb”…and it was distinguishable! Ha! How’s that for a girl who’s never played a musical instrument and can’t even read a note?
And naturally, I danced as the band played. It’s what I do.
It doesn’t get more locally authentic than this! When my PR people told me I was going to interview Kinky Man 96.1 Rasta, I was a bit puzzled as to what they were up to. But it turned out to be an enormous amount of fun! Kinky Man has a tiny home studio where he broadcasts great reggae music to the area. He was such a sweet man and I even got to go live on air for my radio debut!
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Disclosure: The author was honored to be the guest of Visit Antigua & Barbuda during her stay, but as always, the opinions, reviews, and experiences are her own.
About the Author
Patti Morrow is a freelance travel writer and founder of the award-winning international blog Luggage and Lipstick and southern travel blog Gone to Carolinas. TripAdvisor called her one of “20 Baby Boomer Travel Bloggers Having More Fun Than Millennials” and she was named one of the “Top 35 Travel Blogs” in the world.
Patti is the author of the book “Girls Go Solo: Tips for Women Traveling Alone,” and has over 150 bylines in 40 print and online publications, including The Huffington Post, International Living Magazine, Washington Post Sunday Travel, Travel Girl, Travel Play Live Magazine, and Ladies Home Journal. She has traveled extensively through six continents looking for fabulous destinations, exotic beaches, and adventure activities for her Baby Boomer tribe.