In 1784, Admiral Horatio Nelson chose Antigua, situated in the centre of the Leeward Islands, as the base for Great Britain’s Caribbean Fleet. It is hard not to see why, as the island boasts a varied coastline with secure docking points, a protective coral reef and steady trade winds. Add to that shimmering sandy beaches, bright sunshine and a laid-back attitude and it is no surprise that Antigua, together with its smaller sister island Barbuda, is today one of the Caribbean’s most popular tourist spots.
Along with the uninhabited Redonda Island, Antigua and Barbuda form a tiny nation with a population descended largely from African slaves and a mix of Europeans. Visitors flock to enjoy the stretches of beach and miles of excellent hikes on Antigua, the protected nature reserve of Redonda, the exclusive resorts and superb bird sanctuary on Barbuda, and world-class snorkelling and scuba diving among wrecks along the nation’s coral reefs. The warm winds that Nelson relied on to bring his ships safely into harbour now contribute to one of the world’s biggest maritime events, Sailing Week.
The nation’s largest city is the popular cruise destination of St John’s, situated on Antigua. With a strong maritime history, the city is filled with related attractions and also offers visitors a chance to shop, dine and unwind. Codrington (named after sugar plantation Christopher Codrington) is Barbuda’s main city and acts as a base for explorations of the many coastal shipwrecks, as well as the island’s frigate bird population. Ultimately, however, visitors to this island nation come to enjoy the expanse of sandy beaches and the unique atmosphere of the Eastern Caribbean.