In this Antigua trip report, I will cover the best things to do in Antigua while enjoying a short day in this beautiful island.
Fun Fact: Did you know that there is a beach for every day of the year in Antigua? Yes, there are 365 gorgeous beaches in the tiny island of Antigua to explore.
I should mention that this is not a comprehensive list of things to do in Antigua. However, it is a great list of things to do and see in Antigua while exploring it for one day from a cruise.
I will also add what I’d have loved to do if I had more time to give visitors more options.
Arriving in Antigua & Another Rental Car Drama
It felt that we aren’t meant to rent a car and drive ourselves in the Caribbean during this trip. If you read my Grenada trip report, you’d see that we also failed to get a confirmed rental car there.
After getting out of the cruise, we were allowed to roam Antigua freely with no Covid restrictions. As usual, there was no passport or customs control which added to the smoothness of visiting these small Caribbean islands from a cruise.
My confirmed car rental reservation was with Budget rental car where their site clearly mentions the office is in Heritage Quay Cruise Port. However, there was absolutely no signs of any office and locals confirmed the only operational office is at the airport.
As we didn’t have much time to waste, we negotiated a deal with a local taxi driver to tour us around the island until our departure at 6:30 PM. The price was very reasonable considering it was shared between the four of us.
First Stops In Antigua, Shirley Heights & Nelson’s Dockyard
First stop after leaving Antigua’s capital, St. John’s, was Jolly beach resort. We walked by the beach and took some photos before heading to the main stop of the island, Shirley Heights.
Shirley Heights is a restored military lookout and gun battery with panoramic views which is famous for its weekly party. You must try their famous BBQ and Rum Punch, and catch the amazing views from 4:30 PM on Thursdays and Sundays.
There is another view point close to Shirley Heights which can be visited for free and is called The Blockhouse view point. It is a nice view point to save the $15 USD fees of Shirley Heights.
After enjoying the breathtaking views, it was time to head to the next stop, Nelson’s Dockyard which is a cultural heritage site and marina in English Harbour in Antigua.
This dockyard is part of Nelson’s Dockyard National Park, which also contains the Clarence House and Shirley Heights, and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The $15 USD entrance allows entry to both Nelson’s Dockyard and Shirley Heights.
It is great to know more about Antigua’s history by going through Nelson’s Dockyard and reading about how Antigua became the island we know today.
Galleon Beach & Hike to Pillars of Hercules
Galleon beach is really beautiful and it was a great refreshment after our 25 minutes uphill hike to Pillars of Hercules.
I consider Pillars of Hercules the most unique and highlight of my Antigua day trip visit. This is a natural formation of limestone rocks gently whittled into distinctive columns by years of the sea’s caress.
To get to Pillars of Hercules, you have to walk from Gallon beach along the marked trail to get to some giant rocks. At this point, get your shoes off and start walking barefoot unless you have a water shoe.
The tide keeps moving the water closer to the pillars which can get your hiking shoes wet. The hike isn’t challenging and is very much worth the effort. It gives a different unique perspective to the known for its beaches Caribbean island of Antigua.
It was a very enjoyable walk by the rocks while feeling the strength of the waves pushing all over this magical magnificent rocks.
Fig Tree Drive & Antigua’s Unique Zipline Adventure
This is the picturesque rainforest of Antigua with its breathtaking views. You can see so many different trees and vegetation to marvel at and if lucky many birds to enjoy too.
Along this rainforest, you’ll find Antigua Rainforest Canopy which is the only attraction of its kind on the island. There are two different tours with different number of ziplines to choose from.
In total there are a series of 13 ziplines, 3 aerial walkways, 1 tree house and 2 suspension bridges, giving a bird’s eye view of the flora and fauna in the rainforest whilst listening to the numerous bird species.
At the end of the Fig tree drive and by the Jonas Road, there is a very interesting Tyrells Catholic church called Our Lady of Perpetual Help. This church got my attention because of its pink structure color. Unfortunately, it was closed so I couldn’t walk inside.
Betty’s Hope in Antigua
We kept driving after passing by the church to reach Betty’s Hope which was also closed by the time we got there. The entrance sign said it is open until 3 PM so please confirm before going.
Betty’s hope was established in 1650 as the largest sugar plantation. It is preserved as a monument to the slaves whose labor it exploited. This place reflects on the horrors of slavery and hopes that history is never going to be repeating itself again.
In the grounds of Betty’s hope, visitors can enjoy visiting the manager’s house ruin and the two mill houses, one of which has been restored to its former glory.
Return to the Cruise
After taking photos from the outside of the Betty’s hope, it was time to end our Antigua tour and head back to the cruise. There was a bit of traffic in the small island of Antigua due to a Cricket game with England participation in Sir Vivian Richards Stadium.
The cruise was initially scheduled to leave at 5:30 PM but due to this cricket game, the captain decided to delay the departure by an hour to 6:30 PM. Luckily, we managed to make it back to the cruise just before its departure.
Other Activities to Experience in Antigua
If we had time, I’d have loved to visit Devil’s Bridge and Long Bay Beach. Stingray City is also one of the most famous attractions in Antigua.
There is a 4-hour combination safari tour and Stingray City to get up close and personal with the wildlife of Antigua. In Stingray City, visitors can get to swim and feed some of these fascinating (and mostly gentle) marine animals.
Stingray City can be combined with a tour of Laviscount Island to enjoy visiting some giant tortoises and tropical birds
Final Thoughts on My Antigua Trip Report
As you saw in the photos, Antigua is a very beautiful beach destination island full of hidden gems and beaches for nature lovers.
There are activities for all kind of travelers to do in Antigua. Antigua’s zipline is one of the best activities to do in the island.
On top, I am glad our rental car didn’t work out and we ended up with an amazing sweet funny local who driver who showed us the beauty of Antigua from a local perspective.
Food lovers can take a food tour enjoying the many different types of Antiguan dishes offered in Antigua. Saltfish and Fungie, Jerk chicken, Conch, and Goat water are some of the best traditional dishes to try in Antigua.
Thanks for reading and hope to see you soon!