Top 10 Surprising Facts Every Traveler Should Know About Antigua & Barbuda – Leeward Islands, East Caribbean Sea

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Port of Saint John’s, Antigua

Antigua’s main port, Deep Water Harbor (Port of Saint John’s) is located in its capital, St. John’s and which it handles all imported cargo into this twin-island nation. It is also a major cruise ship port – the Nevis Street Pier and Heritage Quay – these are the ports of call for large cruise ships. It lies in a sheltered marina on the northwest coast of Antigua and handles sugar, cotton, foodstuffs, machinery and lumber cargo as well.

Some Historical Facts On Antigua & Barbuda:

In actuality, Antigua & Barbuda is a 3-island nation in the eastern Caribbean region, Antigua which is the biggest has the best beaches and duty-free shops, Barbuda is a flat coral island while Redonda is made of rock and uninhabited. First known as “Wadadli” by its Arawak Amerindian inhabitants, Christopher Columbus spotted Antigua while passing through during his 2nd voyage to the West Indies in 1493 and named it in honor of the Virgin in Sevilla Cathedral in Spain, Santa Maria de la Antigua without actually landing on the island.

The British arrived at the island in 1684, the first settler being Sir Christopher Codrington introduced sugar cultivation and throughout the 18th century there were already hundreds of sugar plantations in Antigua which became one of UK‘s most profitable colonies. When the Brits came to Antigua they brought with them African slaves to toil at their estates and thus many Antiguans today are descendants from the said slaves.

Barbuda was annexed in 1860 and Redonda became also a part of Antigua after 12 years. The British naval officer, Admiral Nelson developed a dockyard at Antigua’s English Harbor in 1784 that made Antigua earned the title “Gateway of the Caribbean.” The country’s economy struggled when slavery was abolished until tourism was developed in the island. It became fully independent in 1981 with Queen Elizabeth II as head of state.

Map showing the location of Antigua & Barbuda.

At exactly 5:00 (which is high tide in Antigua) on a May morning in 1997 via M/T Knock Dun, we moored at St. John’s Port for bunkering. This little chain of 3 islands is home to some of Caribbean‘s interesting landscape and savory cuisine. A former British colony, its rich cultural heritage plus talcum powder-like beaches and lush flora make it one of the most highly demanded destinations in the region. There are top surprising facts every traveler should know before traveling to Antigua & Barbuda.

1. Antigua means “ancient” in Spanish and pronounced as “an-tee-ga.”

The name Antigua translates to “ancient” in Spanish which was given by Columbus in honor of Santa Maria de la Antigua in Seville, Spain. A top surprising fact every traveler should know that it is pronounced as “an-tee-ga”, not by its Spanish “name” because it was once a British colony and they (the Brits) don’t pronounced the “u” in the Antigua. Barbuda‘s name was derived from the bearded male Arawaks in the island.

2. It is a hotbed for tourism.

A top surprising fact every traveler should know that due to its pink, pretty beaches and colonial architecture, Antigua & Barbuda has become a hotbed of vacationers from all over the world. Before the outset of the pandemic, about 700,000 tourists used to visit the country every year that is why tourism plays a very important factor if the nation’s GDP (gross domestic product).

3. Same-sex activities are considered illegal here in Antigua & Barbuda.

This is one of the very few countries wherein same-sex activities are considered unlawful and it will get you into 15 years in prison. A top surprising fact every traveler should know, under the nation’s Sexual Offenses Act of 1995, LGBTQ’s are not allowed surrogacy (for gay couples) while lesbian couples are not given in-vitro fertilization.

4. July is the best time to visit Antigua for its Carnival.

Every year, the country holds its Carnival during the end of July marking their freedom from slavery, a top surprising fact every traveler should know about Antigua. This is the best time to visit this nation and experience its unique culture up close and very personal with the local residents. It is a festival of dance and music, parades, and local foods galore on the streets of St. John’s.

5. It has a national dish called “fungie.”

Pronounced “foonjie”, this is the national dish of Antigua & Barbuda, a top surprising fact every traveler should know which is similar to the Italian polenta served with mashed cornmeal and salted fish. The African slaves introduced this type of cuisine during the nation’s colonial period and today it usually comes off like a rice or pasta which is cooked across the country.

6. There are no rivers or lakes in Antigua but famous as the “land of 365 beaches.”

Half Moon Bay and location site of Pirates of the Caribbean film.

Absolutely a top surprising fact every traveler should know, this 3-island nation is devoid of rivers and lakes due to the lack of underground water, just few streams during the rainy season. However, Antigua is very well known as the “land of 365 beaches”, yes, that’s right one beach a day in the year. It’s home to some of the most attractive beaches in the Caribbean, like Half Moon Bay (pictured above) and for a good reason. Drinking water is made by desalination from sea water.

7. A haunt for the glitterati of Hollywood.

Vacation villa of fashion designer Giorgio Armani in Galley Bay, Antigua.

For sure the charm of Antigua always casts a spell to anyone who comes for a visit and that includes the international jet set, a top surprising fact every traveler should know wherein they chose this island as their luxury refuge. Hollywood’s glitterati owned posh villas along Jumby Bay island and the list of jet setters owning homes in Antigua include Oprah Winfrey, Sir Richard Branson of Virgin Atlantic, the author Jamaica Kincaid, fashion designer Giorgio Armani and singer Eric Clapton who constructed Crossroads, an exclusive drug rehabilitation center in the island.

8. English Harbor, the historic district of St. John’s is packed with attractions.

Nelson’s Dockyard National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site of Antigua.

A top surprising fact every traveler should know, Nelson’s Dockyard National Park in the English Harbor at St. John’s is a tourist hot spot and a mecca of several attractions. A home to the nation’s 18th century British naval dockyard, its major claim to fame is that it is the only remaining Georgian-style pier in the world that is still in continuous use until the present. You may also wander around the restored stone warehouses which are now converted into hotels, restaurants and shops.

9. Sailing is a favorite pastime here and holds one of the best regattas in the world, the Antigua Sailing Week.

Indeed a top surprising fact every traveler should know, sailing is the favorite hobby of Antiguans. If you love this kind of sport be there during the Antigua Sailing Week which is held at Nelson’s Dockyard in St. John’s and you’ll be treated for some sailing action. You can join the parties and other exciting events during this 7-day sea-splashing revelries.

10. Betty’s Hope, a historical landmark in Antigua was a sugar plantation where slaves suffered inhumane hardships.

The restored windmill of Betty’s Hope sugar plantation in Antigua.

Betty’s Hope, a former sugar plantation in Antigua established by the Codrington family (from the U.K.) in 1674-1994 has played a significant role in the nation’s history. A top surprising fact every traveler should know that here, African slaves endured hardships cultivating sugarcane and later developed great skills as craftsmen and distillers. One of the two sugar mill towers has been restored complete with sails. Betty’s Hope, named after the daughter of Sir Christopher Codrington and founder of the sugar estate, is an open-air museum and a sad reminder of the many lives exploited during this point of Antigua‘s history.

Antigua & Barbuda is the largest of the English-speaking Leeward Islands though it is small, it has the reputation of being the sunniest in the eastern Caribbeans. Always remember, the world belongs to the daring voyager and though my Caribbean odyssey ended in Antigua & Barbuda, we’ll keep exploring and be with me again as I will tell more stories of my next adventure to the Gulf of Mexico and on to North America. I hope this article about the island-nation’s top surprising fact every traveler should know are handy in helping you decide on your post-pandemic vacation.

Reference: Wikipedia