WHY WE LOVE IT
This beautiful and historic pair of islands can claim 365 beaches between them, and quite a number are stunning. They also boast wonderful resorts and a nice variety of offerings to suit most tastes. (By the way, it's an-TEE-ga and barb-YEW-da.)
The boating's bodacious, especially in English Harbour and during Antigua Sailing Week, one of the world's top regattas.
At the shore: coral reefs, 200 shipwrecks and Barbuda's gorgeous pink-and-white beaches.
On land: Antigua's historic Georgian landmark, Nelson's Dockyard; the island's main town, St. John's, with its fine museum, market and cathedral; and the dramatic Devil's Bridge rock formation. Barbuda's impressive Frigate Bird Sanctuary.
The locals may be on the cool side, but the weather couldn't be sunnier. In fact, northeast trade winds make Antigua the sunniest, driest island in the eastern Caribbean.
WHEN TO GO
November through March is the high season. Look for bargains in May, June and even July—it rains less here than on most of the islands.
WHAT TO PACK
Bathing suits, polarized sunglasses, sunblock, camera, U.S. passport, U.S. dollars in small denominations (accepted along with East Caribbean dollars), binoculars (if you’re a birder), loose and/or drawstring pants (after all that fab food). For evenings, "smart casual" clothing; a small number of the fancier restaurants request that men wear jackets at dinner.
WHAT TO BUY
Antiguan folk pottery; CDs of local steel-pan bands (Harmonites, Gemonites, Supa Stars, Hell's Gate); paintings from Harmony Hall and a handful of other quality galleries; Susie's Hot Sauce; Cavalier or English Harbour aged rum.
In the U.S., contact the Antigua and Barbuda Department of Tourism branch in New York City (305 East 47th St., Suite 6-A; 888-268-4227) or in Miami (25 SE 2nd Ave., Suite 300; 305-381-6762). In Canada, it’s in Toronto (60 St. Clair Ave. East, Suite 601; 416-961-3085). On the Web, go to antigua-barbuda.org.
You'll need to go for an interview at the Ministry of Legal Affairs (Government Complex, St. John’s; 268-462-0017). The fee for a marriage license is US$150; the fee for a marriage officer is US$100; and the registration fee is US$40. Bring your passports (and your divorce papers if you’ve been previously married). An official marriage certificate costs US$10. More than a dozen resorts specialize in weddings (including, of the ones we list below, Carlisle Bay, Curtain Bluff, Jumby Bay and the Verandah).
BIG BANANA / PIZZAS IN PARADISE
Lower Redcliffe Street
This beloved casual spot near Redcliffe Quay is part of a trio of restaurants run by the Hadeed brothers-and-sister act. (The others are 17°61° at the airport and the Beach in Dickenson Bay.) Though it's been around since 1985, as of 2007 it has a new two-story, open-sided location that's sleek and minimalist instead of cozy and traditional. But the vibe’s still good and the pies among the best in the Caribbean. Wash it down with a big ol’ frosty glass of banana or coconut crush—or, for something kickier, the excellent rum punch. On Wednesday nights, with a DJ in the house, things get especially festive.
Siboney Beach Club
For tropical romance at either lunch or dinner, this resort’s thatched and candlelit beachside restaurant, with palms growing through the roof and waves lapping nearby, is hard to beat. Jean-François Bellanger is one of several French chefs who now call Antigua home. He’s especially famous for his coconut shrimp and lobster thermidor, but we’ve found plenty of France-meets-Caribbean creations to get excited about. For a more intimate meal you might want to reserve a little later in the evening, as the sunset (a.k.a. happy) hour can get a little buzzy.
The fine-dining restaurant of the mod-boutique Carlisle Bay resort is dramatic and modern both visually and gastronomically. The carved Indonesian doors in the entryway lead to a sleek room with black-lacquer floors, small round tables and hot-pink slip-covered armchairs. As the name implies, there’s an Asian cast to the menu, which offers such eclectic choices as Thai and Malaysian soups, superb sushi, Thai and Javanese curries, and Korean braised short ribs. Unlike many pan-Asian restaurants, East gives its sweets a beautifully updated Eastern twist—a lichee-and-date spring roll with star-anise cream, for example, or ginger-inflected chocolate molten lava cake with lemongrass ice cream. You might even spot a boldfaced name or two feasting on it all.
Brown’s Bay Mill
Everyone will urge you to visit this Antigua institution on the east coast, an inn–restaurant–gallery–yacht club that’s built around a 200-year-old plantation house and sugar mill. You could make a lovely day of it here, stretching lunch on the shady terraces overlooking Nonsuch Bay into an afternoon lazing by the pool, browsing the art gallery (see Shop), taking the boat out to Green Island and having a drink afterward atop the old stone sugar mill. As for the food, under the new Italian owners, Carlo and Paola Salcone, Caribbean meets Mediterranean, yielding the likes of herb-marinated wahoo with Sicilian-style orange salad. La vita è bella, mon.
The longtime favorite Julian’s Alfresco, a 10-minute drive north of St. John’s, has recently gotten an extreme makeover. And though we do miss Julian’s, we’ve got to say its successor is splendido for those times when you want a change of pace from West Indian or the fancy Caribbean fusion that’s so trendy on Antigua these days. Omar Tagliaventi’s got an amazing way with Italian classics like osso buco, saltimbocca alla romana and tiramisù. And if you’re a fan of high-end bel paese bottlings like Barolo and Brunello di Montalcino, here’s your on-island go-to spot. It's beautiful too, set in an open-sided wooden pavilion tucked into a beachside garden.
Possibly Antigua’s best-known upscale restaurant, and very likely its oldest—it was founded by Phillipa and Raffaele Esposito the year Ronald Reagan took office. It’s a woody, très romantique bit of business in a onetime golf clubhouse way up north near the Hodges Bay coastline. Though Phillipa is English and Raffaele’s Italian, the vibe here is French (Patrick Gauducheau, the current chef, has worked in Paris) but with a distinct Caribbean lilt and an occasional touch of the Far East, Cajun country and elsewhere. You can get expertly executed Gallic classics like duck à l’orange or steak tartare along with fab fusion like suprême de poulet "Nouvelle Orleans" (blackened chicken breast with sweet-spicy pineapple-rum sauce). Oh, lá, lá.
Nigel Martin helms the 40-seat fine-dining restaurant (open for dinner five nights a week) of this all-inclusive resort. This Brit’s sophisticated takes on West Indian and world cookery are as ambitious as all get-out and frequently startling—he thinks nothing of playfully juggling such unlikely ingredients as wasabi, popcorn and ice cream in his entrées. By the way, the resort, about five miles south of St. John’s, is another good choice for honeymooners (in addition to the ones we list below). You’ll swoon over the setting and the views from the half-dozen small private wooden pavilions, painted blue, lilac and pink and connected by walkways at the western end of a seaside cliff. Get here around sunset and voilà: instant romance.
THE HOME RESTAURANT
Antiguan chef Carl Thomas ain’t kidding: He doesn’t mean merely "homey" or "just like home"; the man actually grew up in this adorable 1950s house on the northern side of St. John’s. Since 1992 he's run it as a cozy dinner hideout with unpretentious but excellent locally sourced fare (including herbs and some veggies courtesy of his own garden), like fish cakes with papaya-pimento sauce, chicken with coconut shrimp and truly delicious desserts—guava mousse, bread pudding with rum sauce. The restaurant has a soothing salmon color scheme and cathedral ceilings. It's decked out with local art, flowers and candles, and Carl's wife, Rita (from Kiel, Germany), makes a marvelous hostess at the front of the house.
THE PAVILION ANTIGUA
7 Pavilion Drive
Check it out, cher. You’ll spot this elegant colonial-plantation-style restaurant, set amid tropical flora and waterfalls, when you fly in—it’s right on the road to the airport. Chef Andrew Knoll, who arrived in ’04 from a nine-year stint with Emeril Lagasse at Delmonico in New Orleans, mixes it up a bit, tossing Cajun and Creole influences in with New American, European, Caribbean and others. How about blackened grouper with lobster-and-corn succotash and shoestring potatoes, or a roasted-turkey and Gulf shrimp gumbo? The wine cellar’s a doozy too (ask for a peek)—more than 9,000 bottles strong and very atmospheric.
THE STICKY WICKET
20 Pavilion Drive
How about combining a good Caribbean/international menu with an authentic (as opposed to cheesy/touristy) West Indian theme and mealtime entertainment you won’t easily find anywhere else? Wicket refers to the playing surface in cricket—it’s sticky when it’s damp—and cricket is a sport in which Antigua’s a world powerhouse. This nicely designed modern spot across from the airport and next to the Stanford Cricket Ground doubles as the sport’s West Indies Hall of Fame. When there's no game on the field outside, you can catch one on the monitors. The food ranges from light (soups, salads, sandwiches) to inventive (cilantro-lime marinated chicken taco salad) to rich (grilled Antiguan half-lobster with garlic butter). You can also amuse yourself by trying to figure out what the dishes’ names mean. You might start with Spin Bowler Spinach and Artichoke Dip and Howzat Hickory-Smoked BBQ Ribs.
Tel: 268-484-0002, 800-628-8929
Down on the southwest coast astride one of Antigua’s most fetching beaches, luxe minimalist meets posh Caribbean at this 82-suite sister of one of London’s top mod boutique properties, One Aldwych. Since 2003 Carlisle Bay has been the sleekest, chicest spot around, and it has the celeb spottings to prove it. In addition to boldfaced names, it attracts a well-heeled, low-key mostly British clientele with its huge ocean-facing suites, sexy 17,000-square-foot spa, free-form pool, nine tennis courts, Pilates, sailing, two restaurants (in Eat, above, we cover its pan-Asian stunner, East), 24/7 room service and private movie theater. To pinch the name of our favorite ’90s Britcom, it's ab-fab—isn’t it, sweetie darling?
On an island awash in the upscale, Feona Bailey’s little beachfront resort, next to a marina and just across from English Harbour, manages to offer a great mix of friendly service, island atmosphere (attractive two-story buildings set amid palms and bougainvillea) and amenities (a good restaurant, a cute little pool overlooking a secluded stretch of sand, in-room yoga/spa treatments) at exceptionally reasonable rates. The 14 bright white units have most of the basic mod-cons (AC, Internet connection, TV with international channels, kitchens). The beach is admittedly modest, but overall the Cat Club package, coupled with its convenient location, can be very appealing. Ask about the special wedding/honeymoon arrangements.
COPPER AND LUMBER STORE HOTEL
If you’ve come down to the islands, then chances are you’ll want a beach, or at least a pool—so this red-brick gem probably won’t be where you'll be spending your whole honeymoon. Still, it’s a dream for at least a night or two. Once housing a purveyor of ship-repair materials (est. 1783), the restored building boasts kettles of charm both historic and cozy. (The courtyard has hosted quite a few weddings.) The 14 rustic Georgian suites are crammed with antiques, reproductions, nautical touches and lovely architectural details galore, yet they don't scrimp on 21st-century amenities like A/C, cable TV and full kitchens. In addition to the pub right in the inn, there's a plethora of dining, sightseeing and shopping options right outside your door.
Tel: 268-462-8400, 888-289-9898
At Antigua’s grande dame of upscale resorts, owned by Americans Howard and Michelle Hulford, more than a few honeymooning guests are the grandchildren of previous honeymooners—2007 marked Curtain Bluff’s 50th anniversary. Grande suggests stuffy, and there can be a touch of pretension in some of the guests. But the 15-acre setting and the series of low-slung buildings extending up a gently rising mini-peninsula bordered by two beaches are pretty and inviting. And they come with great perks and service with a personal touch. The resort boasts a beautiful free-form pool, four tennis courts, a gym and activities galore. A gorgeous 5,000-square-foot spa opened just this winter; have a go at the caviar-champagne massage. Dining is among the best in the Caribbean, with a semiformal restaurant stocked by the owner's food-importing company and a spectacular wine cellar. The all-inclusive plan is unusually generous.
THE INN AT ENGLISH HARBOUR
Tel: 268-460-1014, 800-970-2123
For wonderful historic ambience plus a little more in the way of amenities than the Copper and Lumber Store Hotel offers, this petite resort on 10 acres of wooded headland at the entrance to English Harbour has 10 rooms and 24 suites, all colonial-style, with verandas, TV, phones and fridges (but no A/C)—and, in the suites, mahogany four-posters, white vaulted ceilings, dark wood floors. There are sea vistas from the bar/lounge and the Terrace restaurant (one of the better spots to get a meal on-island); tennis courts; a gym; a small beach with some water sports; a pool (infinity, even); and free boats to Nelson’s Dockyard. If you’re OK without big-resort amenities, this is a fetching, intimate and conveniently located place to post-nup it.
JOLLY BEACH RESORT
Tel: 268-462-0061, 866-905-6559
As good a value as Catamaran but very different in feel, this four-story, 462-unit all-inclusive resort on a great mile-long beach on the west coast is for newlyweds who want all the big-resort bells and whistles. Accommodations range from light, airy standard hotel rooms to stone-lined beachfront cottages (our honeymoon faves), and there’s enough variety of offerings to make your head spin, starting with two free-form pools (love the bigger one’s umbrella-shaded tables in the water). There are five restaurants (including nice à la carte Italian and Indian, not just the mass buffet scene), five bars, a new spa, plenty of adrenaline pumpers (a gym, a hoop, four tennis courts and a bevy of beachside water sports) and nightlife, including nightly shows. Yet with all this you can still steal some private time on these 40 acres.
Tel: 268-462-6000, 888-767-3966
Another of the Caribbean’s most famous resort names, now a Rosewood property, is a collection of 40 suites and 11 villas set around a 200-year-old sugar plantation on a 300-acre private island a couple of miles off the northeast coast, not far from the airport. If you like Robin Leach’s taste, here’s your joint: Jumby is jumbo, both ratewise and practically everything-elsewise. The huge colonial suites have impressive extras, like a claw-foot tub in a river-stone courtyard here, a plunge pool or fountain there—and always a terrace or a garden. Three beaches (including one where you can watch sea turtles nest in summer and fall), an Olympic-size lap pool, fancy restaurants, in-room massages, a free ferry to Antigua and your own golf cart head a long, long list of perks.
Spanish Wells Point
Like the Beach House, this airy wicker-and-white-wood hideaway on snoozy Barbuda is jet-settish and minimalist-stylish. It was created by Mariuccia Mandelli, founder of Krizia of Milan, and her signature duck-egg-blue stripes jump out the moment you step into the lobby. The 44 spacious units are divided into suites, bungalows and villas of various sizes. The amenities include a snazzy pool, a couple of tennis courts, a water-sports center on the beach, a nine-holer for duffers, an on-staff masseuse and exceptional Italian-Mediterranean dining. (Gelato lovers note: It’s made right on the premises.) One honeymoon plus is the 230-acre landscaped grounds, including your personal patch of pink-sand beach screened by bushes. In-room downside: King-size beds are in fact twins roped together.
THE VERANDAH RESORT & SPA
Indian Town Road
Tel: 268-562-6848, 800-345-0356
One of the newest luxury havens hereabouts debuted in the fall of ’07, on a 30-acre patch of northeast-coast beachfront next to Devil’s Bridge National Park and a half-hour’s drive from St. John’s. It's the third on Antigua from Elite Island Resorts group. (The other two are Galley Bay and the St. James’s Club and Villas.) The pull here is the exceptional natural setting and the myriad amenities (a cove-sheltered beach at each end, the island’s biggest free-form pool, three decent if not fab restaurants, a nice little spa). Verandah’s has jumped on the sustainability bandwagon while still promising "sumptuous indulgence." Certainly the 140 cottages deliver their share—a spacious 700 square feet, flat-screens, big soaking tubs for two and great water views. (Make sure to reserve in the row right along the edge of the bluff.) How are they pulling it off? Though there were still some bugs to be worked out during the first several months, this place promises to be a winner.
"A beach for every day of the year" may sound like typical tourist-office blah blah, but driving around this island you begin to believe it. So where you go depends a lot on where you’re staying and how far you want to drive. Several pointers to get you started: Top of the crop (and from St. John’s a short hop) is Dickenson Bay, which has areas with water sports and bars/restaurants and other stretches with a more castaway feel. Another good mix of splendid sand and services is south of St. John’s, in Jolly Beach. Snorkeling’s especially swell at Half Moon Bay. Other stunning spots to escape the madding crowd include Johnson’s Point, Deep Bay, Carlisle Bay and Green Island—not to mention practically anywhere on Barbuda. And, pssst… if you like to take it all off, normally you can’t get away with it in the uptight English Caribbean—but one of the beaches up on Hawksbill Beach is an exception.
Can’t say the name’s not spot-on: Down on the southernmost end of the island, this area was home to Britain's Caribbean naval base during the Napoleonic wars, and it’s Antigua’s top sightseeing stop (and one of the tops in the eastern Caribbean). The jewel in the crown is the restored Nelson’s Dockyard (268-481-5021; antiguamuseums.org/nelsonsdockyard.htm), the stone-and-brick Georgian shipyard named, of course, after Vice-Admiral Horatio Nelson. Now it’s a national park with a yacht marina, the Dockyard Museum (where the good vice-admiral lived in 1784) and visitors center, plenty of fortifications and historic buildings and a battery of places where you can drop some cash shopping, eating, imbibing or overnighting. We especially love a pint under the timber beams of the Mainbrace Pub in the Copper and Lumber Store Hotel (see Stay).
As on so many other Caribbean islands, sugar was once king on Antigua. If, after scoping out English Harbour, you’re up for more antique ambience, you can soak up plenty at Betty’s Hope (268-462-1469; antiguamuseums.org/BettysHopeHome.htm), near Pares Village on the road to Long Bay. It's a partially restored 17th-century plantation with sugar mills (including a windmill for grinding cane), founded by a colonial governor. Most of it’s still in ruins—it's been under restoration by a nonprofit foundation since 1990. But in the meantime there’s already plenty to explore, including a pretty interesting museum and visitors center with lots of info about sugar, rum, slavery and Antiguan history and culture in general.
EXPLORING ST. JOHN’S
Going back to the early days of the 18th century, the capital has plenty of history on display. You’ll find your way to the shops and eateries of restored Redcliffe Quay, of course. But you should also head over to Newgate Street for a look at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine, which dates from1745 (though it was rebuilt in 1845 after an earthquake), and to the Museum of Antigua and Barbuda on Long Street (268-462-1469; antiguamuseums.org/MuseumAntBar.htm) in the old 18th-century courthouse, where there’s also an interesting gift shop. Make an effort to get into town on a Saturday morning, when the covered market (Market Street at the south end of town) really comes alive with vendors peddling produce, flowers, crafts and even birds and small animals.
Another historic (and super-scenic) spot is a bit down the southern coast from Nelson’s Dockyard in All Saints. Nearly 500 feet above sea level, this group of stone buildings was once a British military installation whose job was to keep an eye out for pirates and other bad guys; most of it’s in ruins, except for one restored building that is now a good West Indian restaurant called Shirley Heights Lookout (268-728-0636; shirleyheightslookout.com). As you can imagine, the views, both out to sea and over English Harbour, are ravishing. The place is famous across the Caribbean for its Sunday-afternoon-into-evening hootenannies, complete with barbecue and steel-pan and reggae bands, all liberally lubricated by rum punch—a big favorite with locals as well as tourists. If you can’t make it on a Sunday, there’s also some music/barbecue action on Thursdays.
MESSING ABOUT IN BOATS
It ain’t quite the BVIs or the Grenadines, but Antigua’s still one of the Caribbean’s nautical hot spots, famous for regattas (see below) as well as for full-day or half-day sails along the coast and out to the reefs and offshore islands. Check out Adventure Antigua’s (268-726-6355; adventureantigua.com) eco-friendly powerboat circumnavigation—50 miles around the whole island, with stops at Nelson's Dockyard, the Pillars of Hercules and Green Island for a picnic. The thrilling high-speed whiz through the North Sound islands will get your heart pumping. Owner Eli Fuller also runs a gentler Eco Tour. Or you can hop a catamaran run by Wadadli Cats (268-462-4792; wadadlicats.com) for a circumnav or any number of other offshore adventures, or hire a yacht for a day from Jabberwocky Yacht Charter (268-764-0595).
SWIMMING WITH RAYS
OK, maybe Steve Irwin’s relationship with stingrays didn’t end well, but every year thousands of people safely and happily cavort with the critters at several spots throughout the Caribbean, most notably at Stingray City Grand Cayman and here at its sister site, Stingray City Antigua (268-562-7297; stingraycityantigua.com). The folks who run the show have brought these giant fish to a natural lagoon encircled by its own coral reef on the eastern coast, and the rays are curious and semi-tame ("like big puppy dogs," says one local guide). They’ll swim right up and "hug" you, and it’s an amazing experience—trust us, you’ll be talking about it for months. Several tour operators also run excursions, including Antigua Adventures (268-726-6355; antiguaadventures.com/t-pb-rays.htm).
DIVE THE REEFS ’N’ WRECKS
While it may not quite rank all the way up there with such top dive destinations as Bonaire, Antigua’s got good visibility and some cool stuff to see under the waves. English Harbour’s Dockyard Divers (268-460-1178; dockyard-divers.com), Jolly Harbour’s Indigo Divers (268-562-3483; indigo-divers.com) and Jolly Beach’s Jolly Dive Center (268-462-8305; jollydive.com) can get you PADI certified and take you out through incredible underwater landscapes, including the healthy coral reefs and some of the 200-odd wrecks, including the star of the crowd, the Andes, a Trinidadian three-master that went down in Deep Bay in 1905.
CATCHING A YACHT RACE
The boating event of the year is the internationally renowned Antigua Sailing Week (sailingweek.com), a five-day, 200-yacht extravaganza in early May that (naturally) brings with it plenty of partying. The English Harbour–based Antigua Yacht Club (268-460-1799; antiguayachtclub.com), an island stalwart since 1967, organizes about a dozen other events and races throughout the year. Highlights are the Classic Yacht Regatta (antiguaclassics.com) from the last Sunday in April to the first Saturday in May; Nelson’s Pursuit on New Year’s Eve; and, in January, the Round Island Race. They all make for picturesque spectacles—but keep in mind that if you happen to be sailors, the club can hook you up to crew on a yacht.
BARBUDA’S FRIGATE BIRD SANCTUARY
Hop on the Barbuda Express (268-560-7989; antiguaferries.com) or join an organized tour via catamaran to this sleepy, unspoiled, flat little island with one tiny village and a population of 1,200. The 20-acre sanctuary is a lagoon surrounded by mangroves, and the star attraction is—naturally—the frigate bird, with its impressive six-foot wingspan. Come during fall mating season and you’ll probably see the males inflating their famously bright-red throat pouches, balloon style. (Way to blow, guys.) But in fact there are more than 170 species here, and a trek out to see them anytime is unforgettable.
St. Clare Estate
Ceramists Michael Hunt and Imogen Margrie (he’s Antiguan, she’s English) started with tableware in 1996. Today their studio, in the island's interior a short drive south of St. John’s, turns out an impressive variety not just of graceful and creative plates and bowls but also of sconces, fountains, urns and sculptures, any of which can be commissioned. If you need dinnerware for your new home, a set from Cedars Pottery will make a striking memento of your honeymoon as well as a future heirloom. (Note: Michael and Imogen request that if possible you call for an appointment before popping in.)
11 Redcliffe Quay
Antigua is no different from other Caribbean islands in its multitude of jewelry joints—or in their being, all too often, interchangeable. Not so of Dutch-born designer Hans Smit’s studio near the waterfront, one of the best quality-shopping options at St. John’s Redcliffe Quay. (The area was once a center for far less savory shopping: It's a former slave market.) Smit's designs are so creative that his place feels almost like an art gallery. He casts sinuous pieces in wax, then turns them into 14- and 18-karat-gold wonders, sometimes set with pearls, black opals, tanzanite, Namibian tourmalines and other exotic stones. Rings, cuff links, bracelets, chains, necklaces, earrings—Hans has ’em all.
Brown’s Bay Mill
Even if you don’t stay at the hotel on the southeast coast, not far from Freetown, or savor its restaurant’s fine creations (see Eat), if you’re into fine art and/or island crafts and clothing you’ll want to check out the gallery in the old sugar mill at the center of the complex. Since 1987 it’s been promoting sophisticated paintings and other work by Caribbean artists. On the first Sunday of each month in winter and spring, the gallery launches a new exhibit with a party where you can sip free cocktails and rub shoulders with the artists. You’ll also find great products for the body (oils, perfumes, soaps), as well as clothing (tops, shoes, sandals, hats), handbags and accessories.
High & Thames Streets
Strategically located on the St. John’s waterfront, just off the docks where the cruise ships come in, this double-decker grouping of about 50 shops specializes in some local but mostly international products and famous brands. Why bother? Two words: duty free. Just flash your airline ticket and score deals on cosmetics at Lipstick; threads at Tropic Wear; leather at Longchamp; rocks at Diamonds International, Colombian Emeralds International, and Jeweller’s Warehouse; and booze at Quin Farara (see below). You’ll also find restaurants, bars and nightspots like The Coast, and the King’s Casino; and even lodging at the 46-room Heritage Hotel
Set between the waterfront’s pair of cruise-ship docks, Maggie and Cameron Fraser’s eclectic operation is crammed with crafts (place mats, trays, bags, baskets, candles) of Antiguan and other Caribbean artists. There’s plenty more too, especially edibles (rum cakes, boutique coffees and teas, locally made jams, hot sauces, chutneys, herbs, spices) and skin products (soaps, cosmetics, perfumes, lotions).
MADE IN ANTIGUA / BEST OF BOOKS
Lower St. Mary’s Street
In an old white clapboard building near the waterfront, on the street that leads into the cruise ship dock, this pair of sister shops pretty much has you covered when it comes to stuff made on or written about Antigua. If you want to read up on the island’s history, lore, folk culture or nature, Best of Books claims the widest variety in the eastern Caribbean. And if you want to bring back other souvenirs, Made in Antigua sells plenty of good-quality candidates—mostly local edibles, such as jams and hot sauces, and arts and crafts, including paintings (more folk than fine art), woodwork and shellwork. On Sundays it’s open only if a cruise ship’s in.
Long Street, Heritage Quay and Nugent Avenue
The head office of this well-known tobacco and liquor retailer (est. 1924) is on Nugent Avenue, but the yellow clapboard building at Long Street and Corn Alley may be its most appealing branch. Any branch makes a great place to browse not just for fine Caribbean cigars (and these days the better Dominicans top the Cubans in quality) but also for the local beer, Wadadli, and the award-winning local rums made by the Antigua Distillery Ltd. The distillery's Cavalier line includes white, dark, 151 proof, "extra old" (aged for decades) and rum punch. It also puts out a premium line of aged rum called English Harbour. Quin Fara has another location south of St. John’s in Jolly Harbour.
THINGS LOCAL GALLERY
Officers’ Quarters, Nelson’s Dockyard
Maybe you’ve made it into the new Catholic cathedral and noticed the life-size sculpture of Jesus, Mary and Joseph. Well, here you can meet and buy from the artist who carved it: The studio of Antigua’s top woodworker, Carl Henry, nestles in the restored Elizabethan-era shipyard complex that’s also home to a museum, the Copper and Lumber Store Hotel and various shops and restaurants. No trees were harmed in the making of this stuff: Henry uses found wood—mahogany, eucalyptus, almond and other hardwoods—to create gorgeous and sinuous objets d’art, from bowls and masks to fish, turtle and sailboat sculptures. Check out his cool Warri boards (for an African-derived game played with seeds and passed down by slaves).
Off Friars Hill Road
Just outside St. John’s stands this co-op of the Antiguan Artists’ Union, with work by more than 40 artists and artisans from Antigua and neighboring islands. Among the best are Michael Strzalkowski’s ivory, silver and scrimshaw pieces; lyrical watercolors and giclée prints of island life by David Cadogan and Gilly Gobinet; and the hand-colored photos of Jennifer Meranto. If you happen to be around on the first Friday of the month, pop in for the bash launching the month’s exhibit and you can rub shoulders with some of these folks. The gallery is closed Sundays.