|Country Information & Lifestyle|
Refreshing, Romantic & Flamboyant
Antigua and Barbuda are located in the middle of the Leeward Islands in the Eastern Caribbean roughly 17 degrees north of the Equator. Antigua is the largest of the English-speaking Leeward Islands and is about 14 miles long and 11 miles wide encompassing 108 square miles. Its highest point is Boggy Peak (1319ft) located in the southwestern corner of the Island. To the south are the islands of Montserrat and Guadaloupe and to the north and west are Nevis, St.Kitts, St.Barts and St.Martin.
The skyline of the capital St.Johns on Antigua is dominated by the magnificently evocative white Baroque towers of St.Johns Cathedral. The towers are the first sight of Antigua for about half of the islands visitors each year many of whom arrive by boat. St.Johns is a lively hub for shopping and dining and has a recently completed cruise ship dock.
There are 365 beaches on Antigua, one for each day of the year, and the great majority rest inside the calm, protected waters of the islands Caribbean side. The temperatures generally range from the mid-seventies in the winter to the mid-eighties in the summer and with annual rainfall averaging only 45 inches this makes it the sunniest of the Eastern Caribbean Islands and the northeast trade winds are nearly constant.
The majority of Antiguans are of African lineage and are descendants of slaves that were brought to the island to work in the sugarcane fields. Antigua was first inhabited by Meso-Indians called Siboney (stone people) whose settlements date at least 2400 BC and the Arawaks, who originated in Venezuela and gradually migrated up the chain of islands now called the Lesser Antiles, succeeded the Siboney. The Carib Indians massacred the Arawaks, a peace-loving and agricultural people, and were master of the sea, very skilful canoe drivers and most of all they were very fierce and aggressive.
Sir Christopher Columbus landed on Antigua in 1493 and named the island for the Church of Santa Maria de la Antigua in Seville and the island was Sir Christopher Codrington established the first, largest sugar estate in Antigua in 1674 and leased Barbuda to raise provisions for his plantations. By the middle of the 18th century the island was dotted with more than 150 cane-processing windmills and today almost 100 of these picturesque stone towers remain. At Bettys Hope, Codringtons original sugar estate visitors can see a fully-restored sugar mill.
With a complex coastline of safe harbours and a protective nearly unbroken wall of coral reef it was the perfect place to hide a fleet and in 1784 Admiral Horatio Nelson sailed into Antigua and established Great Britain's most important Caribbean base and set up Nelsons Dockyard there.
The Bird family controlled the islands from the mid-1940s to 2004 and the country joined the West Indies Federation in 1958. When the Federation broke up the island became one of the West Indies Associated States in 1967 with self-governing internal affairs and full independence was granted on 1 November 1981.
Barbuda is a flat, coral island with an area of only 68 square miles and lies approximately 30 miles due north of Antigua. Barbuda can be reached easily by a 20 minute flight from Antigua or a three hour boat trip and the nation also includes the tiny (0.6 sq miles) uninhabited island of Redonda, now a nature reserve. The smooth coastline is edged with long, pink and white sand beaches protected by barrier reefs and the pristine pink beaches of the southwestern shore beach stretch as far as ten miles without interruption.
Barbuda is one of those very few islands in the Caribbean that remains, and probably will remain for some time, so undeveloped as to seem positively deserted at times. The graceful Fregata Magnificens, or Frigate Bird, has a marked preference for the northwest lagoon and the island Frigate Bird Sanctuary is a must visit and the waters off shore have an abundance of shipwrecks and beautiful reefs.
The history of the island has been intimately tied to that of Antigua for centuries and the first early attempts to settle Barbuda were failures. It wasn't until 1666 that the British established a colony strong enough to survive the ravages of both nature and Caribs and in 1680 Christopher Codrington and his brother were granted a lease to land in Barbuda and with subsequent leases that granted them additional rights to the substantial wreckage along Barbuda reefs the Codringtons became the preeminent family.
On Barbudas highest point are the ruins of the Codrington estate, Highland House, and on the islands south coast still sits the 56-foot high Martello castle and tower, a fortress that was used both for defence and as a vantage from which to spot valuable shipwrecks on the outlying reefs.
The islands of Antigua and Barbuda are refreshingly different, romantic and flamboyant. Maybe you will find that something missing in your life when you land here.