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Antigua has an amazing 365 strands of sand, giving visitors a different choice for every day of the year. Begin your exploration at Nelson’s Dockyard. Part of a national park, it’s the only existing Georgian naval dockyard in the world, built in 1725 and once England’s most important naval outpost in the Caribbean. Along the waterfront, buildings are signposted with their dates of origin and former uses, from the Sawpit Shed to the Copper and Lumber Store. In the erstwhile Naval Officer’s House, a museum gives the history of the area.
The dockyard comes alive in April with Antigua’s annual Sailing Week. More than 1,500 sailors compete in this high-speed competition that makes a roundtrip from Dockyard to Dickenson Bay and back. April also features the Classic Yacht Regatta: traditional craft built of wood and steel make this a show that’s more about beauty than speed. American Sailing Week is a June event filled with instructional clinics, races and day sails.
St. John’s, the island’s animated main town, rises from the harbor, backed by a twin-spired cathedral. Visit the Antigua and Barbuda Museum and view artifacts like ancient stone pendants and flint knives, displays on cassava, and for sports lovers the cricket bat of Sir Vivian Richards, a beloved island athlete. Stop in Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine for a moment’s respite. At Redcliffe Quay, a series of historic buildings have been transformed into a little retail village. Originally a slave-trading yard, the buildings were used by merchants and innkeepers after emancipation. In the countryside, almost a hundred towers that are the remnants of Antigua’s sugar mills dot the countryside where over 150 sugar-producing plantations once stood. At Betty’s Hope, founded in the 1650s, twin mills have been restored to working condition.
If it’s utter peace and quiet you’re after, then head to drowsy Barbuda, the lesser-known of the two islands. It feels untouched by progress, with the principal inhabitants being the graceful frigate birds. Take a boat ride through the Frigate Bird Sanctuary in Codrington Lagoon and see these unique birds, which spend most of their time in the air because they can’t walk or swim. On Barbuda, you’re unlikely to see more than a dozen other human beings during your repose.