“We have 365 beaches here – one for every day of the year.” If you were given a dollar every time you heard that in Antigua, your holiday would surely be paid for. It’s the national catchphrase and you’ll get tired of hearing it. But locals have every right to be proud of Antigua and its dashing twin, Barbuda: with their powdery beaches and swaying palms they’re the quintessence of Caribbean island idyll.
Most of the action takes place in Antigua, a glamorous island where expensive yachts float in the harbour, honeymooners frolic in the surf and scuba divers explore colourful coral reefs in crystalline waters. You can see why Giorgio Armani and Oprah Winfrey keep homes here.
Away from the glamour, there are many attractions: from steamy rainforests to historic sites such as Shirley Heights, a military lookout with views over Nelson’s Dockyard, the only working Georgian dockyard in the world.
Antigua’s highest point, Mount Obama, begs to be climbed. It’s also worth checking out the island’s national parks and billowing blowholes, such as Devil's Bridge, which are caused by the colliding surf of the Atlantic Ocean and Caribbean Sea.
The buzzing Saturday market in St Johns, the capital, is a must: pick up anything from fresh fruit to local crafts. Antigua springs to life at night, with dozens of places to party including Shirley Heights, which is the setting for Sunday night “jump ups” (street parties) featuring live music and lots of rum punch.
Antigua’s little sister Barbuda is quieter, but no less beautiful. Lying 43.5km (27 miles) to the north, its beating heart is Codrington, which is widely referred to as “The Village”. Codrington consists of only a handful of streets and offers a glimpse of Caribbean life as it used to be.
Although small, there is much to do in Barbuda. The island is a haven for wild deer and exotic birds, and is home to the Frigate Bird Sanctuary. Important Amerindian rock carvings can be found at Two foot Bay, while sumptuous beaches abound.