The third stop on our Southern Caribbean cruise was St. John’s, Antigua. St. John’s, the capital of Antigua and Barbuda, is one of the most developed cities in the Lesser Antilles, the island chain that provides the boundary between the Caribbean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean.
Antigua has long been known for its resorts, beaches (365 of them…one for every day of the year) and cruise docks, with tourism being a big part of the economy. Like most other nearby islands, the Eastern Caribbean Dollar is the official currency, though the US Dollar is widely accepted.
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ATV Adventure in rural Antigua
For this port, we chose the ATV Adventure for our excursion. We met the group, filed past the hoard of taxi drivers and adventure companies and piled into a small van for the ride to the ATV shop.
On our 15-20 minute ride, we quickly got out of town and saw the picturesque country-side. We passed by the Recreational Ground, which the West Indies Cricket team uses. In fact, Prince Harry had been in town just the day before on a tour and spent some time at the stadium.
Once at the shop, the guides gave us a brief safety and handling demonstration. We suited up with helmets and got on our way. Each of us had our own ATV. While neither of us had ever driven an ATV before, it was very similar to a snowmobile, so we didn’t have any issues. It is a fairly simple machine, though, so even those with no experience shouldn’t have any problems.
We drove a couple of miles on the main roads, which allowed us to make sure we were comfortable with the vehicles, before going off-road. We had one guide in front and another in the back, to ensure that nobody got lost or left behind.
The off-road part was where the real fun began! While we were driving on fairly clear dirt roads/paths most of the time, there definitely were a fair amount of bumps and limbs to watch out for. Our drive took us though a logging area, some farmlands and past an old sugar plantation.
Our “destination” was a reservoir towards the interior of the island. It was a great place to stop, rest, and have a snack, even if it wasn’t right on the coast. We spent about 15-20 minutes chatting with the guides and other participants before retracing our steps back to the shop.
While we thoroughly enjoyed this excursion, we would have enjoyed a loop rather than an out-and-back route. Also, once on the ATVs, we did not stop at all along the way to our destination. We would have liked to have been able to stop, see a few more sights and take more pictures. We definitely would recommend this excursion, though! It was definitely the most adventurous of all our activities but wasn’t overly demanding or scary.
As you get off the ship, just as in most Caribbean islands, there will be MANY taxi drivers and adventure/excursion companies there to greet you. If you haven’t pre-arranged a tour, you should have no problem finding something to do. We did our best to avoid these folks since we already had our excursion booked, so I have no idea how the prices compare to the trips offered through the cruise line.
If you just want to do some shopping, there is a huge shopping area right at the end of the pier. You can find just about anything you want within walking distance. The two main shopping “malls” are Heritage Quay and Redcliffe Quay, both a fairly short walk from the pier. Since we are not big shoppers, we did not visit either.
The Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine
Once in port, we had a great view of the city from our balcony! We could see a church not too far off in the distance. Grant had some idea that there was a stone church, but we really didn’t know anything about it. Before leaving the ship after lunch, we used our phones to pull up the map and locate the church, then navigated ourselves there once in town.
The walk was slightly uphill and it was a VERY hot day, but it only took us about 10-15 minutes from the shopping area. The church dates back to the late 1600s and the parishioners have rebuilt it several times due to damage from a couple of earthquakes.
The current structure is a stone exterior, with a wooden structure inside of it, thus the description of a “church within a church.” This structure has survived yet another earthquake and several hurricanes but was still in need of renovation/restoration. Currently, they are under a massive restoration project, hoping to be finished in July 2017.
Downtown St. John’s, Antigua
While we felt fairly safe walking around town, it definitely is a place that you want to stay aware of your surroundings. While the area closest to the pier is very touristy, just a few blocks over was definitely “the city,” rather than “the touristy part.” That was nice, in that we could easily walk to the church and get a sense of the town and community, but also made it feel not quite as safe as some of the other areas we visited.
We enjoyed our time in St. John’s, and would love to return and visit more of the island of Antigua!