Caribbean Beat Magazine

St John’s, Antigua | Layover

Its location near the northern end of the Leewards makes Antigua an important hub for Caribbean travel. Our guide to exploring the island when time is tight

  • Photo by Eric Baker /
  • Photo courtesy CecIlia’s Cafe
  • Photo by Alessandro Lai /
  • Photo by ATGImages /
  • Photo by Lawrence Roberg /
  • Photo courtesy Key Properties

At just over one hundred square miles, and famous for its reputed 365 beaches — one for each day of the year — Antigua is both a popular holiday destination, home to some of the Caribbean’s most luxurious resorts, and a common hub for intra-regional travellers. It’s also just small enough for you to get out of the airport on a long layover and enjoy a taste of the landscape and culture, before you board your connecting flight.

The nice thing about island airports: sometimes there’s a beach practically on the terminal doorstep. Like Dutchman’s Bay, a few minutes’ drive from V.C. Bird International Airport, where the popular Cecilia’s Café offers not just delicious food and drink, but a changing room with showers, where you can slip into and out of your bathing suit. Why spend hours inside the airport when you could be having a swim?

History buff? Also within easy reach of the airport are the restored windmills of Betty’s Hope plantation, now run as a museum. The interpretive centre tells the story of the island’s sugar industry, run for centuries using the labour of enslaved Africans. Also in the vicinity: the historic churches of St Peter and St George.

A Saturday morning in St John’s before your afternoon flight? Head to Market Street, where Saturday vendors offer everything from famously sweet Antigua black pineapples to home-grown herbs, souvenirs, and tasty street food. It’s a chance to pick up some bargains and some local gossip at the same time.

A day to spare on a business trip? Head out of St John’s to English Harbour on Antigua’s south coast, and explore a historic site that was once the main Royal Navy base in the West Indies. Alongside the Nelson’s Dockyard Museum buildings, you’ll find a yachting marina, restaurants, and nightspots. Where better to taste the Antiguan rum that once helped Britannia rule the waves?

Or, with a whole afternoon to while away, head into the capital, St John’s, and to Redcliffe Quay, where a cluster of historic Georgian buildings on the waterfront have been converted to restaurants and quaint shops offering local goods. Lunch and a spot of shopping? Why not?