Eyes on Antigua: an island with rich history

Antigua is approximately 14 miles by 11 miles wide with a coastline peppered with numerous coves and bays, many with beautiful white sandy beaches. The south west corner is quite hilly, rising to 402 metres at the island’s highest point. Barbuda, a low-lying, coral island located 32 miles north of Antigua, has a land area of approximately 64 square miles and encompasses the expansive Codrington Lagoon, which is bounded by a long undeveloped beach. 

A merindians were the early settlers on the island, calling it “Wadadli,” meaning “our own” with Christopher Columbus later naming it Antigua after an icon in the Seville Cathedral. The early European colonists of Antigua and Barbuda were from Spain, France and England. In 1632, a group of English settlers left St. Kitts for Antigua. Englishman Sir Christopher Codrington established the first permanent European settlement. From that point on, Antigua’s history took a dramatic turn. Codrington guided development on the island as a profitable sugar colony. For a large portion of Antigua’s history, the island was considered Britain’s “Gateway to the Caribbean”. It was located on one of the major sailing routes among the region’s resource-rich colonies. Lord Horatio Nelson, a major figure in Antiguan history, arrived in the late 18th century to preserve the island’s commercial shipping prowess and got married there as well. Apparently he liked the “wedding package“ of wife: Frances “Fanny” Nisbet, the widowed daughter-in-law of a Nevis plantation family, the Nisbets. You can still have dinner in Nisbet Plantation’s great house, which was the Nisbet family’s residence.

Antigua and Barbuda became a self-governing state in the British Commonwealth in 1967 and gained full independence in 1981.

Smaller Islands

The tiny uninhabited island of Redonda, now a nature reserve, is part of the group of islands and was an important source of phosphates with removal of this taking place between 1869 and the beginning of the First World War, when the last inhabitants left the island. Redonda, along with Antigua and Barbuda, became a self-governing state in the British Commonwealth in 1967 and gained full independence in 1981.

The main contributors to its economic growth were construction, banking, insurance, and communications and today it is heavily reliant on tourism.

Despite its small population, Antigua has given the world some of the best cricketers including Sir Vivian Richards, Richie Richardson, Andy Roberts and Curtly Ambrose. Besides the island’s amazing, picture perfect, white powder beaches, visits should include the historical Nelson’s Dockyard National Park, a hike up to Shirley Heights from English Harbour and Devil’s Bridge: a natural lime stone arch at the meeting point ofthe Atlantic Ocean and the Caribbean Sea.

For yachting enthusiasts, every April, four days of racing mark the end of the classic sailing season in the Caribbean, bringing together dozens of classic and vintage ketches, sloops, schooners and yawls, to create an extraordinary spectacle.


FIONA SAWERS is a Partner at Move to Dominica, a relocation specialist, Editor of 100+ Things To Do in Dominica and a volunteer at St Luke’s Primary School, Pointe Michel.