The Best Sightseeing in Antigua and Barbuda

St. John in Antigua.
larigan - Patricia Hamilton / Getty Images

Antigua and Barbuda are pretty different places -- both rich in history and culture ​but with Barbuda the far less developed and more laid-back of the two. Here are five great reasons to book a trip to this Eastern Caribbean destination right now!

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Nelson's Dockyard

Costumed interpreters and guides introduce visitors to the fortifications and facilities of Nelson's Dockyard, a British naval base that dates back to 1725. Located in the yachting mecca of English Harbour, Nelson's Dockyard includes a museum, gun emplacements, historic stores, barracks, and a multimedia center. The adjacent yacht harbor has hotels and restaurants.

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Barbuda Frigate Bird Colony

More than 5,000 frigate birds reside on Barbuda, and their nesting area is reachable only by boat. The frigate bird population in Barbuda is said to exceed the human population. The birds make their nests in the island's mangroves, and males are known for their extravagant mating rituals in the spring. Excursions can be arranged from resorts like Lighthouse Bay, located just 15 minutes from the sanctuary.

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Devil's Bridge National Park

Antigua's natural and human history are on display at Devil's Bridge National Park, named for a natural arch carved by the sea. Located on the island's Atlantic coast, the park reveals the limestone that forms Antigua's foundation, the remnants of ancient coral reefs. Legend has it that slaves once jumped to their death from the arch, giving the place its name. The story may not be true, but in any event the arch is dangerous and visitors are warned not to attempt crossing the bridge. Also within the park is the remains of a prehistoric Amerindian community, possibly a fishing village. The park is located near the village of Willikies.

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Shirley Heights

Come for the views, stay for the party -- that seems to be the prevailing attitude at Shirley Heights, one of the most breathtaking viewpoints in the Caribbean. The Shirley Heights Lookout is 490 feet above sea level and affords commanding views of English Harbour and Falmouth Harbour -- a natural defensive strongpoint as evidenced by the still-formidable 18th-century fortifications along the ridge line. Shirley Heights is part of Antigua's national parks system, so you can visit for free and check out the former English officer's quarters, blockhouse, and train of artillery building -- among others -- and explore the nearby hiking trails.

Sharing this lofty perch is the equally famous Shirley Heights Lookout Restaurant and Bar, which hosts parties on Thursdays and Sundays. These island limes feature calypso, reggae, and soca music, with a big outdoor barbecue on Sundays. Or come for dinner and enjoy the views along with your meal; Friday's menu focuses on traditional Antiguan cuisine.

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Stingray City

Don't let the fate of the Crocodile Hunter scare you off: the denizens of Stingray City in Antigua are not only harmless but eager to swim up alongside you in exchange for the treats you bring along on this fun and family-friendly snorkeling adventure.

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