Thanks to Sara from Big Adventures With Little Feet for this guest post.
My boyfriend and I live in Antigua for the winter with our two young boys. We’ve done most of the attractions and activities the island offers. We’ve tried everything from stingrays to zip lines, snorkel trips, and helicopter rides!
If it’s family fun in Antigua that you’re looking for, then you’ve come to the right place.
There’s so much on the island suitable for families. However, what if you had just one day in Antigua to explore? We’ve come up with the ultimate one-day family-focused itinerary.
How do you get around Antigua?
There is public transportation, which I’ve heard is very easy to navigate. However, it’s also slow so you’ll spend a lot of time waiting for buses and on the journey.
The best way to explore the island with a family is to rent a car. Most companies can deliver directly to your accommodation. Alternatively, you can collect them from the rental offices which can be found at the airport, cruise port or either English Harbour or Jolly Harbour.
Which beaches in Antigua?
Sometimes, it’s nice just to head to one beach for the day and relax. There are 365 beaches to choose from in Antigua, with so many beaches that it can be tough to decide which ones to try.
When I’m thinking of family-friendly beaches, I typically look for ones that have plenty of shade, a safe swimming area and activities for kids.
My favourite family-friendly beaches are:
On the island’s south coast, this beach is fantastic for children as it has a safe swimming area, plenty of shade and even a playground. There are a couple of fantastic restaurants there, too – Bumpkins on the right offering simple beach cafe food. And Catherine’s Cafe on the left has more beach cabanas and cocktails. It also has great snorkelling.
This is one of the more commercial beaches in Antigua and is perfect if you’re looking for somewhere to hire paddle boards or sailboats. There are even these cool BBQ boats. There are lots of restaurants, cafes and bars to choose from as well.
Another family-friendly beach on the south coast. If you’re keen on snorkelling from the beach, this is the beach for opportunities to see turtles. There’s a fantastic restaurant in the middle, you can hire all sorts of water sports equipment. They even have a rum masterclass there if you want to try something different (not for the kids, obviously, haha!).
This is a perfect beach if you’re coming to Antigua on a cruise ship for the day, as it’s easy to reach from St John’s, which is where the cruise ships dock. It’s a lovely long beach with plenty of parasols to rent, a restaurant and other vendors, including coconut sellers.
None of these beaches have shops, so you’ll need to take your own water and snacks. All of them have sun loungers and parasol hire, and some of them even have water sports such as paddleboard hire.
One Day Itinerary for Antigua
My one-day itinerary recommends enjoying some history, high-wire adventures on a zip line, visiting a beautiful (and not busy) beach snorkelling for turtles and finishing with a stunning sunset and some dancing.
Zip Line Through The Tropical Rainforest (Morning)
If your little ones are adventurous and craving excitement, ziplining through the rainforest might be the perfect thrill for them. They cater to children aged four and above; our three-year-old eagerly counts the days until he’s big enough to try it.
With a total of 12 ziplines and an aerial challenge course, they offer various tour packages, starting from a 6-zipline option, which they recommend as an ideal starting point for families. It’s worth noting that the facility is ACCT-authorised, assuring compliance with installation, operation, and inspection standards.
Having experienced it as adults (sans kids), we can vouch for the incredible feeling of soaring through the rainforest. The picturesque scenery adds to the delight, and the adrenaline rush will have you cheering as you glide through the air!
After you finish, you can unwind with a drink on the verandah, enjoying the spectacle of others zipping along the lines.
Drive Along Fig Tree Drive (Morning)
If you rent a car, driving along Fig Tree Drive is a MUST! It’s the most beautiful road on the island and takes you through the tropical rainforest. I often specifically detour to drive along it as it’s that stunning!
There are many activity stops that you can make along Fig Tree Drive. They include:
- Swimming at Carlisle Bay
- Flying through the air on the zip lines
- Hiking through the rainforest up to Signal Hill
- Admire local art at Fig Tree Studio
Visit Nelson’s Dockyard For Some History (Lunchtime)
An essential stop during any island tour is a visit to Nelson’s Dockyard. Situated in English Harbour, this dockyard pays homage to Horacio Nelson, who once resided there before achieving victory at the Battle of Trafalgar.
It offers a fantastic opportunity for kids to delve into local history, and remarkably, it remains operational to this day.
You’ll discover a museum, shops, and various dining options within the dockyard. Our favourite pastime is enjoying lunch while people-watching, as the bustling activity of yachts coming and going from the dock provides endless entertainment. Keep an ear out for yacht horns; they might be signalling the welcoming of a crew completing the Talisker Atlantic Rowing Challenge.
The dockyard frequently hosts events, such as Antigua Sailing Week, at the end of April. So, something always happens to add an extra layer of excitement to your visit.
If you want to stop for lunch, I highly recommend Pillars Restaurant, as it’s right on the waterfront, and the food is really good! You might need to book a table in advance if you’re visiting in peak season!
Turtles at Galleon Beach (Afternoon)
This beach and Pigeon Point stand as one of our local favourites, prompting us to visit at least once or twice weekly.
It boasts one of the most captivating views among all the beaches in Antigua. Positioned at one end by the opening of Nelson’s Dockyard and at the other by the remarkable Pillars of Hercules.
If you’re keen to find turtles, heading to the far left side of the bay treats you to exceptional snorkelling just before reaching the Pillars of Hercules. Turtles and rays are frequent visitors, and you can walk in from the beach for glimpses of these marine wonders.
If you keep walking along the left-hand side of the bay, you can easily walk to the Pillars of Hercule.
Heading to the right side of the beach, you’ll likely find families enjoying the shaded tree areas and complimentary wooden parasols, which tend to fill up early in the day. Unlike some beaches, there are no loungers or parasols for rent here. The only shaded retreats are the cabanas at Loose Cannon.
Loose Cannon Restaurant in the middle of the beach is another fantastic stop for lunch on your one-day itinerary. It serves up beachside classics within its Ibiza vibes venue.
For those seeking aquatic adventures, paddle boards, kayaks, and seabobs are available for hire.
Sunset and Dancing at Shirley Heights (Evening)
The entertainment at Shirley Heights Lookout commences every Thursday and Sunday at 4:30 pm. It creates a fantastic evening, injecting a lively dose of Caribbean flair into your Antigua experience. It’s an absolute must for anyone visiting Antigua, whether with or without kids.
Upon arrival, a local steel band sets the mood, and our children absolutely love dancing to their vibrant tunes. Take in the breathtaking view, perhaps sipping on a rum punch or two. The lookout offers an unparalleled view, arguably the best on the island, overlooking Nelson’s Dockyard. As the sun sets, the sky transforms into a stunning array of colours – be sure to have your camera ready!
On the food front, a Caribbean BBQ serves up a variety of grilled delights, from chicken and fish to lobster. Ordering your food earlier is wise to avoid enduring a lengthy queue, especially with hungry kids in tow!
After sunset, the band takes the stage, delivering an eclectic mix of Caribbean beats and international pop tunes. Our kids enjoy the dancing, and you’ll witness numerous families having a fantastic time on the dance floor. For added fun, there are clackers and musical instruments available to buy, allowing them to join in the music.