The two Leeward islands of Antigua and Barbuda form a single nation state but offer attractive contrasts. Antigua is the largest of the Leewards, with a population of 67,000 living on its 108 square miles (279 sq km).
Just 28 miles or 45km to the north, 62 square mile (160 sq km) Barbuda has 1,500 people living in the island’s only town, Codrington, which is really a village. Together, the islands offer everything a holiday-maker could want.
Fought over by the French and the Spanish, Antigua was eventually won by the British. It became one of the Caribbean’s largest sugar cane producers and a major transport hub.
They left a lot of history for today’s visitors, many of whom arrive in Antigua on cruise ships sailing into the capital, St. John’s. The island is littered with sail-less stone windmills and 18th century forts. Some are romantic ruins, some have been preserved. At English Harbour on the island’s south coast, Nelson’s Dockyard - named after the great admiral, who was stationed there for three years - has been restored as a yachting center and a lively focus of visitor activity.
For sun-lovers and swimmers, there is said to be a first-class beach for every day of the year. Most of them never get crowded, and all are protected by reefs. If you find yourself visiting the same beach twice, get a boat out to one of the 30 off-shore islets, where you’ll find even more.
Barbuda, too, has huge, magnificent white (and pink) sand beaches and thriving marine life. Divers can see forests of coral or visit some of the 200 wrecks in the waters around this idyllic isle, while nature lovers can take a boat out into the mangroves to see thousands of frigate birds.
Life on Barbuda is quiet and accommodation is limited, but that’s just what makes the island so irresistibly charming.