Friday, 28 September 2012 3:48 PM
Antigua is a beautiful Caribbean island that is the perfect destination for a getaway in the sun, especially if you stay at one of its high-end resorts. Should you wish to spend a day away from the beach, however, St John's is an excellent excursion.
It is the capital and largest city in Antigua and Barbuda, which means there is a lot to see and do. Hotels such as Blue Waters can organise daytrips for you – if you can tear yourself away from the seaside. Here are just a few of the highlights of St John's.
While St John's isn't jam-packed with monuments, there are some beautiful landmarks worth looking out for – the most iconic of which is the cathedral with its white-stone towers and distinctive Baroque architecture.
The current structure dates from 1845, when it was rebuilt following in earthquake that destroyed its previous incarnation. Another building to pay a visit to is Fort James, which sits on a hill overlooking the harbour.
Not much of the fortifications – which were constructed by the English to protect them from invasion by the French – remain, but you can still make out the walls, while there are a few cannons dotted around the site.
If all that has got you in the mood to find out more about St John's – and Antigua's – past, make the Antigua and Barbuda Museum your next stop. It's housed in the delightful former Court House, which also has the distinction of being one of the island's oldest buildings.
Inside, you'll discover exhibits relating to everything from the native inhabitants of the West Indies – the Arawaks – to the colonial occupation and even cricket.
St John's isn't all about history and sightseeing, though, as there are numerous shops where you can indulge in a bit of retail therapy. For a more unusual shopping experience, make sure you travel into the city on a Friday or Saturday, when the weekly market is held. Although you're unlikely to want to buy any of the fresh fruit or vegetables on offer, the craft stalls may well catch your eye.
Everything from jewellery and traditional silk-printed cloth to pottery and items weaved using straw is on sale here, so this is the perfect opportunity to pick up a couple of unique souvenirs to take back home.
If that doesn't satisfy your craving for splashing the cash, take a wander along Heritage Quay and Redcliffe Quay. These waterside districts are where all the big cruise ships dock and the restored buildings that line the harbour are home to all manner of stores.
There is a collection of duty-free retailers at Heritage Quay, while there are designer stores and high-end jewellers along Redcliffe Quay.
Restaurants and bars
Should you wish to have a break from sightseeing and shopping, settle down in one of St John's restaurants for a bite to eat. Australian Homemade in Redcliffe Quay is perfect for a quick stop, as it serves homemade ice creams and sorbets, as well as a selection of teas and coffees.
For something a little more substantial, try Russell's Bar and Seafood Restaurant, which serves up sumptuous Antiguan cuisine and – as the name suggests – plenty of fresh seafood. It also has the added bonus of being located overlooking the harbour and Fort James beach.
Finally, round off your day out by enjoying a refreshing glass of wine in C & C Wine Bar, also located at Redcliffe Quay. The extensive wine list should keep even the most discerning of connoisseurs happy, and it's an excellent spot from which to soak up the vibrant atmosphere of St John's.