Saint John (a prime area) is the most populous parish in the country, counting about a third of the population as its residents. The capital of Antigua and Barbuda, St. John’s, is part of the parish.
The biggest city in Antigua, St. John’s is highly modernized yet steeped in history. Its most famous landmark is St. John’s Cathedral, rebuilt in 1845 after two earthquakes devastated it. Its baroque aesthetics and twin towers, which were unconventional during its time of completion in 1847, stand out on a hill overlooking the city.
Several museums also operate in St. John’s, but the most important are the Museum of Antigua and Barbuda and the smaller and lesser-known Museum of Marine Art, which contains shipwreck artefacts. A monument of Sir Vere Bird Senior, the first Prime Minister of Antigua and Barbuda, is also a point of interest in St. John’s.
Military heritage sites abound, the most significant of which is the 18th century Fort James at St. John’s Harbour, with all 10 of its cannons intact. The ruins of plantation houses and sugar mills shouldn’t be missed either. The national stadium, Antigua Recreation Ground, is here, but Antiguans play their beloved cricket in Sir Vivian Richards Stadium in North Sound, just east of the city.
The hodgepodge commercial culture of St. John’s is greatly evident along service docks for international cruise ships. Designer stores, bars, and restaurants can be found on Heritage Quay, while quaint shops line Redcliffe Quay. These are crowded every day, especially during Antigua Sailing Week. Southwest is the Market Square, where fresh produce, meat, and fish are sold daily. There are also photo centres everywhere. Conveniently, major investment banks and financial institutions operate in the city as well.
Commercial rentals are available in St. John’s. Villas, houses, and townhouses on Friar’s Hill are for rentals or sale. Exclusive waterfront lands and view properties are also on the market.
Runaway Bay is Antigua’s primary tourist district and one of the country’s more developed sections. It has several commercial establishments—hotels, bars, and restaurants. Sunbathers lounge in chairs on the shore, while their friends swim and snorkel in the clear, calm waters. The beach is quite tranquil during the day, then becomes more exciting at night when the Casino Riviera lights up the area. Vacation homes abound near and along the coast, which give one a seeming endless choice among villas, condos, houses, and cottages.
Just inland from the beach is the McKinnon’s Salt Pond, once the biggest on the island, where mangroves thrived and shorebirds nested. Road development has unfortunately destroyed its beauty. The natural landscape was also sacrificed to make way for the construction of more private residences and the resort complex.
Dickenson Bay is the centre of water sports and nightlife in Antigua. Its calm waters are perfect for windsurfing, parasailing, jet skiing, and water skiing. There is also a reef system just off the coast good for snorkelling. The swimming area is separated from the water sports zone for safety measures.
Highly commercialized, Dickenson Bay’s long beaches are lined with large resorts, small hotels and a string of cafés, bars, restaurants, vending stalls, and water sports services. There are also some discos and a casino. The northern part of the bay is marketed for travellers and can get insanely crowded, while the other side is perfect for those who prefer a little bit of privacy.
Dense residential areas surround Dickenson Bay. Some properties actually stand on reclaimed parts of McKinnon’s Salt Pond, an important natural habitat which gradually became a swamp. In recent years developers also saw the need to tear down small cottages to make way for spacious private villas. Hillside properties are greatly coveted. Acres of unused land in the Weatherhills area in the north, which used to be woodlands, are gradually being developed. A limited number of costly beachfront lots for private residences have also been introduced in the market.