Geography of ANTIGUA and BARBUDA - History

Geography of ANTIGUA and BARBUDA - History

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Antigua, the largest of the British Leeward Islands, is about 14 miles long and 11 miles wide, encompassing 108 square miles. Its highest point is Boggy Peak (1319 ft.), located in the southwestern corner of the island. Barbuda, a flat coral island with an area of only 68 square miles, lies approximately 30 miles due north. The nation also includes the tiny (0.6 square mile) uninhabited island of Redonda, now a nature preserve. The current population for the nation is approximately 68,000 and its capital is St. John's on Antigua.

Climate: Temperatures generally range from the mid-seventies in the winter to the mid-eighties in the summer. Annual rainfall averages only 45 inches, making it the sunniest of the Eastern Caribbean Islands, and the northeast trade winds are nearly constant, flagging only in September. Low humidity year-round.


Geography of Antigua and Barbuda

Area: 443 sq km

Coastline: 153km

Capital: St John’s

Geography: Antigua and Barbuda, at the north of the Leeward Islands in the Eastern Caribbean, is composed of three islands: Antigua (280 sq km), Barbuda (161 sq km 40km north of Antigua) and Redonda (1.6 sq km 40km south-west of Antigua).

Environment: The most significant environmental issue is limited natural freshwater resources which is aggravated by clearing of trees to increase crop production, causing rainfall to run off quickly.

Little remains of Antigua’s natural vegetation, as the island was formerly cleared for sugar planting. Unlike other islands in the Leeward group, it has little forest mangoes, guavas, coconuts and bananas grow in the south-west (forest covers 20% of the land area). Barbuda is well wooded in the north-east, providing a haven for wildlife.

Transport: There is a good road network of about 1,170km, 33% paved. St John’s deep water harbour is a regional centre for cargo and passengers and the country’s main port. VC Bird International Airport is 8km north-east of St John’s and an airstrip at Codrington, Barbuda, is suitable for light aircraft.

Communications:Country code 1 268. Mobile phone coverage is good.

There are 439 main telephone lines and 1,577 mobile phone subscriptions per 1,000 people (2008).

Antigua and Barbuda

Area 173 square mi (443 square km)
Capital Saint John's
Population 90,900 2014
Highest Point 1,326 ft (402 m)
Lowest Point 0 m
GDP $1.269 billion 2014
Primary Natural Resources pleasant tropical climate.

ANTIGUA WAS ONE of the primary British colonies in the CARIBBEAN SEA and remains a leader among the Leeward Islands (from the Virgin Islands to GUADELOUPE). Along with the nearby island of Barbuda, and the much smaller island of Redonda, Antigua became independent in 1981 but retains close links with the UNITED KINGDOM (UK) and its commonwealth.

The islands are located in the northern part of the Lesser Antilles chain, approximately 80 km (50 mi) east of SAINT KITTS AND NEVIS, and the same distance north of the French island Guadeloupe. Unlike these neighbors, none of the three main islands are volcanic and mountainous but are low-lying coral and limestone formations. Antigua was one of the first islands encountered in the voyages of Christopher Columbus, who named it Santa Maria de la Antigua. The Spanish and French attempted to set up colonies but were discouraged by lack of fresh water and attacks by native Carib peoples. English planters established a permanent settlement in the 1630s and within a few decades had completely deforested the island, eradicated any native population, and repopulated it with large numbers of African slaves. The chief city, St. John's, was one of the region's most prosperous ports in the 18th century as a center for the sugar trade but declined after the abolition of slavery in 1834. Nelson's Dockyard, on the south side of the island, remains a testament to this prosperity and has been a national park since the 1980s. Sugar remained the island's major product until the 1960s but has now mostly disappeared.

Barbuda, 30 mi (48 km) to the north, was never developed as a commercial sugar producer, and it retains a separate identity from its larger, more populous partner, occasionally even voicing a desire for autonomy or independence from Antigua. Most of its 1,500 residents live in the only settlement, Codrington, named for Antigua's first major planter, who leased Barbuda to raise provisions and conduct slave-breeding experiments. Barbuda is also known among scuba divers and tourists for its numerous sunken ships and untouched reefs.

The tiny volcanic rock of Redonda, only .5 square mi (.8 square km), is located 35 mi (56 km) to the southwest of Antigua. It is populated only by goats, seabirds, and lizards but is the seat of the fabulous “Kingdom of Redonda,” a literary-review group (mostly based in LONDON, England) established in the early 20th century.

The chief natural resource of Antigua and Barbuda is the climate: The tropical marine climate, perpetually sunny skies (bad for crops, good for tourism), and 365 white sandy beaches (one for each day of the year) make these islands one of the most popular tourist destinations. Together with historical settings and abundant duty-free shops in St. John's, the island's tourist economy has given Antigua one of the highest per capita incomes in the Caribbean.

Antigua and Barbuda Country Profile

The tiny nation of Antigua and Barbuda may have a population smaller than most Canadian cities, but it’s packed with history, has a vibrant culture, and is looking forward to a bright future (not to mention the fantastic weather!). Find out when Columbus visited, why the Spanish were afraid of the island, and what impact nearly 400 years of British rule had on the people.

Want to learn more about Antigua and Barbuda?
  • Capital (and Largest City): St. John’s
  • Population (2014): 91,295 (199 th )
  • Total Area: 440 km² (195 th )
  • Official Language: English
  • Currency:East Caribbean dollar ($) (XCD)

History of Antigua and Barbuda

Pre-Colonial Era

Prior to European exploration, different West Indies tribes populated the islands of Antigua and Barbuda. First, the Arawaks dominated Antigua…at least until the more advanced Caribs took over. Both tribes were renowned for their seafaring vessels, which enabled them to settle much of the surrounding region – including both other islands and parts of South America.

Contact and the English

Passed over by the Spanish (due to a lack of fresh water and aggressive native population), it was the English who came to settle Antigua and Barbuda in 1632. Using slave labour (until abolition in 1834), the English ruled the islands and manned the sugar plantations. While there was a brief period of French rule in 1666, it was the English (and later the ‘British’) who governed the colony for over 350 years.


It wasn’t until 1981 when Antigua and Barbuda was formally granted its independence – becoming a fully-fledged member of the Commonwealth in the process. Though the Queen remains the official head of state, these Caribbean islands now control their own destiny.

Culture of Antigua and Barbuda

Like many former English colonies in the Caribbean, Antigua and Barbuda blends West African heritage with British traditions. Religion and local Caribbean music also have important places in the way of life on the islands. American customs have reached Antigua and Barbuda thanks to the proximity of both Puerto Rico and the continental US.


The flag of Antigua and Barbuda has a recognizable design featuring two red triangles surrounding a rising sun on a black background atop blue and white. The rising sun represents a new era, the black represents the country’s African heritage, blue equals hope, and red denotes the people’s energy. The yellow, blue, and white also represent sun, sea, and sand together.


Cricket is the most popular sport in Antigua and Barbuda. The country is a member of the West Indies Cricket Board – which runs one of the premier teams in international competition. Rugby, soccer, netball, and athletics are also popular throughout the country.

Geography of Antigua and Barbuda

Beaches, lagoons, and harbours characterize the islands of Antigua and Barbuda, while reefs and shoals lie just offshore. The islands are not very fertile, barring parts of the Central Plain on Antigua – though recent efforts have increased forestation. St. John’s on Antigua is the largest city in the country, serving as the main port and capital.

Facts about Antigua and Barbuda

  • There are no rivers on the islands, though Antigua has three streams
  • Antigua is home to around 365 beaches
  • Columbus visited in 1493
  • The country is famous for its regatta (boat race)
  • The highest point on Antigua is Mount Obama (formerly Boggy Peak prior to 2009)

Last Word

The story of Antigua and Barbuda is still being told! What will independence bring to this beautiful island nation?

There’s a whole world out there! Explore it with Continental’s Countries. Learn all about Antigua and Barbuda’s currency with our Spotlight on the East Caribbean dollar and explore the best destinations with our Travel Guide.

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Antigua & Barbuda is made up of three islands Antigua, Barbuda and Redonda. Low-lying and volcanic in origin, they are part of the Leeward Islands group in the northeast Caribbean.

Antigua's coastline curves into a multitude of coves and harbours (they were once volcanic craters) and there are more than 365 beaches of fine white sand, fringed with palms. The island's highest point, Mount Obama stands at 402m (1,319ft) high, and its capital is St John's.

Barbuda lies 61.5km (38.2 miles) north of Antigua and is an unspoiled natural haven for wild deer and exotic birds. Its 8km-long (5 miles) beach is reputed to be among the most beautiful in the world. The island's village capital, Codrington, was named after the Gloucestershire family that once leased Barbuda from the British Crown for the price of 'one fat pig per year if asked for'. There are excellent beaches and the ruins of some of the earliest plantations in the West Indies. The coastal waters are rich with all types of crustaceans and tropical fish.

Redonda, the smallest in the group, is little more than an uninhabited rocky islet. It lies 40km (25 miles) southwest of Antigua.

Antigua and Barbuda

Antigua, Barbuda, and Redonda form the independent nation of Antigua and Barbuda, within the Commonwealth of Nations.
They are part of the Leeward Islands in the West Indies. The island nation located in the eastern Caribbean Sea was populated by Amerindian tribes when Christopher Columbus "discovered" it in 1493. He named the island "Santa Maria de la Antigua".
Settlements by the Spanish and French were succeeded by the English who formed a colony in 1667. They established slavery to run the sugar plantations on Antigua.
Antigua and Barbuda became an independent nation in 1981, but it is still British in many of its traditions.

Official Name:
Antigua and Barbuda

Local Time = UTC -4h
Actual Time: Sun-June-20 06:37

Capital City: St. John's (Antigua, pop. 30 000).

Other Cities: Codrington (on Barbuda)

Type: Constitutional monarchy with Westminster-style Parliament.
Head of State: Queen ELIZABETH II
Independence: 1 November 1981 (from the UK).
Constitution: 1981.

Location: Caribbean, islands between the Caribbean Sea and the North Atlantic Ocean, east-southeast of Puerto Rico.
Area: Antigua: 281 km² (108 sq. mi.)
Barbuda: 161 km² (62 sq. mi.)
Total area: 442 km² (170 sq. mi.)
Terrain: partly volcanic and partly coral, generally low-lying, with highest elevation 405 m. (1,330 ft.).

Climate: Year-round tropical maritime, cooled by steady trade winds.

Nationality: Noun and adjective--Antiguan(s), Barbudan(s).
Population: 89,000 (2016 est)
Annual population growth rate (1999): 1.1%.
Ethnic groups: Almost entirely of African origin some of British, Portuguese, and Levantine Arab origin.
Religions: Principally Anglican, with evangelical Protestant and Roman Catholic minorities.
Languages: English.
Literacy: 90%

Natural resources: tourism

Agriculture products: Cotton, fruits, vegetables, bananas, coconuts, cucumbers, mangoes, sugarcane livestock.

Industries: Tourism, construction, light manufacturing (clothing, alcohol, household appliances)

Exports - commodities: petroleum products, bedding, handicrafts, electronic components, transport equipment, food and live animals.

Imports - commodities: food and live animals, machinery and transport equipment, manufactures, chemicals, oil.

Main trading partners: USA, UK, Canada, China and other CARICOM countries.

Official Sites of Antigua and Barbuda

The Commonwealth realm of Antigua and Barbuda is ruled within a parliamentary democracy (Parliament) under a constitutional monarchy with a common law based on the English model. Head of state is the Monarch (Elizabeth II) who appoints the Governor General (viceroy). The bicameral Parliament consists of the Senate and the House of Representatives.

Government of Antigua and Barbuda
Official site of the Government of Antigua and Barbuda.

Diplomatic Missions
High Commission of Antigua and Barbuda
The High Commission of Antigua and Barbuda in London, promoting tourism and investment.

Map of Antigua and Barbuda
Shaded Relief Map of Antigua and Barbuda.
Google Earth Antigua and Barbuda
Searchable map and satellite view of Antigua and Barbuda.
Google Earth St. John's
Searchable map and satellite view of Antigua and Barbuda's capital city.

Map of Central America and the Caribbean
Reference Map of Central America and the Caribbean.

Antigua and Barbuda News
Antigua and Barbuda news provided by High Commission of Antigua and Barbuda.

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The Coast, Islands, and the Ocean

Oceans and Seas

Antigua and Barbuda are located in the eastern Caribbean Sea. The open Atlantic Ocean lies to the north and east. There are many coral reefs in the vicinity of Antigua and Barbuda. The island of Guadeloupe lies to the south, on the far side of the Guadeloupe Passage from Antigua.

The Coast and Beaches

Antigua and Barbuda is famous for its beaches, estimated at 365, particularly those on Antigua itself. The most noteworthy feature of Barbuda’s coastline is the natural lagoon on the western side of the island.

Antigua and Barbuda — History and Culture

Antigua and Barbuda’s modern culture is a unique combination of the islands’ British colonists and the African slaves brought along with them. The calypso music played so freely on Antigua and Barbuda today began as a form of communication among slaves, who were forbidden to speak to each other or openly celebrate the now legendary Carnival festivities.


Antigua and Barbuda’s first documented residents were Siboney people, whose handmade stone tools and shell jewelry are still scattered across the islands. The first evidence of the Siboney’s presence dates to about 2400 BC, but the Arawak became the island’s most prominent people between 35 AD and 1100 AD. They were Antigua and Barbuda’s first farmers until they were driven out of their houses on Antigua’s north and east coast by the fierce Carib people.

Christopher Columbus may have been the first European to lay eyes on Antigua and Barbuda in 1493, but over a century of battles with the Caribs took place before Englishmen from St Kitts established the first permanent European settlement in 1632.

Although indigo, tobacco, and ginger crops were planted, sugar cane became the islands’ dominant crop in 1674. Antigua and Barbuda’s slave population skyrocketed and over 150 windmills processing sugar cane were in operation halfway through the 18th century. The first of these sprawling plantations, Betty’s Hope (Pares), remains open to the public today to provide an interesting look into the industry.

Naval Officer Horatio Nelson may not have been the most popular man in Antigua during his stay on the island to enforce the despised Navigation Act, forbidding Antigua and Barbuda from trading with the United States, but Nelson’s Dockyard National Park (English Harbour) commemorating him has become one of the island’s most popular tourist spots in modern times. Vessels from all ends of the Earth still sail into the world’s only operational Georgian dockyard.

By the end of the 18th century, Antigua had become one of Great Britain’s most valuable colonies because of its booming sugar trade and prominent location between some of the Caribbean’s most important shipping routes. Less than a decade after a 1725 slave revolt was thwarted before it began, Antigua abolished slavery along with the rest of the British Empire.

After the decline of the sugar cane industry, Antigua and Barbuda struggled economically for years before the birth of tourism. Since becoming an independent nation in 1981, it is among the most frequently visited places in the entire Caribbean.


About 96 percent of Antigua and Barbuda’s current population is descendants of the African slaves brought to the islands to work on sugar cane plantations. Most of the other three percent of residents are descendants of their British masters. Antigua and Barbuda’s main British influences are the islands’ dominant Anglican religion and obsession with cricket. Many of the world’s finest cricket players come from these small islands.

Antigua and Barbuda’s ever present calypso music was first created as a way for slaves to communicate with each other when activities were forbidden during the 18th century. Lacking bamboo instruments, the slaves instead made their music from steel pans and drums still played across Antigua and Barbuda today. Reggae is another popular type of music throughout the islands, which has been used to freely celebrate Carnival every summer since 1957.

1. Life and Society

Creolization, which is the creation of new cultures that blend colonial European and local populations, has influenced the culture of the Antigua and Barbuda, just as it has in many parts of the West Indies. The wealthy class is often predominantly white, creolization is minimal, and the culture is similar to many Western nations, with some local adaptations. The middle class exhibits a greater presence of local adaptations. The working class, which is primarily black, has been heavily influenced by both European and African cultures and traditions. Many of these families are matrilocal in nature, and a large proportion of Antiguan and Barbuda's workforce is made up of women.

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