Why Is Saint John’s The Capital of Antigua and Barbuda?

Why Is Saint John's The Capital of Antigua and Barbuda?
Why Is Saint John's The Capital of Antigua and Barbuda?





In the heart of the Caribbean, you will find the nation of Antigua and Barbuda. While these islands have a lot of history to them, they grew massively during the colonial period. But, what is the capital of Antigua and Barbuda? Let’s take a look. 

What Is The Capital of Antigua and Barbuda?

The capital of Antigua and Barbuda is St John’s. 

Where Is The Capital of Antigua and Barbuda Located?

Where Is The Capital of Antigua and Barbuda Located?
Where Is The Capital of Antigua and Barbuda Located?

The capital city is located in Antigua. You will find it to the North West of the island, overlooking a natural harbor. As you can imagine, this place was likely picked due to the ease of trade access.

Brief History of Saint John’s

St. John's, Antigua port and skyline at dusk.
St. John’s, Antigua port and skyline at dusk.

Saint John’s doesn’t really have a huge amount of history behind it. While Antigua and Barbuda have been occupied for centuries, the development of the islands didn’t properly begin until the tail end of the 1400s when Christopher Columbus spotted them on one of his many voyages. 

While there were various settlers landing on the islands for around a century, proper colonization of Antigua and Barbuda didn’t begin until 1632. The area of Saint John’s was rapidly founded at this time by British settlers, and it has remained the main hub of activity for the country ever since.

Do bear in mind that while Saint John’s is the largest city out of the two islands, it is still fairly small. It has around 22,000 people living there. Many of these people work either in the banking or tourist sectors, both of which have contributed massively to the development of Antigua and Barbuda as a whole. 

When Did Saint John’s Become The Capital of Antigua and Barbuda?

Panoramic view of the Sea Water at St. John's, Antigua and Barbuda
Panoramic view of the Sea Water at St. John’s, Antigua and Barbuda

Saint John’s has always been the administrative center of Antigua and Barbuda. However, up until the 1980s, it was still a colony of the United Kingdom. This means that there was no need for it to have an officially named capital.

This changed as soon as the independence movement of Antigua and Barbuda started to gain traction. By the 1980s, the United Kingdom was handing out independence to many of the nations that came under the British Empire banner. Antigua and Barbuda asked if they could have independence and it was granted to them in 1981.

This means that Saint John’s has been the real capital of Antigua and Barbuda since 1981. Although, do bear in mind that this is not the full seat of government. The monarch of Antigua and Barbuda is still filled by the same person that sits in the seat of the British Monarchy (although, legally they are two separate positions), which means government decisions are, legally, spread over two different countries, although this isn’t really something that happens in practice since the Monarch has somebody to fill in for them in the country of Antigua and Barbuda so all of that legislation can still be signed. 

Why Is Saint John’s The Capital of Antigua and Barbuda?

Honestly? It is because there wasn’t really any other viable option.

As we have already stated, Saint John’s was always the main center of the islands of Antigua and Barbuda. It was where the tourists were heading. It is where trade was. It is where the government decided to make its decisions.

Why this location was chosen isn’t really known. However, it is likely that Saint John’s was chosen because it looked over a beautiful natural harbor. This would have provided the town with a good bit of protection, and it also meant that trade ships could sail into the area with relative ease.

When Antigua and Barbuda became independent nations, it just made Saint John’s the natural choice as the capital city. There is nowhere else on the islands that were as developed last this place was, and nobody really wanted to pull the government out of the city and stick them somewhere else. Becoming an independent country is expensive enough. You don’t really want to make everything cost a ton more. 

There has never really been anybody campaigning against the idea of Saint John’s being the capital of the country, so we assume that it is always going to remain the capital. It has been like that for over 40 years now, after all. 

Best Places To Visit in Saint John’s

You have to remember that Antigua and Barbuda are small places. The bulk of the tourism that happens on the island will be from passing cruise ships that may only spend a day or so here. This means that if you are expecting a ton of places to visit, then this may not be for you. However, there are a few highlights that we would love to draw your attention to.

Galley Bay Beach

The islands are well known for their lush beaches, and one of our favorites is Galley Bay Beach. This beautiful beach is nestled in the heart of palm trees, so not only do you get to enjoy those crystal blue waters and white sands, but you also get to be surrounded by stunning beauty on the land too.

Betty’s Hope

This is a site that charts the history of the region. It is an active archeological site, and new discoveries are being made all the time. Betty’s Hope covers both the early history of the islands, as well as the history once settlers arrived.

Betty’s Hope is an old sugar plantation, so a lot of what is covered here is related to the slave history of the islands.

Museum of Antigua and Barbuda

Many of the things unearthed at Betty’s Hope eventually make their way to the local museum. This is one of the best places to learn about the full history of the island.

Fort Barrington

This small fort was constructed by the British. Many battles against the French happened here.

Fort James

Just a short distance from Fort Barrington, you have Fort James. While the building is great in itself, it is awesome if you want a view over the Bay of Saint John’s. 

See Also

Capital Cities 

Hi and welcome to my travel blog! Based in London, I work in investment banking in a quantitative field and although I am not part of the travel industry, I have a ton of passion for travel. My blog is a reference guide for my fellow travelers with the same passion as me. Hopefully the blog is easy to navigate and my aim is to bring the most relevant and interesting information before you begin your journey!