Leeward Islands, Caribbean
Caribbean charters often embark or disembark in Antigua Island in the Caribbean, in either English or Falmouth Harbor, the “hubs” of Caribbean yachting. The ease of international air travel is one reason yacht captains prefer meeting their guests here, but so is the island’s extensive archipelago of cays and islets. Antigua’s superior anchorages and strategic location attracted colonial powers and the Dutch, French, and English fought many battles over control of this island until the English prevailed in 1667. Antigua remained under British control until achieving full independence in 1981 and the colonial influence is evident in the colonial architecture, and in its marine industry.
Boats and beaches go hand in hand and along with the numerous marinas on the island, Antigua proudly boasts 365 beautiful beaches, “one for every day of the year,” as locals say. Along with stunning beaches, Antigua boasts superb restaurants, historical sites, and fun nightlife.
What to See and Do in Antigua Island, Caribbean
Nelson’s Dockyard: Antigua’s most famous attraction is the world’s only Georgian-era dockyard still in use, a treasure trove for history and nautical buffs alike. By 1704 English Harbor was in regular use as a garrisoned station and was named after the famous British naval hero in the 1940’s, in memory of the 26-year-old Horatio Nelson who sailed into English Harbor on the HMS Boreas to serve as captain of the Leeward Island Station. When the Royal Navy abandoned the station at English Harbor in 1889, it fell into a state of decay but was rescued and repairs were made to reopened as Nelson’s Dockyard in 1961. Within the compound are crafts shops, restaurants, and two splendidly restored 18th-century hotels, the Admiral’s Inn and the Copper & Lumber Store Hotel, worth peeking into. The Dockyard National Park also includes serene nature trails beaches, rock pools, crumbling plantation ruins and hilltop forts. There is also today, an interpretation center on nearby Dow’s Hill with a 15 minute video about the National Park.
Harmony Hall: Harmony Hall is a lovely art gallery and restaurant built on the foundation of a 17th-century sugar-plantation. Originally operated by local artists, Harmony Hall is now run by an Italian couple who has added a superb restaurant and cottages. But, the main attraction is still the gallery, a large exhibit space, which hosts Caribbean and International art works. Spend an afternoon browsing, lunching, and then snorkeling at nearby Green Island.
Shirley Heights: This bluff affords a spectacular view of English Harbor. At the top is Shirley Heights Lookout, a restaurant built into the remnants of the 18th-century fortifications. Most notable for its boisterous Sunday night “Jump Up” barbecues that continue into the night with live steel drum music and dancing, it serves dependable burgers, pumpkin soup, grilled meats, and rum punches.
Darkwood Beach: This beige ribbon on the southwest coast has stunning views of Montserrat. Although popular with locals on weekends, it’s virtually deserted during the week and the waters are generally calm.
Dickenson Bay: Along a lengthy stretch of powder-soft white sand and exceptionally calm water you can find small and large hotels, water sports, concessions, and beachfront restaurants.
Half Moon Bay: This ¾-mile ivory crescent is a prime snorkeling and windsurfing area. On the Atlantic side of the island, the water can be quite rough at times, attracting a few intrepid hardcore surfers. The northeastern end, where a protective reef offers spectacular snorkeling, is much calmer.
No longer a British Island, Antigua has a life and feel all its own with tinges of colonial plantation and naval life mixed with a vibrant island life with “Jump Ups”, beach bars, a Casino, and beautiful beaches.