Antigua & Barbuda is a small two island nation of just over 90,000 people that is at the southern end of the Leeward Island chain in the north east Caribbean. It is well known for it's great beaches and it has a plethora of all inclusive resorts that attract many visitors from North America and Europe.
We had a short 4 day stopover at Antigua (pronounced An-tiga) and decided to spend our time in one place rather than race around the island like maniacs trying to see it all in such a short time. We chose English Harbour in the south of Antigua.
One of the most important historical sites in the Caribbean is Nelson's Dockyard at English Harbour. The British Navy occupied the dockyards nearly 150 years from 1745 to 1889, and it was critical in servicing the British fleet across the region during those years.
It gets its name from Admiral Horatio Nelson, the hero of the Battle of Trafalgar who was based in Antigua early in his career. Nelson features prominently as part of the exhibition at the well presented museum on the site.
Nelsons Dockyard underwent extensive restoration over recent years and today is an impressive Georgian-era marina with much to see. Entry is EC18/$US7.
Fort Berkeley and Middle Ground Trail
Adjacent to Nelson’s Dockyard is Fort Berkeley. It was built in 1704 and sits guarding the entrance to the dockyard harbour. It is a short walk from the dockyard and there is enough remaining from the original fort to make it a worthwhile short detour.
From near the fort is the beginning of Middle Ground Trail (1mile/1.6km).
It traverses the cliffs along the coast for that distance. There are great views and a number of remnants of the colonial era fortifications.
We did it wearing thongs (aka flip flops/jandles) but it was dry, and it would've been tricky if wet, so wear sensible footwear. The end of the trail is lovely Pigeon Beach.
There are a number of beaches in the English Harbour area but the most convenient for us, staying in Falmouth Harbour which adjoins English Harbour, was Pigeon Beach.
The water is protected and the beach is of nice white sand. There are some shade trees and picnic tables beside the beach which makes it popular with local families.
Shirley Heights is another important historical site and National Park with more 18th century fortifications perched overlooking English Harbour.
But, it's other claim to fame is its Sunday night barbecues which attract locals and tourists in big numbers.
We were lucky to arrive in English Harbour on a Sunday so headed up to the Heights for the revelry. A very skilled steel band played for 3 hours and they had the party goers up and moving to Bob Marley et al.
The beers, fruit punch and barbecued jerk chicken were pretty good too. Not to mention the great views.
We've only touched on a couple of English Harbour's charms here. It's also a very popular spot for yachties from all over the world and has excellent facilities for visitors including hotels, resorts and restaurants. But we found that it has a very relaxed and unhurried feel. It was an excellent choice for a few days in Antigua.
We went from Antigua to Montserrat for a few days then to St Kitts and Nevis. The St Kitts leg required a 6 hour stop over back in Antigua between flights. Instead of spending this time sitting in the airport terminal we caught a taxi to Coconut Grove Restaurant and Guesthouse at Dickenson Bay (West Coast). A taxi costs $US16 each way.
The restaurant is right on the beach. They are happy to store your luggage as transit passengers regularly come here.
We enjoyed a hearty English breakfast and refreshing dips at the uncrowded beach. A much better way to spend a few hours than sitting at the airport.