Visit Nelson's Dockyard!
Lord Nelson was based at English Harbour from 1784 to 1787.
Nelson's Dockyard has had many of its buildings restored & they now house modern facilities that still reflect the naval heritage of English Harbour. Private yachts now replace Naval vessels in the harbour. It is a pleasant place to spend a relaxing & cultural day in beautifully maintained surroundings.
You would need at least a couple of hours to appreciate its charm & take in its historical worth. If you can spend more time here, (& you could easily spend a full day here) there is plenty to see, much to learn & several select looking restaurants to escape the sun at lunchtime. Quite a few shops selling souvenirs can be found here too. Unfortunately we had just 40 minutes to rush round & merely get a taste of what was on offer, it was a great shame - now we will just have to go back!Related to:
- Family Travel
- Historical Travel
St John's - the capital
On Friday and Saturday mornings, be sure to visit the farmers market on the southern edge of the city. Folk crafts, colorful tropical fruits, and a buzzing crowd make for a lively morning.
Shops can be found anywhere from new complexes to beautiful brightly coloured renovated 19th century Caribbean buildings.
St John's Cathedral
St John's is the capital of the island, the first thing you see on the sky line are the baroque towers of St John's cathedral. Built in 1845, the church is now in its third incarnation, as earthquakes in 1683 and in 1745 destroyed the previous structures.
This rambling array of gun emplacements and military buildings is best known today for the absolutely breathtaking view that it offers. Shirley Heights commands a strategic and spectacular view of English Harbour with a view of Montserrat and Guadeloupe.
On Sunday afternoons the view is accompanied by barbecue, rum punch, and reggae music.
The site is named for General Shirley, Governor of the Leeward Islands when the area was fortified in the late eighteenth century. Close by is the cemetery, in which stands an obelisk erected in honour of the soldiers of the 54th regiment.
Betty's Hope is a former sugar plantation which has been restored by the Antigua Museum. It was owned by the same family, the Codringtons, for almost 300 years, and is named after the daughter of one of the original Codringtons. There is a small museum on the site which explains how the plantation worked and what it was like to be a slave there. One of the windmills has been restored, complete with the machinery that would have been used to extract the juices from the sugar to make rum. We visited at around 10.30 in the morning, and what struck us even at that time of the day was the intense heat , giving an idea of what a terrible and difficult place plantations must have been to work at for the slaves.Related to:
- Family Travel
- Historical Travel
Wadadli Catamaran Cruise
Do you like Snorkelling? Beautiful beaches? Do you like some cultural history & rum punch!?
If yes, then this trip is for you. The Wadadli Cats Triple Destination cruise of Antigua. You are picked up from the beach. Things are oh so conservative when you first board, as the wonderful crew member "One love" collects your $65. When all guests are there, you are offered a drink - "Rum Punch Please!" (No, I don't care thats it's only 10am).
We cruised along to Green Island, where the non-snorkellers sunbathed on the lovely beach, and the snorkellers...er... snorkelled. Nothing overly special to see - held a baby sea urchin, saw some colourful fish. It was slightly overcast - so visibility wasn't the best.
After some snorkelling, we had lunch. A delicious buffet, macaroni cheese, coleslaw, rice & delicious chicken, washed down with a rum punch.
We then sailed along the South Coast - taking the beautiful beaches, and enjoying the sea breeze. The crew were top all the way, & looked after everybody really well. We arrrived at Nelsons Dockyard (named because Admiral Lord Nelson was the victor in the battle of Trafalgar) & disembarked for a tour of the various restored buildings, which reflect the naval heritage of the area.
After this, appx. 8 people at a time are grouped together in taxis (based on which hotel you are staying at) & drive up the 500 ft to Shirley Heights. The tour is on a Sunday - the day that Shirley Heights comes alive. Everyone one in the cab agrees a time to head back to the hotel. At this point, it was about 4pm & it had been a pretty long day. Everyone in our group felt the same & we agreed to leave at 6.30pm. If you are a party animal, Shirely Heights keeps going way into the night, but we were all happy sipping on a couple (more) rum punches & watching the sun set over English Harbour, while listening to the band. Bliss. There is freshly bbq'd food available too which looked and smelt very good.
A very fulfilling day, & we felt we'd seen a extra little bit of Antigua by taking this tour.
We were in Antigua on a cruise ship. I picked this ship's tour because my husband was in the Navy and I thought he would be interested in the dockyard. We also planned to look in the marina for sailboats like ours just as we have done on other Caribbean islands.
Originally called "His Majesty's Antigua Naval Yard", Nelson's Dockyard is a National Park around a harbor called "English Harbor" - a really good protected harbor for boats. It was a boat repair facility for the Royal Navy.
Actually, it was not named "Nelson's Dockyard" until after the British Navy abandoned it and turned it over to the Antigua government. Nelson WAS based here at English Harbour from 1784 to 1787. He was temporary Commander-in-Chief of the Leeward Islands for a short time.
Although we had rain showers earlier, by the time we got to the Dockyard, it was sunny. A local guide took us through the Dockyard. She was very good and informative. We toured the Mast House and other shipyard areas such as the Wet Dock and ended up at the Copper Kettle for a drink before we went back to our ship.
The old Boat House and Sail Loft was partly destroyed by a hurricane in 1871. All that remains of the original building are the massive boat house pillars. Reconstruction of Nelson's Boatyard continues up to this day of places such as the Seaman's Gallery built in 1778 (now a boutique and restaurant), the Pay Office (shops) and the 1788 Pitch and Tar Store (the Admirals Inn).Related to:
- National/State Park
Day trip to Barbuda
It's such an opportunity to be able to see another island while you are in that part of the world, so we took the opportunity t do the day trip to Barbuda, on the 'Excellence' catarmaran.
You are picked up from the beach at your hotel, and whisked across the Atlantic to Barbuda. It could be bumpy at times, but the fact that we saw some dolphins on the way over made up for it - plus it was a pretty fun ride anyway!
The beaches as you approach barbuda as astounding, picture postcard to say the least.
After visiting the bird sanctuary (frigate brids) you return for some snorkelling/sunbathing, lunch is then served (chicken, fish, steak, and an array of rice, macaroni cheese, pasta, salad, etc).
You then travel to the pink sand beach (which really is pink sand from all the shells over the years!)
The trip is well worth it, and on the way back the rum punch flows freely. You are dropped at your hotel about 7 or 8 hours later.
If you ask locals what you should see during your visit in Antigua, the two places named are Nelson’s Dockyad and Shirley Heights. Shirley Heights is not just the Lookout, but also includes structures at a point called the “Blockhouse” as well as the ruins of further military buildings. Unfortunately, most tourists’ understanding of Shirley Heights is the steelband concert with cocktails and beer which takes place every Sunday evening. I went there on a Monday – if I want to see drunken Brits, I go to Riga */**. The “Lookout” and the “Blockhouse” are good places to enjoy the view over English Harbour. But both are frequently visited by tourists with the “Lookout” having an overpriced bar/restaurant and the “Blockhouse” a couple of souvernir stands. On the way to these places you’ll see the ruins of other structures, including the Gunners’s Baracks and Officers’s Quarters. Two abandoned graveyards close to the Lookout give you a scary feeling of the past. You’ll find one at the beginning of Jones Valley Trail and a second at the beginning of the Carpenter Rock Trail. Both of these hiking pathes will give you an insight into the incredible nature of Nelson’s Dockyard National Park.
Shirley Heights was built in 1781 and was in sue until the mid-19th century. It was named in honour of Sir Thomas Shirley, who had the idea of fortifying this part of the island.
* Dear Brits, please don’t take this comment too serious. If I wouldn’t love you, I wouldn’t spend so much time with you in the UK. If some Latvians feel offended, I am sorry – but I have never seen so many drunken tourists per square mile as in Riga.
** I can’t say anything about that party taking place on Sunday evenings, but it is surely better than it may sound in my tip. Try out for yourself or read other travellers's tips. I just felt that it was not really my thing.Related to:
- Arts and Culture
Paddles Kayak & Snorkel Adventure
This was probably the best run and organized tour that we have ever taken in the Caribbean, they were on time, the tour ran like clockwork, they answered their email promptly and the tour was exactly as described on their website. The owners of the business, Jennie and Conrad, are lovely hosts for the morning excursion which starts and ends at their home.
Jennie met us at the cruise dock and we drove through Antigua to get to their home where the tour started. A short motor boat ride took us to the kayaks, the flat 2 person ocean kind, and we were off to explore the mangroves. Along the way we saw pelicans up in the trees, heron, starfish and jellyfish. Another motor boat ride took us past Hell's Gate and over to Bird Island where we got off for a short hike to the top of the island for a spectacular view. He took us back over to a spot just offshore that was used for snorkeling, on this particular day the water was a bit rough and the snorkeling not so good.
After the ride back to Jennie and Conrad's home, we were greeted by their lovely dog, handed towels to wash off the salt and treated to some homemade banana bread, plantain chips and punch. Then it was back in the van for the trip back to the ship just in time for the next group of kayakers to come back in from their excursion.
This was the exact same tour offered by Princess but at a $10 discount, with a smaller group of people and an earlier start time. You should be in reasonable shape, our group had all kayaked before and were in good shape so we probably kayaked a bit longer than most groups. There was a boat following in case someone got tired.
One of the other passengers on our trip asked the motor boat drivers to swing past Hell's Gate, a natural rock formation located near Bird Island. I believe they said when they had visited previously that they had gotten on top of it and walked around but the water was a little rough on the day that we were there and it wasn't a scheduled stop. If you decide to climb on it, wear shoes, the formation is volcanic rock and appears to be very sharp. Same warning for swimming through the gate, it would have been way too dangerous on the day that we were there.
If you look at the photos, the gate itself looks to be the same shape as Africa.
If you’re a big fan of the beach, prepare to lose your heart to this place. Antiguans like to boast they have a different one for every day of the year. Without doubt, porcelain, palm-fringed sands and still turquoise waters are the star of this island show. But that’s not all Antigua’s got to boast about. Get ready for towns in a rainbow riot of colours. Quiet countryside that slumbers in the sunshine. And cuisine as sublime as those moon-white shores.
• Sink your toes into soft sand and wade through waters too blue to be true. A good place to head is Dickenson Bay, a wide strip dotted with thatched beach bars. Or pack up your snorkel and flippers and head north to Paradise Reef, a marine explorer’s dream.
• Hit the shops in St John’s, Antigua’s bright and breezy capital. Plump for island crafts or up the spending in the duty-free complexes. Afterwards, take a look at the mighty domed towers of the city’s Baroque cathedral, Antigua’s most famous landmark.
• Pull up a chair in one of St John’s restaurants and order the locals’ favourite, pepperpot stew, a tasty concoction of salt beef, pumpkin and okra. With a little legwork you’ll find some really unusual settings - old sugar mills, former slave quarters and 17th-century inns are among the top contenders.
• For a small island there’s loads of history to soak up. During the 1700s Antigua’s coastline was littered with British forts. Today most of these military strongholds lie in ruins but they’re great vantage points. Try Fort Barrington and Fort James in St John's for coastal views that’ll take your breath away.
On this trip you’ll hop onboard a 4-wheel jeep to go where no ordinary car can take you. Your driver will take you through the Belle View Heights Savannah, exploring the uneven terrain and taking in sights like the island’s 18th-century dam. Get ready to compare the lush rainforest on Fig Tree Drive to the pineapple plantations on the coast as you’re taken on the drive of your life. There’ll be plenty of stop-offs to take photos so bring your camera. And don’t forget your swimming gear as you’ll get a short break on the beach, too. £34.00 (3.5 hrs)
Best of Antigua
Peek into Antigua’s colonial past on this whistle-stop history tour. The day starts with a trip to the Blockhouse Fort ruins. Perched a whopping 500 feet above sea level, they’re a great viewing platform for the rest of the island. Look in one direction and you’ll spot Indian Creek, once home to Antigua’s first native tribe. Turn around, and you’ll catch a glimpse of the newer and much more glamorous home of Eric Clapton. Later, make your way to the island’s most southerly point, Shirley Heights. Back in the 18th century, soldiers used this as a lookout podium to spy on enemies and signal to nearby forts. The last, and arguably best, port of call is Nelson’s Dockyards, the world’s only Georgian dockyards still in use today. Here, you can stroll through the old-fashioned Georgian buildings and even visit the original Naval Officer’s house. Afterwards, it’s drinks all round at the docks’ 18th-century inn. £32.00 (3 hrs)
Kayak & Snorkel
Making the most of Antigua’s mangroves, this trip brings you up close to the island’s tropical treasures. It all takes place in the North Sound National Park, one of the unspoilt corners of the Caribbean. You’ll kick things off with a boat ride across to the floating platforms, where your kayak adventure awaits. After a quick safety briefing, you’ll paddle past dinky inlets and palm groves – keeping an eye out for stingrays, starfish and hummingbirds as you go. Finally, you’ll come ashore at Great Bird Island. Here time is your own to sunbathe, swim or snorkel in this white sand slice of paradise... whilst enjoying fruit/rum punch and snacks. Just so you know... The minimum age for this tour is 8 years. £36.00 (4 hrs)
Antigua by Sea
Join us for a closer look at Antigua’s peacock-blue waters and picture-perfect beaches. First things first, you’ll board a catamaran where lively calypso music provides the theme tune for your sail to Green Island. Here you can soak up the sun and snorkel through a world of coral reefs and tropical fish - it’s the perfect opportunity to fill up your underwater camera. After lunch, you’ll cruise to English Harbour to see Nelson’s Dockyard. Named in honour of Horatio Nelson who served as commander of the Leeward Islands, this restored Georgian dockyard was once the home of Britain’s naval fleet. Fast forward to today and the old fort, naval museum and visitor centre make it something of a tourist attraction. Finally, as you sail back to the port, you’ll cruise past the virgin white sands and tiny bays of Antigua’s exotic west coast. What’s more, the bar is open all day, so you can relax, drink in hand, and enjoy the view. £59.00 (6 hrs)
Not only is the peak of Montserrat’s volcano on the menu on this trip, but you’ll get to take a helicopter flight, too. You’ll be briefed at Antigua’s Fort James helipad before climbing into the chopper. Once you’re strapped in, your pilot will whisk you across the sea to Montserrat. Keep an eye on the water as you fly. If Lady Luck is smiling down on you, you’ll get to see the whales that sometimes swim here. Hovering over Montserrat, you’ll head to the Soufrierre Hills Volcano in the centre of the island. Standing shoulder to shoulder with the likes of Mount Vesuvius, this is one of the worlds most infamous volcanoes. And unlike its dormant Italian counterpart, this one is alive and kicking. In fact, some of the island has been designated off limits to traffic after the volcano erupted in 1995, burying the capital under rubble and ash. After passing over the cone twice, you’ll drop down to Plymouth to see the devastation for yourself. Like a modern day Pompeii, some areas of the city sit under 40 foot of ash. Just so you know... The helicopter ride takes 50 minutes. £130.00 (2 hrs)
Like lots of the Caribbean islands, Antigua is more than a little devoted to cricket. It’s more like a religion than sport and games can crop up anywhere, at any time. So it comes as no surprise to learn that the island’s home-grown cricketers are world-class. So much so, they even named the island’s brand new pitch, the Sir Vivian Richards Cricket Stadium. On this trip you’ll get a guided tour of the old and new test venue grounds, stop for lunch at the Sticky Wicket Bar and Restaurant and explore the West Indies Cricket Hall of Fame. You’ll even get to meet one of the West Indies cricket legends with famous faces like Curtly Ambrose and Sir Vivian Richards spending around 30 minutes answering questions, signing autographs and posing for photos. £65.00 (4.5 hrs)
Woodland walks. Zip-lines. And a canyon-like rainforest gorge. This is an adventure playground with a difference. It all takes place 40 to 300 feet off the ground in Antigua’s rainforest canopy, which makes it one of the tallest aerial adventures in the world. Taking roughly an hour from start to finish, it includes an Indiana Jones-style suspension bridge and 5 zip-lines. But don’t worry, you’re in safe hands. All the rangers here are trained to world challenge course standards and before you set off in your harness you’ll have a full safety briefing, to learn all about the equipment. Just so you know... The drive to the canopy location takes approximately 40 minutes. Maximum weight is 265 lbs; minimum height is 4 feet. Closed shoes and short/trousers are recommended. £45.00 (2.5 hrs)
Sun & Rum
Cast adrift in the Caribbean, Antigua is ringed with a halo of white sandy beaches. And the fairest of them all is Runaway Beach. Lapped by warm, clear waters and fringed by palm trees, it’s a perfect corner of paradise. And this taxi transfer from ship to shore – and back again – whisks you down to the beach so you can make the most of the watersports, bar and hammocks, not to mention the unlimited rum or fruit punch. Plus to make life easier, we’ll reserve you a sunbed on the sand. £19.00 (4 hrs)
Swim with Stingrays
For most of us, swimming with stingrays is just a dream. But at Stingray City Antigua, close encounters of the stingray kind are an everyday occurrence. Known locally as a 'the retirement home', it sits at the end of Barge Reef, just off the coast of Seaton’s Village. And it’s home to more than 30 rays, ranging from junior to senior. So if you want to touch, swim or play with these graceful gliders, this is the place to do it. After a safety briefing on dry land, you’ll board a boat to be whisked across the water. You’ll learn all about the rays, pet them and maybe feed them, too, before slipping into the water where the stingrays swim around you. An unforgettable experience. Just so you know... You spend approximately one hour in the water, so remember your swimming gear and sunscreen. Snorkelling gear will be provided. £40.00 (3 hrs)
Runaway Bay Beach
A short drive from St. John’s and a short walk from Dickenson Bay, Runaway Bay Beach seems miles away from either. It features the same white sand and turquoise water as Dickenson Bay Beach but has virtually none of the tourist traffic. Those looking to escape the tourist traffic, jet skis, and pushy vendors of Dickenson Bay, will be rewarded by taking the five to ten minute walk to Runaway Bay.Related to:
Half Moon Bay Beach
Found on the remote and relatively undeveloped southern part of the island, Half Moon Bay Beach is a great place to escape for a day. This undeveloped, protected, crescent-shaped beach attracts only a limited number of tourists despite its white sands and calm turquoise waters.Related to:
Antigua is a good place to stroll around in ruins of colonial time structures. As an important english base in the 17th and 18th century, many fortresses were built on the island as well as other military structure. Fort James is only one of these examples, but an easy to start with, if you are coming from St. John’s. The fort is located at the entry of the harbour and is easily accesible by land: It is located on the southern end of Fort Bay Beach.
Finished in 1739, it was built to proctect the city of St. John’s that was becoming the most important on the island (and later the capital). The fort scared away the rench privateers who were attacking the western coast of the island frequently. It was so good, that it never had to engage in any battle. When the number of conflicts among the european colonial powers declined, some of the military structures in Antigua became obsolete and were abandoned. Fort James was in use until around 1850 and was left into decay afterwards.
Currently, Fort James is viewed as one of the more important heritage sites in Antigua. However, restoration has only scarcely taken place. A restaurant (Russell’s) has moved into the main building of the fort, while the rest is ocassionally visited by tourists. Other buildings are threatened by the elements and time. The foundation stone is still visible on the eastern corner of the fortress. 10 cannons are still preserved, most of them quite well. This makes Fort James unique in Antigua as most other obsolete cannons were sold for scrap. Hopefully, the existant plans to restore the fort come to frutition. In they meantime, you are free to walk around in the fort ruins and get a feeling of the 18th century in the Caribbean.Related to:
- Castles and Palaces
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We always celebrate my Birthday with a trip of my choosing and October 2012 was Antigua. We chose to...more
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