Beaches and more in the Antiguan boating town of English Harbour
Antigua is the largest of the English-speaking Leeward Islands in the eastern Caribbean and is part of the twin-island nation of Antigua and Barbuda. On a winter visit, my husband and I stayed in English Harbour in the southeastern area of the island. English Harbour has a military maritime history and today remains a boating town.
Famous for offering protective shelter during violent storms, English Harbour served as a base for the British Navy in the late 18th century, a base established by Admiral Horatio Nelson. Although the dockyard was gradually abandoned in the 19th century, today Nelson’s Dockyard has been completely restored and is the only continuously working Georgian dockyard in the world. The dockyard offers gift shops, art shops, restaurants, a museum, and five star accommodations.
We were awed by the impressive yachts moored at the Nelson Dockyard Marina and the Falmouth Harbour Marina, which has been specifically built to cater to mega-yachts. Several world class yachting events are held in English Harbour, including Antigua Classic Yacht Regatta, Antigua Sailing Week, Antigua Charter Yacht Show, and Superyacht Challenge Antigua.
English Harbour Town is a lively place. You’ll find the yachting crowd, their crews, other tourists, and locals. Many of the young people you see in town work on the ships. At our hotel, we met a young Swiss woman taking two weeks vacation after spending several months working as a steward on a luxury sailboat. We met a man from Florida, who’d flown down to finish renovations on a yacht, renovations that were started when the yacht had been moored in Florida. This town is all about the boating life.
Restaurants and bars line the main street of English Harbour. Food was excellent anywhere we ate and often very reasonably priced. We attended the Sunday Come party at Shirley Heights. Shirley Heights is a restored military lookout. The party, featuring a barbecue and local bands, was too crowded for our taste. But the food was excellent and the view, looking out over English and Falmouth Harbours, stunning. We left early, but were still able to enjoy the music. We heard it from the hotel patio.
A large variety of seafood was available to choose from at the Friday night barbecue at The Copper and Lumber Store Hotel in Nelson’s Dockyard. We ate outside on the grounds of the hotel, overlooking the marina.
Of course, with temperatures ranging from the mid-seventies to mid-eighties in the winter and a winding coastline, Antigua is also about the beaches. There are 365 beaches on Antigua. Pigeon Beach is about a 10 minute walk from the town. We took a 5 minute water taxi ride to Galleon Beach. You could easily explore other beaches on the island by taking a taxi, using the local bus service, or renting a car. Remember driving is on the left hand side. You need to purchase an Antigua driver licence in order to drive on the island.
There are several hotels, cottages, villas, and inns and vacation homes available for rent in the English Harbour area. We stayed at two different local hotels. Two, because we were there two times within two weeks, staying a few days each time, before and after a week in Nevis. Both hotels were very comfortable and friendly.
The first hotel was The Ocean Inn. Our room was small, but the patio area was beautiful with lush gardens. There was a pool. The hotel was partway up the hill, which made for good views but a somewhat challenging, albeit short, walk to the main road. People from the prairies aren’t used to walking on inclines. The coolest thing about this hotel was the honour bar. You helped yourself to a beverage of your choice, recorded it on the paper tab on the bar, and settled the bill when you checked out.
The second hotel was The Anchorage Rooms. Our room here was a little larger, but there was no pool. The hotel had a lovely courtyard with a restaurant serving breakfast, lunch, and snacks during the day. Its location at the end of the main road next to Nelson’s Dockyard was ideal.
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