Antigua’s Historical Highlights

January 24, 2014 No Comments
Nelson's Dockyard

If history is your thing, you’ll want to head to English Harbour, located on the south coast of the island. Once an important base for the British Royal Navy, this was the only harbor in the Eastern Caribbean large enough to accommodate naval-ship repairs. It became known as Nelson’s Dockyard in the 1950s when major renovation efforts commenced. It is named after the 18th-century British naval legend Horatio Nelson, who patrolled the Caribbean to help Britain maintain sea power over European rivals and the newly formed United States.

Today, English Harbour is part of Nelson’s Dockyard National Park. It features several shops, restaurants, and the Dockyard Museum, which presents the harbor’s history alongside exhibitions highlighting archaeological research on Antigua. Visitors can enjoy the scenic natural beauty of the island on the hiking trails surrounding the dockyard.

Every spring, its marina plays host to Antigua Sailing Week, a world-class yachting regatta that attracts high-performance racing yachts from around the globe for a week of competition in paradise.

For electrifying views of the harbor, head to Shirley Heights, a former military lookout point with an array of cannons and historic structures. The site is named for Sir Thomas Shirley, governor of the Leeward Islands when the area was fortified in the late 18th century. The lookout is noted for affording some of the best views on Antigua.

Just west of Nelson’s Dockyard is Fig Tree Drive, a picturesque road that meanders through the lush rainforest and rises to the farmlands around Fig Tree Hill before cascading down to the coastline. Along the way, the road passes old sugar mills and rows of mango, guava, and coconut trees. Look for vendors selling black pineapples, Antigua’s national fruit.

From Fig Tree Drive, it’s about a 15-minute ride to Betty’s Hope, an abandoned sugar plantation where two restored stone windmills provide a dramatic reminder of the island’s once-thriving sugar industry. Betty’s Hope also holds a museum that documents the impact of sugarcane on Antiguan history. Nearly 100 windmills, now functioning as houses, restaurants, and shops, still stand across the island.

The island’s most gripping site, Devil’s Bridge, is to the east of Betty’s Hope in a remote coastal region known as Indian Town Point. For thousands of years, waves have lashed the rocks at this point to carve out a natural arch of limestone. Blowholes and geysers frame the arch as waves continue to break against the bridge.

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Explore Antigua’s rich naval heritage and scenery on a narrated island drive and walking tour of the restored naval station, Nelson’s Dockyard.

Experience Antigua’s aquatic delights three ways: a catamaran cruise, reef snorkeling, and swimming at a white-sand beach.

Experience Antigua’s aquatic delights three ways with a catamaran cruise, reef snorkeling and swimming at a white-sand beach. Set sail in a motorized catamaran. Anchoring near paradise Reef, crew members guide snorkelers around sheltered waters for the best views.

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