The southern coast of Antigua is its busiest. English Harbor is home of His Majesty’s Antigua Naval Dockyards, Nelson’s former base, a group of splendid Georgian buildings fabricated largely from the ballast of British supply ships. The dockyard was unused after 1889 and fell into disrepair until 1951, when the Friends of English Harbour (see “An Island Life,” second page) raised funds to renovate the abandoned buildings. The complex was renamed Nelson’s Dockyard after the man who hated living there. This must-see on any trip to Antigua is now a national park and contains the Dockyard Museum, the Copper and Lumber Store Hotel, several boutiques, cafés, a joiner’s loft, a sail loft, and a cordage and canvas store, as well as countless other dockyard buildings. And Nelson’s Dockyard Marina makes its home here, too (www.nationalparkantigua.com). If you’re feeling hungry, try Abracadabra (www.theabracadabra.com), across the harbor, for delicious Italian cuisine.
Nearby Falmouth Harbour has three marinas: Antigua Yacht Club (www.aycmarina.com), Catamaran Marina (www.catamaranmarina.com) and Falmouth Harbour Marina (www.antigua-marina.com). The last is geared toward superyachts but both AYC and Falmouth Harbour offer a full range of services and facilities for cruisers, including on-site restaurants. (Lunch at AYC’s Cloggy’s is bustling but delicious, with a nice view out over the docks!)
On the western coast of Antigua you’ll find at least a half-dozen places to explore, though Jolly Harbour and Dickenson Bay are the best known. Dickenson offers nearby hotels, restaurants and even a casino, though you’ll have to beach your dinghy.
Jolly Harbour has a mile-long beach, with shopping, restaurants and bars — including the Dogwatch Tavern, which has the largest selection of beers on the island. Jolly Harbour Marina (www.jollyharbour-marina.com) has 140 slips and you can raise its dockmaster on Chanel 68.
Half Moon Bay on the eastern coast of Antigua is considered one of the most beautiful beaches in the world. The pink sands curve along nearly a mile of shoreline and it’s often fairly deserted, despite its fame. But these few spots just scratch the surface of Antigua’s options. Cruise into any of the smaller harbors, throw out the hook, turn off the generator, grill some local fish, open a bottle of wine and gaze at the stars from the perfect stillness of your own island paradise.