Elizabeth A. Kerr

It’s just so easy to get to Antigua with direct flights offered by Air Canada and West Jet several days a week in season, Antigua also offers one of the best kick-off points for exploring so many other Caribbean islands…if you have the time and the winds are prevailing in the right direction.

However, don’t get me wrong. There’s lots to do in Antigua and since it’s pretty much a year-round destination, you could customize your charter vacation by planning it around Antigua Sailing Week in late April or the annual carnival in late July.

Chartering a boat in Antigua is simple, but book ahead to guarantee that just the right boat is waiting for you. Horizon Yacht Charters, On Deck and Sunsail have bases right on the island and all offer a range of boats and services to make your charter a lasting memory. No matter where you do your cruising, there are a handful of full-service marinas nearby to provide you with an overnight stay, maintenance and repair, provisioning, shopping and entertainment.

They say that Antigua can offer up a different beach for every day of the year! Needless to say, we just didn’t have time to visit them all on this trip, but we do have a few favourites that you should consider while circumnavigating the island.

No visit to Antigua is complete without a visit to English Harbour – a great starting port for your charter and aptly steeped in naval history. Although indeed another notch in Christopher Columbus’ island discovery repertoire, it was Lord Horatio Nelson’s arrival in 1784 (as head of the Squadron of the Leeward Islands) that facilitated the construction of Nelson’s Dockyard to serve as a main Caribbean base for the British Navy. Although virtually abandoned and ultimately closed in 1889, this fifteen-square-mile property has now been completely restored thanks to the Friends of English Harbour and claims to be the only Georgian-era dockyard in the world. Extend your stay in one its two charming spots – the Admiral’s Inn or the Copper and Lumber hotel – both located within walking distance of the must-see Dockyard Museum and the Dockyard Bakery (tucked in behind).


Departing English Harbour and travelling north, Willoughby Bay will welcome you to a great stretch of beach and reef. Thanks to the abundance of tropical fish here, your first taste of Antigua’s snorkeling starts now.

Antigua's foaming breakers at Devil's Bridge

Nonsuch Bay offers more than just a great place to anchor. Hop into your rib and visit The Bay @ Nonsuch Bay Resort for some local fare overlooking your mooring. If time and budget permits, indulge in an overnight stay here at the end of your charter to unwind and enjoy what else this resort and the island has to offer that you just can’t get to by boat. Whether you stay in a beach cottage or a hilltop villa, enjoy the privacy of your luxurious accommodation, visit the spa or go kite-surfing. Leave the kids behind, rent a car or hire a guide and explore. The luxurious Nonsuch Bay Resort is located less than 30 minutes from many of Antigua’s many attractions.

Heading north, Long Bay welcomes the sun worshippers like no other bay on the island with the finest of white sand and the clearest of crystal blue waters. Dive right off your boat or visit the beach and wade in. Although there are chair and umbrella rentals here, don’t forget your hat and sunscreen.

Having received a good dose of Vitamin D while enjoying a chillaxing day, head to Great Bird Island, a tiny islet measuring just 20 acres. Hike the 150 feet of rocky path to enjoy the panoramic view. Keep an eye out for the Antiguan Racer – a somewhat scary but totally harmless rear-fanged grey-brown snake, apparently named by sailors – whose entire population (500) now lives here. Other endangered species that call Great Bird Island their home include the brown pelican, the West Indian whistling duck and the red-billed tropicbirds. 

Antigua Nelson's Dockyard, Mudeum

On your arrival to Antigua’s recently-renovated airport, it’s likely you flew over Parham Harbour – Antigua’s oldest town and the first port of entry. Although it remains a port today, it’s now mainly used by local fishing boats. However, it’s a good place to stop and take a break from your trip. Although a well-protected anchorage, the channel can be tricky so it is recommended to navigate only during daylight. Take advantage of the laundry facilities at the marina, provision at the nearby supermarket or grab a bite at a local bar. While there, do visit St. Peter’s Anglican Church, known at one time “as the finest church in the British West Indies” designed by the famous British architect Thomas Weekes. I’m a wannabe architect myself, so I truly admired the Italian-influenced octagonal shape of the church and the rib-like wooden ceiling that reminded me of the inside of a well hand-crafted canoe.


If you’re keen to escape the peace and tranquillity of the sea and are perhaps craving a little land-based activity, your next stop should be Dickenson Bay. This busy stretch of beach is home to many lovely resorts, great restaurants, and waterfront bars. You can even go exploring on horseback or try your luck at Grand Bay Casino! Not matter what you choose to do, don’t forget to take in the sunset at Runaway Beach before heading back to the boat.

Steering south, you may see a glimpse of the Andes, a wreck that lies in the middle of Deep 

Antigua Sailing Week, English and Falmouth Harbour

Bay – easily spotted because its mast often pokes out of the water – offering another fun and easy snorkelling experience. Or opt for a ten-minute hike that takes you to Fort Barrington, where breathtaking views of St. Kitts and Nevis are always possible. 

No stay in Antigua should go without a least a little time spent at Jolly Harbour Marina Village. No matter where I am, I’m always in search for some retail therapy and this is one of the spots where I found it. From clothes to artwork, the shops at Jolly Harbour cater to every taste and (almost every) budget. 

Before heading back to base, spend a day and night in Carlisle Bay. This scenic spot is an easy sail home and another favourite for fellow boaters. This beach does not disappoint in any way and is clearly a welcoming spot for Antigua’s green sea turtles. Sadly, all sea turtles species found here on the endangered list, however, the Environmental Awareness Group in partnership with WIDECAST and the Jumby Bay Hawksbill Project team an are conducting an ongoing survey to better understand the turtles themselves and how widespread the nesting population spans.

red snapper at Dennis Bar, AntiguaThere is no question that you can discover much of Antigua by boat. But if you can add a few days to your itinerary, there are a few other sites and must-dos I’d be remiss if I didn’t share here.

Although the retail therapy of Jolly Harbour did whet the appetite, the works of local artisans, including internationally respected artists, potters and sculptors can be found throughout the island including the gallery at Harmony Hill (Parish of St. Paul), Redcliffe Quay in St. John’s or the Fig Tree Studio Art Gallery (situated in the heart of the rainforest).


For some great sightseeing, follow Fig Tree Drive through Antigua’s rainforest and witness mango, guava, oranges and bananas happily growing there. It’s definitely worth the drive to Long Bay to visit Devil’s Bridge. For somewhere so remote, it’s hard to believe the foaming Atlantic breakers that crown here have travelled more than almost 5,000 kilometres from the African coast to create such a magnificent archway carved out of limestone.


Give yourself a break from the galley and stop by Dennis’ Cocktail Bar & Restaurant. Order the red snapper and a bottle of Carib and enjoy a spectacular view of Ffryes Beach. 

And last, but not least, make sure that wherever you are on any given Sunday, it’s a short haul back to English Harbour in time to attend the world-famous party at Shirley Heights. Festivities start at 4:00 p.m. when the music of a steelpan band starts up and the mouthwatering BBQ scents lure locals and tourists alike. For less than $20, you can enjoy the music, the entertainment, spectacular views and a sunset that beats most. 

Bet’s are, you’ll be back to Antigua next year if only to party again at Shirley Heights.

 

Long Bay's Kiosks, Antigua

Useful Websites

Admiral’s Inn admiralsantigua.com

Antigua and Barbuda Department of Tourism antigua-barbuda.org

Antigua Sailing Week sailingweek.com

Carnival antiguacarnival.com

Copper and Lumber Hotel copperandlumberhotel.com

Horizon Yacht Charters horizonyachtcharters.com

Nonsuch Bay Resort nonsuchbayresort.com

On Deck ondecksailing.com

St. James Club stjamesclubantigua.com

Sunsail sunsail.com

Shops at Redcliffe Quay, Antigua

Photos:

Photo 1 - It’s truly hard to believe that Ffryes Beach is so beautiful and yet deserted most of the time. 

Photo 2 & 3 - The archway at Devil’s Bridge has been created by these foaming breakers pounding into the limestone that have travelled almost 5,000 kilometres across the Atlantic from Africa. PHOTO CREDIT: Antigua and Barbuda Tourism Authority

Photo 4 - Nelson’s Dockyard offers the landlubber and boater alike a place to learn about Antigua’s naval history while visiting the world’s only Georgian-era dockyard. Grab a scone or a yummy sandwich at The Bakery behind the Dockyard Museum while enjoying the views of the many yachts that moor here. 

Photo 5 - At the quietest of times, Antigua remains a lively island to visit but during Antigua Sailing Week (April 25-May 1, 2015), yachts from all over the world arrive in English and Falmouth Harbour to compete in one of the most preeminent yacht racing events in the Caribbean. Lively indeed!

Photo 6 - We had a delightful lunch at Dennis Bar and Restaurant overlooking this beach where the red snapper just melted in our mouths.

Photo 7 - I am definitely a consumer of locally made goods and although not everything sold in these beachside kiosks is “local”, it’s really fun to barter with the shopkeepers. Long Bay is not the only beachside mall, but it is one of my favourites. If you’re looking for something more upscale, head to St. John’s, Antigua’s capital. Because this is where the cruise ships come in, there’s lots to choose from. 

Photo 8 - I prefer the calmer and just slightly off the beaten track shops of Redcliffe Quay with its brightly coloured shacks and restored buildings. There is an unlimited selection of clothing, local craft, jewellery and cafes.

  

Related Articles

Boat Reviews

Video Gallery

 

 

Beneteau Oceanis Yacht 54By Zuzana Prochazka

Beneteau saw an opportunity to add a little thrill to any cruising adventure, so they took the hull of the First 53 racer (introduced just last year), and with a few fashionable changes, created the Oceanis Yacht 54, the new entry-level of Beneteau’s swanky Oceanis Yacht line. The result is a performance cruiser that sails like a witch and looks like a grande dame.

Design

Roberto Biscontini is the naval architect and Lorenzo Argento created the details of the exterior and interior design. 

Read More

Riverest MarinaThe new owners of L’Orignal Marina offer boaters a new destination. Located in a charming francophone village in Eastern Ontario, this joined marina and restaurant venue is the ambitious initiative of long-time entrepreneur André Chabot and biologist Alexandra Quester, both residents of L’Orignal.

The purchase of the L’Orignal Marina was made official in November 2020. The new year was barely underway when all 50 available slips were already reserved. No wonder the addition of member and visitor slips is already planned for the 2022 season – the 2021 count is up to 62 power and sail already. At the moment, the Riverest Marina offers boaters a stop where they can launch their boat...

Read More

Lifestyle

  • Prev
Photograph taken on Sept 15 while drifting home after the last Wednesday evening race at Collins ...
On the afternoon of Sunday, October 3, fourteen exceptional sailors were inducted into the Canadian ...
My husband and I purchased this beauty in Gananoque two weeks ago and boated it from there across ...
Last issue we featured a story about the engagement proposal aboard Via-Mara, a 1969 Trojan 42 Aft ...
With thanks to Sail Canada, here’s a collection of photos that are Olympic quality. Clearly our ...
Wow. That was a lot of fun reading the collection of boat names that came in from all over the ...
No individual had a greater impact on the modern sport of sailing than Bruce Kirby. Known and ...
Just off The Ocean Race European Tour, Daniel is setting his sights on competing in The Ocean Race ...
After being our fearless leader and publisher since CYOB kicked off, Greg Nicoll, handed over the ...
Swim Drink Fish is spearheading the Vancouver Plastic Cleanup by installing, maintaining, and ...

DIY & How to

  • Prev
Finding the right PFD can seem like a daunting task and extends beyond finding one that fits and ...
If chartering is something you’ve been dreaming about, this series is really for you. BUT be ...
So many decisions to make when planning for haul-out. When/how to winterize? What type of ...
It’s a scary thought - whether your boat is made of wood, fiberglass, aluminum or composite – it’s ...
It’s a scary thought – but whether your boat is made of wood, fiberglass, aluminum or composite – ...
Last summer there was tremendous interest in buying a boat to have fun in the restricted world ...
The boat buying or selling market is hot now and has been since the late spring of 2020. Sean ...
Last issue we got up with Montreal sailor Marc Robic who has accumulated a lot of tips and tricks ...
While some parts of the country are lucky enough to have year-round boating, there are plenty of ...
A Transducer is a device that is installed below the waterline that provides underwater data to a ...

Galvanic CorrosionIt’s a scary thought – but whether your boat is made of wood, fiberglass, aluminum or composite – it’s slowly deteriorating under you. Part of this is the nature of the marine environment: Sun, moisture, waves, wind, movement and vibration all contribute to components breaking down.

But there are other factors that are much more concerning and act at a significantly faster rate that the environment can take credit for. One of these is commonly spoken of, but not terribly well understood: Corrosion. As boaters, we’re concerned with two main types of corrosion: Galvanic and Stray-Current. This edition will focus on galvanic corrosion – in two weeks, stay tuned for info on stray-current.

Read More

 

  

Marine Products

  • Prev
Dockmate®, manufacturer of advanced wireless remote controls for yachts, has announced expanded ...
Updated features and benefits offer next level of product excellence by integrating innovative ...
AkzoNobel Yacht Coatings has introduced a new, easier to apply topside system with two new products ...
Whether for news, weather or just to watch the game, onboard television reception is important. But ...
Kanvaslight® was specifically engineered for a long life in a salty, sun-drenched environment. The ...
Watermakers take ocean water and create perfect drinking water using reverse osmosis. A Schenker ...
If you’re headed out for a weekend afloat or on a week-long cruise you often must park your vehicle ...
Ten years ago, St. Margaret’s Bay (Halifax), Nova Scotia-based SailTimer Inc. made the first ...
Between the odor and working in confined spaces, replacing an onboard sanitation line is never a ...
For many boat owners who have gear to tote and the occasional stretch of bumpy road to negotiate, a ...

Mia and Caleb's EngagementOn July 23 last year, CYOB published a piece on a beautifully restored 1967 Trojan 42 Motor Yacht in Oromocto NB. (That piece was also expanded in CY magazine later in the year.)

One of our Canadian Yachting contributors, Denise Miller, had shared the article on my social media and a young man reached out and asked if she could connect him with the owners of the boat, Dave and Barb. Denise leapt into action and Dave and Barb were thrilled. They concocted a plan that the young lady, Mia, thought she was coming to model for a sales brochure for Dave to do charter tours.

Read More