English Harbour, Antigua – A Vacation of Sun, Sand, and Rum

English Harbour and Nelson's Dockyard, Antigua

English Harbour and Nelson’s Dockyard, Antigua – Galleon Beach at the bottom, Pigeon Beach is on the other side of the hill in the middle, Nelson’s Dockyard and our hotel are middle right. View from Shirley Heights

If there’s one thing which can help cure the gloomy mood of an overly long and cold winter, it’s a trip to an island with plenty of sun, rum, and beaches.  We tried to go to Antigua back over Valentine’s Day but a snowstorm knocked out the east coast and our flight was canceled.  Thanks winter.  We got the last laugh though as this weekend we finally made it out of Chicago to Antigua, and have spent the week melting off the winter blues.

Where’s Antigua?  It’s a small island in the leeward islands of the Caribbean which is part of Antigua and Barbuda, about a 4 hour flight from Newark.  Known mostly for sailing, it was part of the British Commonwealth but is now an independent nation, although there are plenty of Englishmen running around here which I think helps it retain a colonial atmosphere.  At least where we were staying.

We picked a hotel called the Copper and Lumber Store situated inside Nelson’s Dockyard at English Harbour, which is a cultural heritage site and I believe part of a national park.  Yes, that Nelson, hero of Trafalgar. Apparently this was one of his first posts and it’s a great location for monitoring the French over on Guadeloupe.  I’ll say this about the English they really knew how to pick and set up a harbor/dockyard.  There are big hills on either side of the entrance and cliffs running along the coast.  No one was sneaking up on them or going overland to drop in on them unannounced!

Most of the buildings have been restored and now house a couple hotels, bars, boutiques, grocery, sailmaker, and coffee shop.  The hotel we stayed in is really cool, all the rooms are named for Nelson’s ships and we ended up in the Agamemnon, a very spacious suite with an upstairs sleeping loft overlooking the street below and the harbor.  It’s pretty neat to be sitting here typing this, look up out the window and see water and masts.  English Harbour is foremost a Caribbean sailing center and apparently is the site of a huge sailing week at the end of April.  There are some impressive boats docked here.

We’ve eaten just fine here, plenty of good jerk chicken as you may imagine and plenty of seafood.  We came mostly for the sun though and we’ve definitely gotten our fill of that.  The bakery right behind our hotel has been great for the very late breakfasts we’ve been taking.  Fresh pastries and really tasty meat patties for nibbling on while waiting for many the boat taxi operator to take us across the harbor to the beach.  Really rough vacation.  Anyway, been sifting through some photos so without further ado, here are some.  Don’t hate us too much.

Galleon beach

Galleon beach, Montserrat in the background

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Galleon beach, great sand, sun, and the beach bar has really good food

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Do you really need much else?

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Adm. Nelson would not like seeing this flag flying so close by!

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Our hotel, the Copper and Lumber, is the building on the left. Water taxi to Galleon beach left from right behind it. Manny of N&M Water Taxi gives great service.

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The boat with the black masts behind the black boat with white masts rents out at $200k US per week and has a baby grand piano below deck. It left halfway through the week for St Barts

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The bakery next to our hotel. First stop in the late am before going to find Manny and his water taxi.

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Sail making/mending shop, still in operation.

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Copper and Lumber Hotel, Nelson’s Dockyard Museum

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Old Officers Quarters And the big black masted boat in the background

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Galley Bar patio on the right, where we’d go after a day at the beach to unwind with some rum punch and cribbage. Pretty good food there too.

Museum, the bakery is right behind it

Museum, the bakery is right behind it

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Galleon Beach from the old fort across the bay

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Galleon Beach from the lookout above the old fort, Shirley Heights is on top of the hill across

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Pigeon Beach, on the back side of the hill. Very nice beach for swimming, has a parking lot and also has a beach bar. Can see some really big boats going in and out. It’s a much bigger harbor than English Harbour

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Cool boat coming in off of Pigeon Beach

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Isn’t this the kind of lunchtime view you’d like to have every day? From Roxy’s on Galleon Beach. Great place to lunch when the beach gets hot around 1pm.

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