We arrived  in Antigua after spending 2+ weeks in the St. Martin area, one of which was spent hunkered down in Marigot while the winds blew 25-30kts for 4 days. So once the weather eased up a bit we were ready to make our way to Antigua, the southernmost point of our travels (for now). Once we got here we were spoiled with the weather: a cold front came down easing the trades so much that we had several calm days with no rainshowers at all. This allowed us to explore the east side of the island along with a reef that’s a bit further away from land on the southwest side – all of a sudden we had so much to see in so little time!

Jolly Harbour

Upon arrival to Antigua, we checked in to the country at Jolly Harbour, where the dock made it super easy to do so. We then explored the marina and found several reasons to return later during our stay on the island:

  • Customs Dock This dedicated dock is provided for those arriving or leaving the country of Antigua and Barbuda. Look for the yellow flag and dock where available. Note that if you are headed to Barbuda from Antigua, all you have to do is go to the Port Authority and check out from the port, not from the country.
  • Epicurean grocery store Great selection of fresh greens, along with other vegetables and fruits. Make sure to find the fresh arugula and basil on the top shelf – they are delicious and the local arugula is extra spicy! We were also able to pick up some chicken, Waitrose prosecco (a Celtic Spirit staple) and Dominican ice cream here. Don’t miss the reasonable Chilean wine!
  • Pastries from the Finnish/Swiss lady selling from the back of her minivan You may find her across the street from Epicurean on most days of the week. We had luck on Monday, Friday and Tuesday before. One of my favorite moments was when I asked for one of each of the turnovers she had available that day (mango, raspberry, coconut, guava, pineapple, soursop and more)!
  • Available moorings, marina showers & wifi Most days there are available mooring balls for $25 US/night – you’ll have to pay at the marina. It’s worth it to pay ahead for the night because you can ask for the bathroom codes as well as a wifi voucher!
  • Jolly Beach A 10-minute walk from the dinghy dock, Jolly Beach is a beautiful long sandy beach with the bluest water as long as the eye can see. We found a fresh coconut stand, and daybed & jetski rentals are also available.
  • Burton’s Laundry We don’t usually drop our laundry off as we prefer to do it ourselves, but there was no such option in Jolly Harbour so we decided to leave it at Burton’s. For $35 EC per load the lady does a beautiful job, I don’t think our laundry has been this clean for a while so we returned to her just before leaving the island. Two duffel bags worth of laundry cost us $105 EC (about $40 US) both times.
  • Budget Marine Typical Caribbean pricing but good stock for anything you may need for the boat. We picked up impellers and barnacle buster here. Make sure to bring the checkin papers with you as they will waive the tax if you are on a boat in transit!
  • Sheer Rocks We were invited to spend a friend’s birthday here (thank you and hi Victor & Melissa) and were amazed by the property and views around. You can reserve a daybed with a pool that you’ll have all to yourself (or maybe share with another table, but it doesn’t bother at all). The cocktails are fantastic, and so are the tapas. With that said the place is on the pricier side, but totally worth it if you’d like to treat yourself for a day and experience an unforgettable view.

Nonsuch Bay

Since we had a few calm days, we decided to motor over to the east side of the island. We were glad we did – Nonsuch Bay is a gorgeous slice of Earth with little waves due to the protection from the reefs on the east. It is advised to follow the charts but finding our way in wasn’t too tricky.

  • Protection from the reefs The entire bay is surprisingly calm even though it technically opens to the east and the Atlantic Ocean.
  • Option to anchor anywhere We spent some days anchored outside of Nonsuch Bay Resort on a grassy bottom. Snorkeling around the boat we saw several conch and starfish in gorgeous clear water.
  • Free moorings & snorkeling by Green Island The moorings make it convenient. but anchoring is also possible near Green Island. You can easily get to the reefs to snorkel here, as well as walk along the sandy beaches of the island.

English Harbour

There is so much to do in English Harbour you may need more than a few days to explore it all. Restaurants, hikes, beaches … all easily accessible if you anchor in English Harbour. We recommend the tiny little left fork of the harbour when you go all the way in. It is shallow and there is only space for a few boats, however, the water is the calmest among all places to anchor and you can dinghy close to all the attractions. Falmouth Harbour offers much more space and depth, we recommend sticking to the middle anchorage here.

The many reasons we love English Harbour:

  • Croissants from La Brasserie They deliver! But dinghying up to it in the morning is just as fun, and they will make warm fresh croissants for you on the spot.
  • Flatties Try the Peri Peri chicken and the 1lb Espetada steak. All entrees are super shareable so the meal comes out to be reasonable in the end.
  • Pigeon Point Beach We spent several days on this beautiful beach with inviting water no matter the weather – the only thing that may bother you is the sand on a windy day. Remember your hammock as there are several good looking trees to tie it to, just beware of the manchineel. There is a massage lady – $75 US for an hour massage which we was a bit pricey for us but you may want to take advantage of.
  • Catherine’s Cafe Located on Pigeon Point Beach, Catherine’s Cafe is a well-designed restaurant that served brunch and lunch every day, and dinner on Wednesday through Friday. We tried brunch and it was delicious, although everything may be when served on a beautiful beach in the breezy shade. We recommend checking Urchin Atelier just down the walkway, where they sell fresh baguettes and other goodies. Reservations are encouraged.
  • Windward Beach Walk down the pathway of Catherine’s Cafe, and you’ll notice a gate to Winward Estates. Ask the attendant to get through to Windward Beach and they will direct you onto the right path. THe 10-minute walk is totally worth it: although less swimmable depending on the weather, the beach will most likely be empty and the rocky shore with crashing waves makes for a wonderful sight.
  • Shirley Heights in Antigua National Park The best views of Falmouth & English Harbour are to be found at Shirley Heights. A local band plays on Thursdays and Sundays and a touristy BBQ is available. Take a 40-minute walk from La Brasserie or grab a cab at Antigua Yacht Club ($3 US per person one way). It is worth taking a hike down to Galleon Beach via the goat trail, as you’ll get more views and a bit of a workout 🙂
  • Fresh vegetables and fruits at Antigua Yacht Club grocery store We returned here for the fresh arugula and lettuce, but we also found passionfruit and coconut for the first time. Prices are reasonable!
  • Nelson’s Dockyard Part of the UNESCO World Heritage, Nelson’s Dockyard is a beautiful historic marina with bakeries and cafes to explore. The boat watching isn’t too shabby either! Tell them you are anchored in English Harbour in which case you don’t have to pay an entry fee.
  • The Clubhouse Come here for a good dancing session on a Saturday!
  • Roti Sue Delicious roti with tables to sit by.
  • Jackee’s Quik Stop Try the house burger! You won’t be disappointed.
  • Antigua Yacht Services We had to print a few documents before shipping via Fedex and they were gracious enough to help us out here. Willem also had a great conversation about cars with George in the meantime. They can help boaters with several miscalleanous things, so worth the visit or call to inquire.

Cades Reef

Our first time around Cades Reef is a long reef outside the southwest side of Antigua. On calm days it is well worth a stop – you can find a sandy spot on the inside (island side) and swim to the reefs. We saw the most fish we’ve ever seen here – beautiful schools of various kinds.

Bonus: Maiden Island

Our stop on Maiden Island was impromptu: as we were motoring out of the bay by Great Bird Island (lots of reefs to avoid, hence the motoring), we passed by the beautiful beaches and had to stop. Since we were just passing what looked like an anchorage on the chart, we turned right and dropped anchor on a sandy/grassy bottom. It was the perfect lunch stop (although we didn’t have lunch, just walked around) – easy to beach the dinghy on the sandy shore, there are even some picnic tables on the beach. We found several beautiful shells and continued our journey south after walking to the southern point of the island and back.