Antigua

So my travel posts so far focus on Europe (which, admittedly, is where I have done the most travelling and is the most recent). However I would like to begin to rectify this imbalance with a post about a wonderful island in the Caribbean that I visited in July 2009 named Antigua.

Sunset on the hotel beach near Nelson’s Dockyard

In 2009 Antigua was a beautiful island that was mostly untamed. This was before the devastating series of hurricanes that have swept. The majority of the population lived in the capital, St John’s. Antigua could accept cruise ships in the capital but most of the island wasn’t very touristy; at least in the sense of the type of tourism that one usually associates with American cruise ships. This was also before the mountain was renamed ‘Mount Obama’; Obama had only been in office for about 6 months at this point.

We were based in the south in a town called Falmouth on Falmouth Harbour, which is the next harbour along from English Harbour, where the famous Nelson’s Dockyards are located.

Other photos from around the island:

History

The island was first identified by European powers when Christopher Columbus visited in 1493 and met the surviving natives (who had been raiding and fighting amongst themselves for centuries). Being European, he promptly claimed that this island that the natives knew as Wadadli would henceforth be known as Antigua. There is some connection to the Bloody Mary and Seville, I believe. British settlers some 200 years later from a neighbouring British colony (St. Kitts, I think), establishing a permanent sugar settlement and making Antigua the Gateway to the Caribbean.

A canon to protect the harbour

One of the most important (and most notable) figures in the history of the island is Lord Horatio Nelson. He was so important the Dockyards built to house his naval squadron was named in his honour.

Nelson’s Dockyard and English Harbour

Nelson’s Dockyard and the area around the English Harbour is by far the most historical part of the island that remains. Here you can find the remains of the Dockyard as well as old forts and curtain walls that protected one of the homes of British naval dominance in the Caribbean. Today most of the buildings that were part of the harbour, such as the dock master’s office and the rope workshop have been turned into a museum and others now contain restaurants or pubs.

But not everything has been touched. You can walk along a modern-ish looking wall and suddenly come out on the fortifications that line the entrance of the harbour.

More photos from Nelson’s Dockyard and English Harbour:

Nature

One of the best aspects of Antigua, in both my opinion and the opinion of my travel companions at the time, was the untouched nature of the island. It hadn’t been made into a tourist trap in 2009. It was weird to find tourists very far from the cruise ships in the capital, or at least it was at the time and the type of tourism that it attracted (apart from the occasional cruise ship) was more for yachting and boating.

Many parts of the island were untouched with very few inhabitants. Literally, pristine beaches with no one on them (although Antigua was quite rocky in many areas, so often these beaches were more secluded and harder to get to). It is also worth mentioning that this could also have been based on the time of year that we went. After the Round the Island Race and Antigua’s sailing week in (yacht race which, you guessed it, goes around Antigua) in April/May, much of the island dies over the summer as the number of tourists drops (it wasn’t a drastic drop in 2009 as it might be today) but from about the middle of June to the middle of August, many businesses (especially restaurants which depend more on the boating and yachting visitors) close for the summer months. The owners themselves often go on holiday. Whatever the reason, enjoy these photos!

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