Rugged eastern shores where natural harbours shelter centuries-old ports. Deserted islets ringed with coral reefs. Warm, constant trade winds that fill sails and fuel rolling surf. It’s no wonder sailing is a way of life in Antigua. With 2017 a landmark year in the island’s yachting calendar, we look at how you can take to the seas yourself – whether you’re a nautical novice or an old hand on deck.
Anyone keen on sailing can’t leave Antigua without visiting English Harbour. This historic town is steeped in seafaring heritage and is home to the last remaining Georgian Naval port in the world: Nelson’s Dockyard. Admiral Horatio was stationed here as a young captain – but today it’s also where you’ll find restaurants, bars and yacht charter companies.
If you’re here during the Antigua Classic Regatta, which marked its 30th year this April, The Inn at English Harbour is one of the best hotels in Antigua for views of the beautiful wooden yachts as they sail out to race. For a taste of the action yourself, Adventure Antigua runs day tours aboard classic yachts, led by local Antiguans.
Beach lovers rejoice – there are 365 beaches to choose from. Just around the coast from English Harbour is Rendezvous Bay, reached either by boat or by a hike down from Fig Tree Hill. Your prize for your hard work will be a peaceful stretch of sand that sets the stage for a spectacular sunset.
For more of an adventure, make for Green Island. This private island off the eastern coast is wonderfully secluded and has spaces to anchor on the northwest side. But only sail here yourself if you’re confident on the water. Otherwise, book onto an eco tour. Green Island’s sublime shores and crystalline waters are circled by coral reefs. Slip on a snorkel and you could find yourself swimming alongside rays and darting, jewel-bright fish.
2017 is the year of the 50th annual Antigua Sailing Week, as well as the inaugural Antigua to Bermuda race to tie in with the America’s Cup. So it’s the perfect time to experience the exhilaration of racing first hand. Ondeck Ocean Racing offers race days aboard high-performance yachts, where you receive expert tuition before taking charge of the helm.
Nonsuch Bay offers plenty of family-friendly options for lessons and daytrips. This sheltered stretch of coast is ideal for getting to grips with smaller boats, from dinghies and single handler sailboats up to catamarans. Finally, while not strictly sailing, Jabberwock Bay is well worth a visit to see – and even join – the kite surfers soaring through the surf.
English Harbour is Antigua’s sailing hub, where you’ll find yacht charter companies and tour operators. If you’re looking to hire a boat for a day trip or perhaps a couple of days’ exploring, you’ll have plenty of options based around how experienced you are: