A Guide to Sailing in and Around Antigua

Falmouth Harbour is one of two key mooring spots in Antigua
Falmouth Harbour is one of two key mooring spots in Antigua | © james kerr / Alamy Stock Photo
Photo of Lexi Fisher
8 November 2021

The twin harbours of Antigua, English and Falmouth, are arguably the yachting centre of the West Indies. Shiny modern megayachts and square-rigged schooners sit fender-to-fender along the historic Nelson’s Dockyard, the oldest in the western hemisphere – but Antigua has more to offer than just history. Idyllic white sand beaches, long-standing annual sailing events and seemingly endless protected anchorages make it a favourite yachting destination.

Get to know the coast around Antigua by chartering a yacht with Dream Yacht Charter for a longer exploration.

What to see and do

English Harbour was built by enslaved Africans in the 1740s and it is said that the sailors’ graffiti etched into its stone walls hail from this dark time. Once described by Horatio Nelson as a “vile hole”, English Harbour underwent a major restoration in the 1950s and was named a Unesco-listed site in 2016. Stroll through the palm-lined pathways, admiring the antique stonework and impressive sail loft pillars, or visit the museum for a more detailed look at the area’s turbulent past.

Fancy learning more about authentic Caribbean cuisine? Just outside the capital of St John’s is the home, restaurant and cooking school of local chef Nicole, aptly named Nicole’s Table. Spicy aromas fill the humid air while you learn about local ingredients, how to cook a local meal, and then sit down to enjoy the fruits of your labour.

Alternatively, if you want to add some altitude to your adventures, book a flight with Caribbean Helicopters. They offer aerial tours of Antigua, as well as the neighbouring island of Montserrat, where you can fly over its active volcano, Soufriere Hills.

English Harbour, seen here from Shirley Heights, sits amid lush greenery | © Greg Balfour Evans / Alamy Stock Photo

Best mooring locations

Jolly Harbour is a large, full-service marina, shopping centre, and condo development. The marina has 155 berths for boats up to 75ft (23m). They also have 13 moorings inside the bay available for boats up to 50ft (15m), or there is a spacious anchorage just outside the bay. The marina can be reached on VHF: 68, or by phone at 268-462-6042.

On the east side of the island, weave your way through the glimmering turquoise waters between shallow reefs to reach the Nonsuch Bay and Green Island anchorages. A deep inlet with many fringing pockets, Nonsuch Bay provides endless opportunities for exploration. Green Island, surrounded by impossibly blue water, sits at the south end of the long barrier reef that protects the anchorage.

The marina of Jolly Harbour is a pleasant stop in St Mary | © Frank Fell / robertharding / Alamy Stock Photo

Where to eat and drink

Perched high on the hillside with an uninterrupted view of the ocean and surrounding bays, Sheer Rocks, just south of Jolly Harbour, is a romantic boutique resort and restaurant. Call ahead to book a day bed and plunge pool, and spend the day sipping the house sangria and nibbling on tapas by the poolside.

For something more casual, visit Sandra’s Island Fusion in Falmouth Harbour. Ask for Sandra’s recommendation, or go for the Caribbean menu, which features large plates of seafood, local curried goat, and jerk chicken, among others. To add some spice, try the hot sauce, made from scratch in-house.

Sheer Rocks is an idyllic resort ideal for couples | © ClickAlps / mauritius images GmbH / Alamy Stock Photo

Best charter options

Charter a yacht with Dream Yacht Charter for a longer exploration on a yacht charter where you take the helm, or a skippered charter, where you just relax and let someone else do the work.

Catamarans are a popular way to sail around Antigua | © Chris Miller / Alamy Stock Photo

Where to get groceries

Epicurean Fine Foods & Pharmacy, right in Jolly Harbour, is one of the largest grocery stores on the island and is a stone’s throw from the marina docks. For more than you can carry, a $20 deposit will get you a trolley to haul it all to the boat or dinghy.

Key annual sailing events

Every April, the Antigua Classic Yacht Regatta, followed by Antigua Sailing Week, draws a huge crowd of spectators and participants from all over the globe. The island buzzes with energy; anyone and everyone joins in on the fun with nightly parties, live music, and other events.

The Antigua Classic Yacht Regatta precedes Antigua Sailing Week | © Rick Tomlinson / Bluegreen Pictures / Alamy Stock Photo

Climate and weather

Air temperature in Antigua ranges from 21C at the coldest (November to April) to 31C in summer months, with an average humidity level of around 75 percent, peaking in August. Brisk December winds can get surprisingly chilly at night, while light cotton clothing will help keep you cool during the day. Hurricane season runs from July to November and coincides with the rainy season when short but frequent showers are common. The water temperature sits between 26C (80F) and 29C (84F) year-round.

Jolly Beach is up there with the most popular beaches in Antigua | © Gavin Hellier / robertharding / Alamy Stock Photo

How to get there

Antigua has one major airport, the V.C. Bird International Airport, with major airlines offering a number of direct flights from Canada, the US, the UK, and other Caribbean islands. The Barbuda Express ferry between Antigua and Barbuda runs every day, and does day tours of Barbuda on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

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