Find the Forts of Antigua
It’s not difficult to find the forts of Antigua; as one of Britain’s crown jewels in the Caribbean, Antigua was fortified with watch stations, formidable ramparts, and more to keep her harbors safe. Today, these forts and fortifications lie in various states of ruin, but many have been given new life as party venues, restaurants, and destinations for the best views on Antigua. Here are my favorite four... plus a curious church, all worth a visit!
What must life have been like back in 1739. That was the year the foundation stones were laid for Fort James on the northern entrance to St. John’s Harbour. Upon completion of the fort, it became customary for every vessel passing to pay a fee of 18 shillings to the captain of the fort or risk a shot being fired across its bow! With 10 cannons capable of firing 24 lb balls for over a mile on the ramparts, as you can imagine, ships generally paid the fee. Today, Fort James still sports its signature cannons pointing menacingly out into the harbour. Most of the other structures within the fort though, have crumbled. In their place, at least on the north side of the fort, is a quaint restaurant: Russels. There you can cap off your trip back in time with “old-fashioned rum punches”, fresh fish, peas and rice, and other traditional fare... Something like they must have eaten back in 1739.
Deep Bay Beach St John Antigua, and Barbuda, Antigua & Barbuda
You see it while dodging massive potholes on the dirt road just a bit past the entrance to Coconut Beach Club; looming atop Goat Hill. Fort Barrington was one of the first lines of defense for St. John’s reporting ship movements to nearby Rat Island via flag and light signals. While just a lookout station, being on the front lines wasn’t easy. Fort Barrington likely saw the most action of any fort on Antigua, being captured and liberated from the French going back as far as 1652. The fort as it stands today was built in 1779 and is one of the best ruins to explore. Not only does its position atop Goat Hill provide a short but invigorating climb, there are also several rooms to explore, and the view from the top is unmatched for its sea view — blue stretches for miles.
Antigua and Barbuda
English Harbour is one of Antigua‘s crown jewels, so it should be no surprise that Fort Berkeley was erected to protect this excellent protected bay. Placed on the peninsula on the western entrance, this fort has been enforcing entry to the anchorage for nearly 300 years. Today, the fort is mostly ruins, but it still supplies visitors with stunning views of the harbor. From Nelson’s Dockyard it’s a fairly short 10-minute stroll to the ramparts and well worth the walk. From here you can see the dockyard’s waterfront, every boat that enters the bay, and beautiful Galleon Beach on the opposite shore.
You run across a lot of churches while driving around Antigua. Modest, majestic, and everything in-between, there’s a house of worship to suit most every style. Then, there’s St. Barnabas… Upon first seeing St. Barnabas, though, I just had to stop. It’s just so… umm… striking. Yes, that’s the word: striking, both in its seemingly random mishmash of structural additions and its color *ahem* scheme. It’s the green that really struck me the most; a most unnatural hue (or so I thought) that called to mind the horror of Frankenstein, or the slime from that old Nickelodeon slime. At least that would be someone’s first impression. Upon learning a little more about the structure, you’re bound to hear about something called Antigua green stone. Indeed, the structure and its color are as natural as can be! The unique stone comes from the Liberta area of Antigua, where the Church is found. All around here you see homes, walls, and other buildings sporting the same green hue.
No visit to Antigua is complete without taking in the sunset atop Shirley Heights Lookout at its weekly Sunday sundowner party. The view from Shirley Heights is without a doubt the most famous, most photographed, most celebrated vista gracing Antigua. Immediately below, English and Falmouth Harbours clutch their bays. On clear days you can see Guadeloupe to the south and Montserrat with it’s still active volcano to the south west. It does get busy, so expect a crowd and while there might be a couple locals sprinkled in here and there, it’s mostly visitors. Around 7ish, the tunes crank up with either some reggae classics, some pumping soca, or even live a steelpan band. Smoke from a collection of barbecues compete with the music to fill the air and stimulate your senses. Expect chicken and ribs slathered in local flavors, plus burgers for the less adventurous. I did have some trouble getting grilled fish on my last visit, but once I found some, it was charred to perfection.