Updated: Apr 18
Nelson’s Dockyard is Antigua’s most prized possession. This charming enclave is not just the only working Georgian dockyard in the world, but is also visited by its most glamorous superyachts...
Nelson’s Dockyard in English Harbour was originally established to provide the British Royal Navy with a shipyard where it could keep its vessels in good order. Indeed, it was as far back as 1671 that the Governor of the Leeward Islands first alerted the London authorities to the military advantages of this scenic harbour on Antigua's south-east coast. Not only could the British ships be careened here (repaired) safe from hurricanes, but the entire harbour was practically invisible from the open waters. It was thanks to the Dockyard’s location and facilities that Antigua was never conquered by any other European powers.
Fort Berkeley was completed in 1744, its location on the peninsula protecting the harbour’s entrance. The great fortifications of Shirley Heights (named after General Sir Thomas Shirley) went on to ensure Antigua’s total invincibility. Wharves, powder magazines, cisterns and storehouses were all constructed, local stone and English brick used for buildings that still stand to this day. Clarence House is the latest jewel in the crown, regally set on the hillside opposite the harbour and now restored to its former glory. Her Royal Highness Princess Margaret honeymooned here in the 1960s.
Of course, Nelson’s Dockyard was named after England’s most famous naval hero, Admiral Horatio Nelson. He spent his formative years in Antigua, arriving at the age of 26 as Second-in-Command of the Leeward Islands Station and leaving for greater glory in 1787. Although headquartered in English Harbour, he famously never lived ashore while he was here.
Nowadays Nelson’s Dockyard National Park offers a wealth of opportunities for visitors. Hikers can explore its panoramic nature trails, history buffs can while away an hour or two in the Dockyard Museum. Charming boutiques and restaurants abound, the ambience particularly lively during the winter months. Shirley Heights Lookout has long been the place to be on Sunday afternoons. Perched almost 500-feet above Nelson’s Dockyard with 360-degree views over Falmouth and English Harbours, this legendary party venue offers a barbecue, lashings of rum, calypso and reggae music, as well as the most spectacular views of the sun setting over Nelson’s Dockyard...
For further information see The Antiguan Travel Guide
NB: Antigua is currently on lockdown due to the coronavirus. As soon as it is considered safe to do so, the shops, restaurants and music venues of Nelson's Dockyard will be delighted to welcome you back.