SUPERYACHT DESTINATION GUIDE: ANTIGUA AND BARBUDA
Last updated: 08/01/2020
Tucked away in the Leeward Islands in the Caribbean, Antigua and Barbuda have been a favourite destination among yachties for generations. Antigua, famed for its 365 beaches across the isles and its neighbour, the stunning Barbuda, full of untouched habitats and unique wildlife, leaves visitors both enchanted and consistently coming back for more.
Yachting Pages spoke to experts in the area, Nelson's Dockyard Marina, to discover some of the must-see sights and experiences to enjoy on these beautiful shores. Join us as we explore some of the hidden gems that these isles have to offer.
Antigua and Barbuda overview
Jacqueline Williams, marketing consultant at Nelson’s Dockyard, shared some pearls of wisdom for visiting Antigua aboard a superyacht.
“The twin island state of Antigua and Barbuda is the perfect Caribbean yachting destination. As part of the outer arc of the Lesser Antilles, Antigua is a geological amalgamation, with the remains of a volcano abutting upraised coral reefs. The results are a long coastline, covered in dramatic cliffs and narrow channels, major bays, and dozens of offshore islands meaning that you can always find a private slice of paradise. You can cruise the deep blue waters of the Atlantic for breakfast, and bathe in the turquoise of the Caribbean at lunch,” Williams noted.
“For sailors and guests alike, there are fewer locations with more natural beauty and deep history than Nelson’s Dockyard in English Harbour. A recently inscribed UNESCO World Heritage Site, this historic marina offers the charms of Caribbean vernacular architecture, stunning views, culinary delights, and world class yachting amenities for owner and charter alike.”
Visiting Antigua and Barbuda aboard a superyacht
The climate in Antigua and Barbuda is considered to be pleasant year-round. The temperature varies from lows of 22°c (72°F) to highs 40°c (104°F), with October to January being the hottest time of year, staying consistently in the region of 30°c (86°F) to 35°c (95°F). Cooling winds blow in from the south east, ensuring the heat rarely becomes too extreme. In general, the humidity in Antigua and Barbuda is quite low.
Food and music
Williams added, “Off the boat there are several great culinary opportunities within English Harbour. Immediately off the boat is the Copper and Lumber Inn, a boutique hotel situated in an 18th century naval warehouse. On Fridays they have a seafood festival along the quay, leading to an absolutely unique culinary experience in the heart of the UNESCO World Heritage Site. A bit farther away are several well-established and well-patronised restaurants and bars where you can indulge in delicious food and drink.
“For beach lovers, Galleon Beach at Freemans Bay offers one of the most picturesque spots on Antigua. Located at the entrance to English Harbour, this sheltered bay allows you to enjoy the sun and sand on a quiet beach. On Thursday and Sunday evenings, steel pan music from the Shirley Heights Lookout and Barbeque wafts across this beach, adding to the Caribbean vibe. For those more interested in a local gem of a beach, Pigeon is favourite. Flanked by several restaurants including Catherine’s Café and Bumpkin’s Beach Bar, and available amenities, Pigeon always attracts a party crowd, with locals from English Harbour setting up their barbeques and music on the weekends.”
Things to do in Antigua and Barbuda aboard a superyacht
Once again, we asked our local expert Jacqueline Williams for some advice on things to do when on the isles of Antigua and Barbuda. Williams commented, “Combining dramatic views with Caribbean steel pan music, barbeque, and the longest running Sunday party in Antigua, the Shirley Heights Lookout Sunset Party is always a crowd pleaser. With Reggae on Thursday evenings, and a band covering international favourites on Sundays, come and watch the sun set over the Caribbean with a rum punch in your hand.
“The gem of any visit to English Harbour is the Clarence House. Located on a small hill opposite Nelson’s Dockyard, this building represents the finest in British Caribbean vernacular architecture. Recently restored and renovated with a generous gift by yachting regular Sir Peter Harrison, Clarence House offers a deeper historic insight into the lives of the British colonial officers sent from Europe to maintain control of these islands. Originally built between 1804 and 1806 for the Commissioner of the Royal Dockyard, the house was soon converted into the country residence for the governor. Over the years it has played host to functionaries and visiting royals, including a two week stay by Princess Margaret in the 1950s. The site was rededicated in 2016 by Prince Harry.“
Clarence House also offers an events space, with a fully equipped industrial kitchen, for weddings or any other parties.
“Outside of the world-class yachting amenities of English Harbour, the views and opportunities are legion. Snorkelling on Antigua’s reef systems, enjoying a 13-mile-long pink sand beach on Barbuda, or enjoying the sunset over Antigua’s turquoise waters in Five Islands Harbour, you are guaranteed to find bliss.”
Superyacht berthing: Ports and marinas in Antigua and Barbuda
Located within the famous Nelson’s Dockyard, Nelson’s Dockyard Marina is the only working Georgian dockyard in the world. A unique and historic site, Nelson’s Dockyard has a highly skilled labour force and wide range of marine services to ensure that visiting vessel’s needs are catered for.
The marina will accept vessels with a max LOA of 328ft (100m) and a max draft of 19ft (6m), with a total of 54 berths available. There is also a great mixture of amenities you might expect from a modern marina, including fuel dock and truck delivery services, oil disposal, concierge services, laundry facilities and a beautiful collection of restaurants.
Falmouth Harbour Marina is located on English Harbour main road. The marina hosts dockage facilities for vessels up to 330ft (100m) with a draft up to 20ft (6m), both stern to and alongside. The berth facilities include both water and electricity, as well as low sulphur diesel which is available to all berths in the marina.
Falmouth Harbour also houses a number of on-site amenities including litter disposal, car parking, toilets and showers, container storage, 24-hour security guards and surveillance cameras.
Located in St John’s, Jolly Harbour Marina refers to itself as ‘The Sailing Hub of the Caribbean’, and this isn’t without merit! The marina comes equipped with a machine shop, engine mechanic, woodwork, painting, fibreglass work and laundry services, with amenities constantly being added to its offering.
Jolly Harbour Marina offers 155 wide berths on concrete docks, all with access to water and electricity. The marina hosts harbour docking facilities for larger yachts, up to 75 tons, for duty-diesel, safe mooring and long term out of water storage.
Customs and immigration in Antigua and Barbuda
The main ports of entry are English Harbour, Jolly Harbour, Deepwater Harbour and St John’s. Yachts wishing to visit Barbuda must clear in at one of the official ports of entry in Antigua, before heading to Barbuda. As part of the clearance process, a cruising permit for Antiguan and Barbudan waters will be issued, valid for a period of one month. However, if you plan for your stay to be longer than a month, it will be necessary to renew the permit when it expires.
Popular pre-arrival notification system eSeaClear is available and fully functional in Antigua. Visit their website for more information.
Upon arrival in Antigua, it is necessary for the yacht captain to proceed to customs and immigration as soon as possible, whilst all of the guests and crew remain on board until clearance procedures have been completed. When arriving after hours, the captain must also remain on board until the post offices open and he/she has been able to clear in. If you plan to spend any time in the English and Falmouth Harbour areas, please be aware that your vessel will be subject to National Parks fees in addition to normal cruising fees. When going to customs and immigration, be sure to take the ship’s papers, passports and any other relevant documentation to everyone on board.
Any yacht or vessel arriving from an overseas port and requesting entry must fly a ‘Q’ (quarantine) flag from a high point of the rigging.
All goods and services for genuine yachts in transit will be free of all taxes and duties, including fuel and provisioning, to be used by charter guests. Support containers are considered a temporary import and will be free of all duties and taxes, subject to the content being re-exported and any spares consumed being shown to have been used in maintenance of the yacht.
There are a myriad of natural wonders and beauties across the islands of Antigua & Barbuda. If you are considering cruising in and around the Caribbean, you definitely need to mark these isles as must-see destination!