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Mar 19, 2017

Antigua - February 2017 - Part 2 of 2


Are you ready for more vacation recap? If you missed it, you can read the first part here.

On our second day with the rental car we headed south to the English Harbour area. I wanted to go hiking and had read about the Jones Valley Trail that leads up to Shirley Heights, connects with the Carpenter Rock Trail, and then down to the Pillars of Hercules.

We found the trailhead for Jones Valley Trail on Galleon Bay Road, no problem.

Jones Valley Trail, Shirley Heights, Antigua

The trail is very well marked, with white paint spots on the trees and rocks every so often to keep you on track. It's a little slow going at the beginning as you're climbing over really large rocks in a dry riverbed - but it's so beautiful that you don't mind the extra effort.

Jones Valley Trail, Shirley Heights, Antigua
Jones Valley Trail, Shirley Heights, Antigua

We came upon a brick wall - in the middle of the forest. I believe it's part of an old dam. But it felt like we'd stumbled into an episode of "Lost". I think this is one of my favourite photos, ever.

Jones Valley Trail, Shirley Heights, Antigua

At this point the trail splits into "Gravesite" or "Woodland". We chose Gravesite. On this path you pass by old grave stones that are so weathered you can barely read them.

Jones Valley Trail, Shirley Heights, Antigua

At the next split we took "Graves and Cistern". Near the end of the path you pass an old cistern and sluiceway that used to feed the nearby soldiers' barracks.

Jones Valley Trail, Shirley Heights, Antigua
Shirley Heights, Antigua
Shirley Heights, Antigua

You come out of the forest and are just a few hundred yards away from Shirley Heights Lookout, one of the most popular tourist attractions on Antigua. The lookout is a former military complex with a view of the Atlantic and all of English Harbour.

Shirley Heights, English Harbour, Antigua
Shirley Heights, Antigua
Shirley Heights, Antigua
Shirley Heights, Antigua
Shirley Heights, Antigua

The second part of the hike is Carpenter Rock Trail. At this point we were at the highest point on the island (Jones Trail is entirely uphill), and Carpenter Rock Trail leads you down the other side of the mountain to Freeman's Bay and the Pillars of Hercules.

Carpenter Rock Trail, Shirley Heights, Antigua

This trail is out in the open, running along the coast and leading down through cacti and other thorny bushes. The view is just so amazing - I don't think I can even describe it effectively. We honestly weren't sure we were going the right way, but those white dots kept leading us on.

Carpenter Rock Trail, Shirley Heights, Antigua
Carpenter Rock Trail, Shirley Heights, Antigua
Carpenter Rock Trail, Shirley Heights, Antigua
Carpenter Rock Trail, Shirley Heights, Antigua

Carpenter Rock:
Carpenter Rock Trail, Shirley Heights, Antigua

We finally made it to the bottom, walked around the point, and after climbing over some more huge rocks and dodging the waves coming in, we made it to the Pillars of Hercules. These are natural limestone rock formations that show the weathering power of the wind and the sea. They are so gorgeous - just an amazing sight to see. Some people snorkel there, but the waves were so strong that day that I couldn't imagine it. Perhaps if we'd walked further around the point it would have been calmer, but we didn't want to take our chances.

Pillars of Hercules, Antigua
Pillars of Hercules, Antigua
Pillars of Hercules, Antigua

We retraced our steps back around the point and hung out on the beach at Freeman's Bay for a bit. The bay is much calmer and we did some snorkeling here. Tom swam over to a sunken ship to have a look around, but it turned out to only be a boat from the '50s or later.

Freeman's Bay, English Harbour, Antigua
Freeman's Bay, English Harbour, Antigua
Freeman's Bay, English Harbour, Antigua

Once we were done we hiked all the way back up to Shirley Heights and then down Jones Valley Trail to the car. If you look at a map - which we did later - you'd see that our car was parked less than 200 yards from where we were snorkeling. Yeah, we're that dumb sometimes. But we got a great workout and saw some amazing sights.

Carpenter Rock Trail, Shirley Heights, Antigua
English Harbour, Antigua
Carpenter Rock Trail, Shirley Heights, Antigua

We made a quick stop at Nelson's Dockyard on the way back. Nelson's Dockyard is part of the naval base at English Harbour where repairs and maintenance of ships were done. It is now a historical site, but it was a bit disappointing to find out that most of the buildings have been turned into restaurants and shops. We were pretty tired by then so we didn't stay long.

Nelson's Dockyard, Antigua
Nelson's Dockyard, Antigua
Nelson's Dockyard, Antigua

And then I was so excited about getting this shot that we missed our turn on the way back. :-)

Dogs on a wall, Antigua

The next day we rode two-person boats out to Cades Reef with Antigua Reef Riders. The boats are a cross between an inflatable dinghy and a jet ski and go up to 25mph. So cool.

Antigua Reef Riders
Antigua Reef Riders
Antigua Reef Riders
Antigua Reef Riders

Cades Reef is one of the best snorkeling sites on Antigua. We swam around for about an hour and a half, and then started the drive back.

Antigua Reef Riders
Cades Reef, Antigua, Antigua Reef Riders
Cades Reef, Antigua, Antigua Reef Riders
Cades Reef, Antigua, Antigua Reef Riders

About halfway back - in front of our resort actually - we were given 5 or 10 minutes to play around with the boats and do whatever we wanted. Tom had driven us out and back, so this was my chance to give it a try. It was fun, but I think I needed a little more time to get completely comfortable.

Antigua Reef Riders

The rest of our vacation was spent relaxing at the beach and pool, and just wandering around the resort. Antigua is a beautiful island and we can't wait to go back some day.

Jolly Beach Resort, Antigua
Jolly Beach Resort, Antigua
Jolly Beach Resort, Antigua
Jolly Beach Resort, Antigua
Jolly Beach Resort, Antigua


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