----- Antigua ---------------
Antigua is an island that really impressed me. I knew it was an old British colony that is now the independent nation of Antigua and Barbuda. The British influence is felt heavily throughout the small island. Antigua is very charming and not as impoverished like many Caribbean islands. It was nice to visit and not be hustled everywhere we went. We actually did not get hustled once!
Upon arriving to Antigua we rented a jumby or a small open air car/buggy that was a blast to drive, but with a learning curve. Although I can easily drive a stick, this was the most sensitive clutch I had every attempted. It took several stalls, but I eventually got it. We made our way through St John's the capitol, and traversed the island to the south side to visit Nelson's Dockyard located in English Harbour. Nelson's Dockyard is in a protected harbor and for this reason full of sail boats and yachts. I remember seeing this video in the past from Duran Duran videos including Rio and Night Boat. Although the appearance from these videos in the 80's portrays this location as very run down and semi abandoned. The old English architecture has been restored, and it is quite charming now. On the site is a functioning harbor along with restaurants and a hotel. I was surprised that the place was not slammed with tourists, but very quite with few people wandering the site.
After leaving Nelson's Dockyard we drove up the hill to Shirley Heights with impressive views of English Harbour, the open Caribbean sea and even Eric Clapton's large isolated house on the tip of a peninsula. We made our way to the edge of the area along the south end of Shirley Heights to where we could sit along the edge of the cliffs looking at the stormy sea below us. The weather had changed when we arrived to Shirley Heights and a storm was rolling it. We could see cloudburts in the distance, but we still managed to stay dry and leave before the rain came.
After leaving Shirley Heights we drove to what was recommended as one of the best beaches on Antigua and NOT slammed by tourists, Darkwood Beach along the west coast. We had to drive through the rain forest in the hills, and we did get wet. It was an open air vehicle after all, but it was a beautiful drive! Darkwood Beach was deserted and gorgeous! It was more of a slender beach along an isthmus. We parked right up along the beach, and went for a swim. We had the beach to ourselves! The storm had passed, the water was calm and the swimming was awesome. After our break here we had to return to the ship as time was running short.
The traffic returning to St John's was pretty bad as it was rush hour. We were concerned we wouldn't make it back in time to get back on the ship. The rental company was concerned as well, but we did make it, and ran to the ship. We were literally the last people back on the boat. Some of the cruise staff were not happy, but they signaled that they were now ready to disembark. Our day in Antigua was awesome. Everyone agreed that this was one of the highlights of the whole trip.