Shirley Heights was created as a military post by the British, but today it's known as the best view in Antigua. Perched high above English Harbor, the lookout is simply amazing at sunrise and sunset. In the times in between, the views are spectacular as well. You'll see bright blue waters, rocky coastline, elegant buildings from another era, sailboats, and seabirds.
On Sunday afternoons, the Shirley Heights lookout hosts one of the most popular events in the area. Local residents and vacationers gather together to not only admire the scenery, but to have a lot of fun with the Sunday Cookout. Everyone has the chance to enjoy an excellent meal of barbecue accompanied by rum punch as well as the sounds of island music—steel guitars and reggae songs.
Any other day of the week, the Shirley Heights lookout is one of the more interesting things to do on the island of Antigua. The overlook is part of the English Harbor historic district, a collection of buildings and historical sites dating back to the era when the British reigned supreme. The name Shirley Heights honors the British governor of the Leeward Islands at the same turbulent time with the American colonists were breaking ties with the motherland.
By 1781, Britain lost much of their territory in the Leeward Islands in the Caribbean, save for Antigua and Barbados. It was important to protect Antigua because of the sugar trade and the nearby Navy dock, Nelson's Dockyard.
If you want to find out more about this story beyond the Shirley Heights lookout, consider visiting the nearby Nelson's Dockyard National Park. Its historic buildings date back to the same era when Shirley Heights was used for military fortification; the admiral's house is now a museum dedicated to the island history before and after the British.
Guides are available to lead you on tours and tell you stories how Antigua has changed over the centuries. Nature trails meander through the national park, heading down to the beaches and groves of mangrove trees.
While you're admiring the best view in Antigua, you also can see evidence of the British and the military heritage of the scenic site. Much of the fortifications have fallen into ruins, though some locals have worked on restoration. Along the way, you'll have the chance to see what was the Royal Artillery Gunner's barracks. After the Army was gone, the building was turned into an asylum- these days it has been re-purposed again as a research center.
Other things to see at the Shirley Heights overlook include a a blockhouse that overlooks the beach and and the remnants of the officer's quarters. The site is also home to a cemetery with a monument dedicated to soldiers of the past. The cistern and powder magazine have survived thanks to the restoration work that has occurred in the last few years. As you're seeing these sights, you'll also have the chance to soak in the vistas of the English Harbor and the adjacent Falmouth Harbor.
Another one of the things to do high above English Harbor is stopping for a meal. The restaurant atop Shirley Heights offers a place to relax while you're enjoying the best view in Antigua. Meals, featuring fresh local cuisine, are served on the outdoor terrace or within a resorted building from the seventeenth century. This dining experience is like nothing you'll find at home and the remnants of the officer's quarters diners also enjoy parties, cocktails, and live music at this scenic restaurant.