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Experience The Beauty and Charm of Shirley Heights, Antigua!

Island Life
May 25th 2023
Experience The Beauty and Charm of Shirley Heights, Antigua!
Cover image credit: TravnikovStudio/

Antigua and Barbuda are two islands that make up a single Caribbean nation. This destination is known for many things including its numerous beaches (around 365!). It is also known for its amazing attractions with breathtaking views like what you’ll observe from Shirley Heights, Antigua. Shirley Heights is one of Antigua’s best historical sites and it is located on the southern coast of this island. This site once operated as a military lookout and gun battery and it is a great spot to take in the scenic views of this island, enjoy good food and live music, and learn about the history of Antigua and Barbuda.

Shirley Heights Antigua Harbor View

Image credit: EQRoy/

As Shirley Heights is a must-visit location in Antigua, we’ve detailed what you can expect from the experience in this post:

History of Shirley Heights

Shirley Heights dates back to the 17th century. This historical site is said to have been built by the British military who were in control of Antigua at the time. Shirley Heights is located in the southern part of Antigua and was named after Sir Thomas Shirley, who was a former governor of the Leeward Islands. Shirley is credited for having overseen the construction of the military complex at this location.

Antigua Shirley Heights Colonial Military Complex

Image credit: EQRoy/

Shirley Heights as a military lookout is believed to have played a significant role in defending Antigua against attacks by French and American forces. As much of the structure here still remains, visitors can still today explore the ruins of the gun battery and remaining military structures. From Shirley Heights, visitors can take in views of English Harbor, Nelson’s Dockyard, and some of the nearby national parks in Antigua. The highest lookout point at this location is around 490ft, which means that you can expect some pretty impressive views.

Expert tip: If you're headed to Shirley Heights and want a guided tour, you can go to the Dow’s Interpretation Centre. In addition to guided tours, you can also learn some island history including details about the indigenous people of Antigua.

Activities at Shirley Heights

Exploring Shirley Heights can certainly be one of the interesting things to do in Antigua for couples. At this historical site, you can find lots of different activities that will be fun for all age groups. Couples may enjoy the hiking opportunities at Shirley Heights as well as the outstanding views and events like the Sunday Sunset Party.

Here are some of the activities we love most at Shirley Heights, Antigua:

Hike to the summit

Hiking and sightseeing are possible at Shirley Heights. If you’re looking for adventure, you can choose from a number of trails to explore in this area. For something more challenging, try the Lookout Trail, which runs from Galleon Beach to Shirley Heights. This hike will take you off-the-beaten path and allow you to get up close to Antiguan wildlife and fauna. There are more leisurely hiking options that you can choose from as well that will take you to the perfect vantage for panoramic views of English Harbour and Falmouth Harbour. On days when the skies are most clear, you might catch a glimpse of nearby islands like Guadeloupe and Montserrat from the Shirley Heights Lookout.

Shirley Heights Antigua Top View

Image credit: AlexUm5/

At Shirley Heights, once you’ve had a moment to stretch your legs and explore, you can find a shady spot to relax. If you’re still here close to sunset, you’ll be right on time for an amazing experience. Embrace the sparks of romance that may arise while watching the sunset from this amazing viewpoint, hand in hand with that special person in your life.

Insider tip: At an Antigua beach resort couples can find plenty to do on site without having to leave their resort. At Sandals Antigua, this can include day and night entertainment, unlimited land and water sports, and plenty of themed restaurants to try out cuisine from around the world.

Enjoy food and entertainment

As amazing as the views are at Shirley Heights, the appeal for this spot goes up 10-fold with the knowledge that you can enjoy the scenery with some great food as well. The Shirley Heights Lookout Restaurant & Bar offers delicious meals including jerk chicken, BBQ, and local seafood. To complement the mouthwatering Antigua food and drinks and the breezy island ambiance at Shirley Heights, locals and visitors can collectively take in some music from live local bands here on weekends.

Shirley Heights Antigua Woman View

Image credit: TravnikovStudio/

If you happen to visit Shirley Heights on a Sunday, expect a party. This sunset affair happens regularly and is quite popular. The Shirley Heights Sunday Sunset BBQ tends to be quite lively. You can look forward to delicious local food, steel bands and reggae music. Try one of the delicious rum punch drinks to fully get into the Caribbean rhythm.

Take phenomenal photos and videos

What would a visit to Shirley Heights be without taking some amazing photos and videos that you can watch later to relive your experience? The hilltop vantage of Shirley Heights makes it ideal to take stunning photos, particularly with the exceptional view of English Harbour. Whatever time of day you go, start or end your day with a couple of memorable photographs.

How much does it cost to visit Shirley Heights

It will cost around $8-$10 USD to visit Shirley Heights during regular operating hours. This can also depend on the day. If you want to get food and drinks, you should bring along some extra cash for that purpose. For the Sunday Sunset BBQ party, expect to spend at least $15-$20 USD per person. The amount you’ll spend at Shirley Heights for food and drinks really depends on how many people are in your group or how many portions you’d like to order.

When factoring in your costs for Shirley Heights, you’ll also need to consider how you’ll be getting there. It will cost around $85 USD per day to get a car rental, while a taxi ride can be in the region of $25-$30 USD. Catching a bus to Shirley Heights will cost you less than $5 USD both ways. If you book your tour to Shirley Heights through your resort, in most cases, transportation will be included in the cost of your tour package.

How to get to Shirley Heights, Antigua

Shirley Heights Antigua is located high up on a hill overlooking English Harbor. This popular Antiguan attraction is around 30 minutes from St. John’s, the capital. The amount of time it will take to get to Shirley Heights can vary depending on where in Antigua you’ll be spending your vacation. From Sandals Antigua, it will take around 20-30 minutes to get to Shirley Heights, depending on traffic.

The best way to get to Shirley Heights is by taxi. It is also possible to get there by car or by way of public transportation. With a taxi, all you’ll need to do is make a booking through your resort concierge and ensure you're ready to go when your driver gets there. Getting a rental works if you’re one of those people who can easily make their way around a foreign destination. With this option, be prepared for the roads in Antigua, as they are quite narrow in some places and very busy. One advantage of driving yourself is that you will have free parking once you get to Shirley Heights.

Though there are many ways to get to Shirley Heights in Antigua, the most affordable is by way of public transportation. As the buses tend to make quite a few stops along the way, it can take longer to get to your destination. Some people prefer taking public transportation at their vacation destination just for the experience. If you do decide to take a public bus to get to Shirley Heights, it's worthwhile to know that buses in Antigua operate on a fairly regular schedule from St. John’s to Shirley Heights.

Expert tip: When it comes to getting around in Antigua, staff at all-inclusive Antigua resorts can help you find your footing. Go to the tour desk to arrange tours or speak to staff about their recommendations on where to go. They’re usually happy to help!

The best time to visit Shirley Heights

Shirley Heights is a wonderful location to visit particularly on weekends. If you plan on going here on a weekend, expect a crowd. On Sunday evenings, you’ll find their weekly BBQ action underway and sometimes live music events as well. Things tone down quite a bit during the week although on occasion a spur-of-the-moment party might pop up on random Thursdays. Most of the time, you’ll find a good number of people just enjoying this attraction more so during the peak season from December to April in Antigua. During peak/high season on this island, the temperatures tend to be more consistently sunny, which is part of the appeal. Generally, though, Antigua tends to have great weather year-round.

Shirley Heights Antigua Stunning View

Image credit: TravnikovStudio/

Peak-season travel tends to mean that the temperatures are cooler with less rain. This is a great time for a beach vacation and even for a sailing vacation in Antigua as sailing activities pick up in the month of April. A top sailing event is the Antigua Classic Yacht Regatta held at the end of April. There are other good times to visit Antigua as well outside of peak season. Antigua Carnival, for instance, happens in late July/early August. The island is usually very busy during this time with lots of activities happening around town and lots of vacationers too.

Where to stay in Antigua

The best places to stay in Antigua will be anywhere that’s near a beach! If you’re planning on spending some time at Shirley Heights in Antigua then you can look into some of the beachside all-inclusive resorts in this area like Sandals Grande Antigua. Like all the resorts in the Sandals chain, this resort offers guests quality inclusions like gourmet dining at multiple restaurants, luxurious accommodations, day and night entertainment, and so much more.

Sandals Grande Antigua Aerial Beach

Ultimately, deciding where to stay in Antigua will depend on your budget and expectations for your trip. You might also need to consider your travel style and the things you don’t want to do during your couples vacation, all of which can help you select the perfect vacation accommodation.

Popular destinations nearby

There are many interesting attractions located near Shirley Heights in Antigua. We’ve included a few of the ones that we love most:

Nelson’s Dockyard

Nelson's Dockyard National Park in English Harbor, a national heritage site and marina, is a well-known location for sailing activities in Antigua. Not only that, but it has historical value, as seen by the restored 18th and 19th-century architectural buildings that now contain stores, galleries, museums, and more. There are several hiking routes that you can go on here to fully experience the beauty of this area, as well as lodging and dining options.

Nelsons Dockyard Antigua

Image credit: Lance RF/

In terms of its history, Nelson’s Dockyard is an 18th-century British Navy dockyard. It is also a UNESCO World Heritage site as it’s the world’s oldest continuously operating Georgian dockyard. Nelson’s Dockyard is close to Shirley Heights, Antigua. After a guided tour of the dockyard, you can also visit Fort Shirley or Fort Berkeley, both of which are nearby. You’ll also find the 18th-century Clarence House and the Dow’s Hill Interpretation Centre in this area.

Falmouth Harbour

Falmouth Harbour is on the southern coast of Antigua a short distance away from Shirley Heights by car. This historic town in Saint Paul Parish is well known for its happening nightlife, gorgeous beaches, and its charming and scenic marina. The beaches here are perfect for a day of exciting water sports or just relaxing for a couple of hours off your resort. If you want to do some shopping, find a good bar, or eat at some of the best restaurants in Antigua, a visit to Falmouth Harbor might be well worth the effort.

Falmouth Harbor Marina Antigua

Image credit: Anna Hoychuk/

Embrace the unforgettable charm of Shirley Heights

There are loads of amazing things to do in Antigua and Barbuda, including going to attractions known for their natural beauty and historical significance like Shirley Heights. A trip to Shirley Heights will best be enjoyed with good company. Also, while in the Shirley Heights area, it can be worthwhile to check out some of the other fun local attractions.

Antigua Shirley Heights Top View

Image credit: Zoran Karapancev/

Couples who want to enjoy a vacation filled with adventure will love the Sandals Resorts experience. At Sandals’ all-inclusive resorts, you’ll be able to plan your tours and excursions directly through your resort. As there are plenty of exciting attractions and things Antigua is known for, you’ll have no short supply of activities to choose from during your stress-free, all-inclusive vacation!

Good to know: How do Antigua beaches compare with some of the other beaches in the Caribbean? See for yourself in our post on Antigua vs Saint Lucia, which compares this and other aspects of each of these beautiful islands!

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