If you ask anyone who has visited Antigua, the question of where has the best view on the island, the unanimous answer will be Shirley Heights. Perched on a hilltop overlooking Nelson's Dockyard and Falmouth Harbour is one of Antigua's most well known landmarks. The panoramic 360 degree vista is exceptional, and getting there is quite easy, as all of the island tours make a stop at this site which is part of the Nelson's Dockyard.
Given that Shirely Heights is located on one of the steeper hills in the country, the journey there is on a long and narrow winding lane, which begins in the village of English Harbour. Don't expect to overtake any vehicles on the way, as there are steep drops in some sections. The further up you drive, the more arid the vegetation becomes with cacti and acacia trees dotting the landscape. Look out for the island's national shrub called the Yucca plant, as it flourishes in dry regions.
If you're feeling a bit more adventurous, there's an alternative way of getting to the top. There's an off-road route commly known as the 'Lookout Trail' which leads from Galleon Beach to Shirley Heights. This isn't an easy hike, as the terrain is quite uneven, with a few large rocks to climb over. Be sure to walk with proper footwear, to lower the risk of injury.
After arriving at the top, the first thing you'll notice is the large shed under which several vendors ply their trade. Local art work, pairs of brightly painted maracas and small souvenir are displayed for sale, and cold beverages are sold in coolers to help with battling the harsh rays of the Caribbean sun.
My favourite part of Shirley Heights however, is the Lookout. Right on the edge of a cliff which is guarded by stone pillars is where I love to stand and take in the magnificent seascape. From this point, you can see the two main harbours, on either side on a hilly peninsula. The scenery is truly picturesque, and the view is featured on many Antiguan postcards and international tourism brochures.
Several blockhouses and cannons serve as reminders of the signifacant role the fort played in Antigua's history, and one of the buildings has been fully restored and now houses a restaurant and bar. Lunch or dinner can be ordered, and several benches outside provide a great setting for guests to have a picnic while enjoying the sights.
Shirley Heights Lookout is a fantastic place to hang out during the day, or a lively place to dance during it's weekly Sunday BBQ party. There's a really good reason why people return time and time again, and you should pay a visit to see it for yourself.