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May 6, 2018

Antigua - April 2018

Hey All! We just got back from another amazing trip to Antigua. You may remember that we vacationed there last February for the first time (for a refresher: recaps one & two).

antigua english harbour shirley heights

This time we did a lot of hiking, a bit of beach-going, and spent a few days with the local shelter dogs.

We stayed at the Jolly Beach Resort again (now the Starfish Jolly Beach Resort) on the southwest side of the island. It's an all inclusive resort that was central to all of the places we wanted to go. The grounds are beautiful and it has the best beach on the island.

starfish jolly beach resort antigua


We had a lot we wanted to do in a week so we got to hiking right away. We tried a new trail this time - from Wallings Dam on Fig Tree Drive to Rendezvous Beach on the southern coast.

wallings dam antigua

Wallings Dam was built in the late 1800s to supply 13 million gallons of water to the surrounding towns. In the early 1910s, after several years of drought, the reservoir was drained and the area has now become a historical site with picnic facilities and hiking trails.

wallings dam antigua
wallings dam antigua
wallings dam antigua

In the picnic area are different species of trees with informational plaques about each. How about these frightening looking ones with spikes on their bark?

sandbox hura crepitans wallings dam

And the size of this one with the above-ground root system.

wallings dam antigua

It took about 2 hours to hike to the beach - first it's a short distance uphill and then way, way, way down to sea level.  While you're going downhill you're trying not to think about that uphill hike you're going to have on the way back. (Tip: take three bottles of water - two was not enough!)

wallings dam rendezvous beach trail antigua

The trail leads through rainforest, then a lemongrass field, and through another drier forest before coming out onto Rendezvous Beach. There aren't any roads to the beach - you can only get there by boat or by hiking - so the beach was deserted. Unfortunately the sargassum seaweed was heavy that day so the swimming wasn't enjoyable.

rendezvous beach antigua
rendezvous beach antigua

Around the point from Rendezvous Beach is Pebbly Beach. Aptly named, as the area above the tide line is covered in smooth rocks of all sizes and colours.

pebbly beach antigua

Pebbly Beach Antigua

We spent a morning in St. Johns - the capital of Antigua - visiting the shops and mixing with the cruise ship crowd. My target that day was a store called The Tailor's Daughter - a gourmet shop featuring the art and creativity of Antigua - food, linens, wood products, and books. Unfortunately the St. Johns' store had closed, but I did manage to find their new store at the airport on the way home.

St. Johns Antigua

What we did find was the best doughnut shop I've ever been to. It's called Donut Ace and it's just about a block away from the cruise port. I know doughnuts don't seem to embody a tropical vacation, but I don't care - they were good. Just look at all of the interesting flavours to be had:


Donut Ace Antigua

A beach we'd never been to before was in Half Moon Bay on the east side of the island. This beach is on the Atlantic side, but it's protected by a reef so stays calm and is known for better snorkeling than in other areas. We spent a few hours there, swimming and reading in the sun, and decided to pack up just before a brief rain shower hit. Perfect timing.

Half Moon Bay Antigua
Half Moon Bay Antigua

We also made a little friend at the beachside grill.

hermit crab

On the way to Half Moon Bay we had stopped at an antique store in Liberta (The Posh Pirate). The owners suggested some beaches to us, including one near Turner's Beach - back near our resort. It was down a little road named Boot Hill, and as far as I can find on any maps, it doesn't have a name.

Coral Beach Boot Hill Road Antigua

The man that lives nearby cleans the beach of seaweed every day and has built some benches from old pallets (a man after my DIY heart). We found the beach - after having to wait for some cattle to cross over the road - and were amazed at the coral that was everywhere. Much like Pebbly Beach, this beach is completely covered above the tide line, but in sun-bleached coral.

Coral Beach Boot Hill Antigua

We also hiked Jones Trail and Carpenter Rock Trail, the same trails we hiked last year. Jones Trail leads up to Shirley Heights, and then Carpenter Rock Trail leads down from there to the Pillars of Hercules and Pigeon Point Beach/Galleon Beach.

Galleon Bay Antigua

When we hiked the trails last year we wandered a bit, lost the path a few times, but then eventually found it again. This year we knew what we were doing and it seemed much easier. Even the long hike back up the hills didn't seem quite as bad this time. Are we finally getting in shape?

Carpenter Rock Trail Shirley Heights Antigua
Jones Trail Shirley Heights Antigua
Carpenter Rock Trail Shirley Heights Antigua

The views from both trails are so beautiful - every step is worthy of a photo.

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

After climbing across the rocks to the Pillars (a majestic limestone rock formation), we took a break to snorkel at Pigeon Point Beach. This beach is in Freeman's Bay, near the entrance to English Harbour. Once we'd cooled off we retraced our steps back over the hill to the car. How is it possible with all of this hiking that I still gained 5 pounds during the week?

Pillars of Hercules Antigua
Pillars of Hercules Antigua
Pillars of Hercules Antigua
Pigeon Point Beach Antigua

Galleon Bay English Harbour Antigua

We spent the balance of our vacation at the PAAWS animal shelter in Parham. This is the same no-kill shelter that we visited last year. They receive no government assistance and rely solely on donations to fund their work. They welcome visitors daily to walk the dogs or even just play with the puppies and kittens. The animals spend most of their time in kennels and need as much socialization as possible to get them ready for their forever homes.

PAAWS Antigua animal shelter dadli dogs

One day that we were there they were working on making the cat stable a little more fun for the residents. Tom got right in there and took down some shelves (by hand!) and then hung floating beds for the cats to relax in. He even got the generator going and built an adapter so that they could run their power tools - taking down wooden shelves with a rusty hand saw wasn't easy!

PAAWS Antigua animal shelter
PAAWS Antigua animal shelter

I sanded down some wooden slats that were then attached to burlap straps to create a wobbly bridge going from shelf to shelf. And I carried a watermelon. (Congratulations if you got the joke - you're old!)

PAAWS Antigua animal shelter
PAAWS Antigua animal shelter

But don't think it was all carpentry work - on another day we walked the Dadli dogs for a few hours and played with them in the courtyard.

PAAWS Antigua animal shelter

We got to know so many dogs during the week - and I took hundreds of pictures. Here is just a sampling of the sweet puppers we met (all available for adoption):

PAAWS Antigua animal shelter

We also had another very special reason for visiting the shelter and I can't wait to tell you more about it!








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