Nelson’s Dockyard

Nelson's Dockyard

Nelson’s Dockyard, Dockyard Drive, English Harbour, Antigua

Entrance fee:

US$8 including a complimentary guided tour. However if you are staying at accommodation within the dockyard itself, such as the highly recommended Admiral’s Inn, there is no additional fee, apart from an evening trip to Shirley Heights Lookout.

Shirley Heights

Nelson’s Dockyard is steeped in history and is one of the top tourist attractions in Antigua. Construction of the dockyard began in the 1740s by slave labourers and British tradesmen. The inner harbour continues to act as a hurricane shelter and boat repairs still take place here. It is now a UNESCO Heritage Site due to its contribution to Antiguan history.

The Grounds

Wandering around the well manicured grounds is peaceful with many beautiful types of eye catching flora. It is common to watch hummingbirds busy drinking nectar from the flowers.

Flora around Nelson's Dockyard

Posts throughout the grounds provide you with information about various points of interest. For example, the imposing palm tree which was planted by Queen Elizabeth II in 1966…

Palm tree planted by Queen Elizabeth II in the grounds of Nelson's Dockyard

1. The Bakery

Choose from a range of snacks and drinks at the onsite bakery…

2. The Sawpit

The oldest structure at Nelson’s Dockyard is The Sawpit which dates back to 1769. The incline where the logs were rolled up is still visible today. Once in the shed, the logs were cut into timber for use on the ships.

The Sawpit, Nelson's Dockyard's oldest structure dating back to 1769

3. Shops

There are several shops within the dockyard’s grounds selling locally made wooden artefacts, clothing and souvenirs.

Shops in the grounds of Nelson's Dockyard

4. Supermarket

A small supermarket stocks essential items, juices and alcoholic beverages at reasonable prices.

Supermarket in the grounds

5. Restaurants

There are 3 restaurants within the grounds…

Pillars Restaurant

Pillars benefits from direct views overlooking the harbour and serves daily breakfasts and evening meals 6 days a week. The food is excellent and on Wednesdays in peak season, a steel band plays while you dine from the Caribbean menu.

Steel band at Pillars on Wednesday nights peak season
Boom restaurant open for lunch with its infinity pool

Boom serves fantastic lunches and snacks daily between 11am-6pm. The open air restaurant with harbour views also has an infinity pool, hammocks and loungers. Underneath it is a spa where you can indulge in one of the treatments for an extra charge.

Copper and Lumber Store hotel and restaurant

In 1789 the Copper & Lumber Store was built. It is easy to spot with a red telephone box outside! The Copper & Lumber Store offers both accommodation and dining options. On Friday evenings they host ‘Seafood Friday’ which is a self serve buffet and bbq.

6. Galley Bar

Galley Bar

Sip your favourite drink in the Galley Bar and enjoy views of Nelson’s Dockyard and harbour.

Grounds of Nelson's Dockyard, view from Galley Bar

7. The Sail Loft

The Sail Loft - concrete capped pillars

In 1797 the boat house and sail loft was built. The roof was destroyed in a hurricane in 1871. It now has cement caps on top to prevent corrosion.

8. The Museum – Open from 9am-5pm daily

The Museum

On the ground floor is a wonderful gift shop selling a variety of souvenirs and clothing, steel pans and cooking sauces. Walk through the back of the store to enter the museum. Here you will learn about the dockyard’s development over time and the people that worked here. There are a wealth of interesting facts.

  • It was recognised that the harbour was sheltered during hurricanes by highlands. ‘Dover Castle’ was the first naval ship to take shelter here in 1671.
  • Nelson arrived in 1784 on his ship HMS Boreax
  • In 1955 Princess Margaret visited. She was the Patron in Chief of the London Repair Fund to raise funds to support the restoration of the dockyard.

Upstairs is dedicated to the military with some interesting exhibits such as…

  • The types of knots used on deck with a chance to try your hand at it yourself…
Knots exhibit at the museum in Nelson's Dockyard
  • Cast iron beds the soldiers slept on when arriving at the barracks…
Cast iron beds the soldiers slept on arriving at the barracks
  • Buttons made from bone and dice and dominoes made from lead and bone. These were used by the soldiers as a form of entertainment.
Buttons made from bone and dice and dominoes made from lead and bone
  • Arawak pottery dating back to circa 200AD – sites have been found at Freemans Bay and near the Copper & Lumber Store
Arawak pottery found in Nelson's Dockyard

Excavation at Galleon Beach

Iron coffin nails were found in 2012 and 2015. It appears to have been a burial ground. Remains of bodies were found in coffins and others piled haphazardly on top of eachother. It is thought they probably died from disease and death on board as mosquitoes were in abundance and malaria and yellow fever was rife.

Iron coffin nails found at Galleon Beach

Suggested Further Reading:

Things to do in Antigua – other recommended solo activities

FAQ about Antigua

Solo Travel Tips

Hotels in Antigua – full reviews of hotels I have stayed in as a solo traveller

Bed and Breakfast – recommended bed and breakfast accommodation for solo travel

Restaurants – reviews of recommended restaurants for solo dining