English Harbour to Shirley Heights Trail Walk & Hike Guide Route & Map

Hiking route to Shirley Heights from Freemans Bay & Galleon Beach along the Carpenters Trail and the Lookout Trail
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Shirley Heights Trail Information

  • Start: Galleon Beach
  • Start Directions: Google Map Directions
  • Distance: 2mi / 3k
  • Height Gain: 425ft / 130m
  • Time: 2 hours
  • Terrain: Gravel
  • Parking: Limited Parking at Galleon Beach
  • Route Map: Outdoor Active

Route Summary

Take the gravel path from Galleon Beach to the iconic view point of Shirley Heights, Antiguas number one panoramic scenic spot. This hike is along paths, across rocks and up a short steep climb to the top. You’ll return along the Lookout Trail which itself has some stunning views along the way.
A great costal walk which gives you 360 views to the Atlantic Ocean and the Caribbean Sea. Bring a good camera as these views are once in a lifetime and well and truly breathtaking.
This footpath and trail to Shirley Heights Lookout is reasonably easy for confident hikers and walkers and is a short part day hike.
Along the way take a short diversion to a hidden beach perfect for snorkeling.

The Area

Galleon Beach

The start of this hike is at Galleon Beach on Freeman’s Bay, this is at on one of the most Southern points on the island of Antigua. If you have some extra time we’d highly recommend bringing a towel and your snorkels to make the most of the beach. It’s beautiful, clean and tidy and is well known for snorkelling due to the clear waters, giant turtles and pools of fish you’ll find. If you do go for a dip and want to see the fish head further into the bay or more towards the left side where rocks make an attractive nesting space for a vibrant underwater array of life. There aren’t any shops at the beach so bring some water and food if you want to enjoy your time there.

English Harbour (Nelsons Dockyard)

The nearest town is English Harbour (Nelsons Dockyard) which as you may of guessed was the harbour the English founded for their fleets. In modern Antigua now though it’s full of great restaurants and a few shops but still holds onto its historic routes. While in English Harbour set some time aside to visit Nelsons Dockyard, see the beautiful original colonial buildings which are now a museum, restaurant and hotel. It is also part of Nelsons Dockyard National Park which is a UNESCO world heritage site. In the bay of English Harbour you can either relax and watch the luxury yachts coming and going on the Falmouth Harbour side or walk along to a few of the local beaches, Pigeon Point Beach and Windward Bay Beach.

If you have some extra time on your hands walk all the way around the peninsula of English Harbour on the Middle Ground Trail (Directions & Map).

Shirley Heights Trail Map & Instructions

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Getting to the start

To get the beginning of the trail drive to Galleons Beach (Google Directions). There are a limited amount of car parking spaces along the verges on the lane down to Galleon Beach and on the verges near the beach itself.

If you don’t have a Sat Nav head towards the South of the island and follow signposts to English Harbour. Once you are on Dockyard Drive there will be large boat buildings and maintenance yards on your right, at the end of these there will be a quite obvious junctions with a bar on the corner. At this junction carry on straight up the hill, if you want to head into English Harbour for a quick detour turn right at this junction. Carry on for just over half a mile up this hill and take the fourth right. You will immediately be facing a set of gates, turn right and work your way downhill along the lane until you finally reach Galleon Beach by Freemans Bay.

There is also a water taxi service that runs from Nelsons Dockyard to Galleons Beach, for more information on this please visit Nelsons Dockyard.

If you don’t want to follow the trail to Shirley Heights you can also drive there but we highly recommend following this great trail for the views along the journey.

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Walk Along Galleon Beach

Now you are on the beautiful Galleon Beach have a moment to take in the beautiful Freemans Bay then turn left and start walking along the sandy beach. This is a public beach even though some of it backs onto a private residential estate. Carry on walking along the shorefront, then before the end by the final beach cottage go inland onto the road which runs behind the beach. Follow this road along in the same direction around the bay until it comes to an end by some houses, a dirt track trail is tucked away between these houses which you then follow.

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Onto The Trail (And the Hidden Beach)

Carry on along this path which gently works upwards for a short while and then after a few minutes there will be a split with a little path that spurs downwards to the right. This small track on the right will take you down to a small hidden beach that is great for snorkelling due to the rocks nearby which attract sealife. If you have the time pop down if not carry on along upwards until you come to a crossroads.

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At The Crossroads

When you get to an open crossroads there will be a choice of paths and tracks, turn a little bit left and head along one that is a footpath only and vehicles can’t traverse, that goes in the south east direction. This footpath climbs for a short time with a very gentle gradient then heads on a gradual downward slope, the coast will be on your right hand side, wild bush life on either side. Keep going down until the path merges with another one (The Carpenters Trail) and you are walking along the coast line with the ocean on your right on rocks above the cliffs.

While following the coastline on the rocks the path can be difficult to follow so play it safe and follow the tracks that jot inland every so often to carry on along the coastline. Keep following the path until you reach a beautiful viewpoint area with a small patch of open grass ontop of the cliff that sticks out with sudden drop offs on either side.

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Viewpoint Across Oceans

You are now at the Southern most post point of the island, with the Atlantic Ocean to your East (Left facing out to sea) and the Caribbean Sea to your West (Right facing out to sea).

Take some time to enjoy this moment and the views it offers, if you come on a day with some rain you can watch the rains coming in across the ocean. Watch them as the rain hits the sea in a formation travelling across the ocean and onto land. This is a great point to have a short break and watch the world go by realising how small we are compared to the landscapes  and world around us.

From the viewpoint turn left to work your way uphill, the path gently zig zags up the cliffside and can be a bit slippery when wet. This is the final hard push to the Shirley Heights. Once you reach the top the path splits, take the left hand turn carrying on now across flat land. You’ll pass some old archaeological remains on your left which I believe are a graveyard and directly in front of you will be the remains of the Officers Quarters. Shirley Heights contained many buildings and barracks that housed British regiments. One of the largest was the Officers Quarters. It now stands in ruins but there are still hints of its former elegant architecture.

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Shirley Heights Lookout

From the Officers Quarters turn left along the main drive and make your way towards the main lookout buildings, once there you will be taken away by the breathtaking panoramic view over the whole of English Harbour.

This is one of the must visit places in Antigua and is worth coming back for sunrise and sunset. Behind you will be the Signal Station from which a system of flags and guns was used to convey messages to St Johns. When open the main building at Shirley Heights Lookout is a locally owned and managed restaurant and bar worth a stop for lunch or dinner with a view. They also do parties and events at the lookout which we heard are well worth a visit!

There is an outdoor seating area and garden plus the perfect spot to grab a selfie with the the harbour in the background. Looking right across the ridge line in the distance you will see Dow’s Hill Interpretation Centre. The centre presents multimedia presentations that explain the six periods of the Antiguas history, including the Amerindian hunters and the era of the British military and the struggle with slavery. The centre is also well worth a visit another day if time allows while on your visit to Antigua.

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Down The Lookout Trail

The final walk down to the start is a fun 45 minute adventure along the Lookout Trail. From the main viewpoint turn right into the restaurant garden and walk right down to the bottom. At the end will be the beginning of the Lookout trail. This half mile path wiggles through the trees and undergrowth with viewpoints along it looking out across the bay. It can be slightly technical underfoot but is pretty easy to follow and makes for an fun Indian Jones style return back to the start. Keep carrying on downhill along this trail the whole way. You will drop out at the bottom back on the main road where you parked your car by the beach. Well done you have just completed the Carpenters and Lookout Trail’s up to Shirley Heights!

Footwear for Shirley Heights Hike

Wear appropriate footwear to enjoy the hike and have good grip on paths.

Ensure you have appropriate footwear and boots for this hike

Offline Maps!

Always have offline map software on your phone such as viewranger and download the map before the hike

Download on Android
Download on Apple