British Virgin Islands
On this page, find out more about:
Jost Van Dyke
Capital: Road Town
Nationality: British Virgin Islander
Official Language: English
Offical Currency: U.S. Dollar
Nature's Little Secrets
A perennial delight to yachtsmen and
landlubbers alike, some 60 islands of the BVI have succeeded in safeguarding their special
charm from the inroads of mass tourism. However, the secret is out as an increasing number
of escapists discover this ancient archipelago's many natural advantages, from sanctuaries
for exotic fauna and flora to fabulous fishing and dive sites.
Among the most frequently visited of the BVI's handful of inhabited islands are Tortola,
virgin Gorda, Beef Island, Anegada, Jost Van Dyke, Peter, Mosquito, and Guana Islands. All
of these lilting place names reflect idyllic sites for unwinding, wriggling your toes in
the sand, and absorbing the tranquil pleasures of sunshine and sapphire seas.
Tortola, or "land of turtle
doves' is the largest of the British Virgin Islands overlooking Sir Francis Drake Channel
and situated about 60 miles east of Puerto Rico. Its most popular point of entry for
vacationers is the East End Beef Island Airport linked to the capital city of Road Town by
the one-lane Queen Elizabeth Bridge.
Road Town's scenic setting and
sheltered yacht-filled harbour provide a helpful orientation to the laid-back BVI
lifestyle evolved over the last 400 years by English, Dutch, French, and Spanish
adventurers, followed by plantation owners and 20th century settlers.
This friendly and diversified
community tempts travelers with every sort of regional and international cuisine found in
a choice of cheerful pastel painted restaurants, former forts, and sugar mills.
Palate-pleasing menus feature West Indian specialities of fresh lobster, conch, turtle,
spicy goat, and curries of every description. An authentic English pub serves Pusser's
Rum, traditional drink of the British Navy for 300 years, as wellas a popular fruit
flavored local concoction known as the "Painkiller."
Savvy shoppers can usually find
bargains in perfume, jewelry, wine, and Wedgewood china in the homey-style stores dotting
Road Town's Main Street and Soper's Hole, West End. However, the shops are best known for
their unique local products. Look for one-of-a-kind antiques, silk-screened fabrics,
intricate ship models, and watercolors by Tortolan artists.
Tortola also offers and ideal jumping
off point to the other main island of Virgin Gorda with its famous Baths, magical Anegada,
and rustic Jost Van Dyke. Visitors can avail themselves of an efficient ferry service to
any of these nearby destinations.
- J.R. O'Neal Botanic Gardens
- A cool and peaceful refuge located in
the center of Road Town. The beautiful four-acre garden includes a lush array of
indigenous and exotic tropical plants.
- The V.I. Folk Museum
- Located on Main Street in Road Town,
the museum is housed in a traditional West Indian building, and has many artifacts on
display from the islands' Tiano, plantation, and slavery eras. There are also pieces from
the wreck of the RMS Rhone.
- Queen Elizabeth Park
- A small community park bordering the
western side of Road Harbour in Road Town.
- Soper's Hole
- This popular anchorage is located on
the West End of Tortola. The main ferry terminal is here, as are several restaurants and
the Caribbean-style Soper's Hole Marina and shopping wharf.
Virgin Gorda, or "Fat
Virgin", refers to a protruding mountain noted by Columbus on this second largest of
the British Virgin Isles. Only ten miles long and two miles wide, the island is known for
its yacht clubs, quiet coves, and safe anchorages for bareboats.
Its most celebrated beach - The Baths
- is an intriguing grouping of huge granite rocks framing grottos filled with with sea
water. While geologists ponder the origins of these mysterious boulders, swimmers and
snorkelers refresh themselves in the cool waters of hidden pools and secret passages.
Nature lovers can enjoy a short
stroll from The Baths to the Devil's Bay National Park, one of several parks given by the
Rockefellers to the British Virgin Islands' government in the 1960s.
- Little Fort National Park
- Located south of the Yacht Harbour, it
was the site of a Spanish fort whose stone walls are still partially intact. This 36-acre
area also functions as a wildlife sanctuary.
- The Coppermine
- On the southwest tip of the island, it
was mined by Cornish miners between 1838 and 1867, and perhaps even earlier by the
Spanish. Today, the remains of the chimney, boiler house, cistern, and mine shafts can be
- Gorda Peak National Park
- This park contains a wide variety of
indigenous and exotic plants and has been reforested with mahogany trees. At 1,500 feet,
it is the island's highest point.
- The Baths
- Giant boulders form a series of
spectacular pools and grottoes flooded with sea water.
Anegada is an easily missed speck on
the map lying 20 miles north of Virgin Gorda. It covers 15 square miles and rises 28 feet
above sea level.
Over the years, more than 300 ships
have been wrecked on the hazardous coral reefs encircling the islet, a tragedy which, in
turn, has made Anegada a paradise for divers. The wrecks and reefs themselves have been
enhanced with colorful formations of exotic undersea plan and animal life.
With a population of about 250,
Anegada's tourist facilities are limited to a campground, several guest cottages, and one
18-room hotel. Government efforts to keep the island as close to nature as possible have
resulted in the recent introduction of a sanctuary for flamingos, ospreys, and terns
supervised by the National Parks Trust.
Jost Van Dyke, a four-square mile
island to the north of Tortola's West End, once the reputed hideaway for a Dutch pirate of
the same name, still welcomes travelers looking for a remote, rustic retreat and
first-rate hiking trails. The best beaches are found at Great Harbour and White Bay, while
Main Street is a sandy strip of beach holding the BVI customs house and several, small
beach cafes famed for their freshly baked banana bread and coconut muffins.
In a decidedly offbeat but friendly
community of about 200 inhabitants, hotel accommodations are modest and cater mostly to
the yachting aficionados. At one of the town's most popular dining spots, the island's
poet laureate-restauranteur greets each guest with a personalized guitar-accompanied
- Peter Island
- This privately owned island resort is
accessible by water only. It is a great place to stay with its excellent sporting
facilities. Tennis, sailing, and diving are all available, and five miles of secluded
beaches are there for those who only want to live in the sun.
- Salt Island
- This sparsely inhabited island has
three salt ponds, once a source of seasoning for islanders and passing ships. Residents
still harvest the salt for sale.
- The RMS Rhone
- The Rhone was a 310-foot Royal Mail
Ship that was dashed against the rocks off Salt Island's southwest cost during a hurricane
in 1867. Its remains are extensive and have become a fascinating underwater habitat for
marine life. It is part of the national park system and is a popular dive site.