We’ve been in the British Virgin Islands (BVI) for nearly a month now, and are nearing our time to check out. Different countries have different timeframes, but arriving in BVI via boat, you have a 30-day limit, and then need to check out of the country. However, you only need to check out for one day if needed, and can then re-enter BVI for another 30-days. Our current plan is to check out of BVI and go to USVI this weekend, exploring for about a week or ten days until our first friend arrives for a visit! So far, the best flights from Central Wisconsin have been through the island of St. Thomas in USVI, so we’ll likely become very familiar with the area very quickly as visitors come and go in the next few months.
The British Virgin Islands consists of four main islands and several smaller islands. As of 2/5, we can say we’ve been to all four of the major islands: Virgin Gorda, Tortola, Anegada, and Jost Van Dyke. We’ve spent most of our time around Virgin Gorda and some of the smaller islands, Norman, and Peter. We’ve found some fantastic bays with clear water and some more remote spots for relaxation. After a month, we’ve still only explored a fraction of the area!
As we make our way around the islands, one thing we’re mindful of is the charter boat schedule. Charter boats are a great way to try out sailing and enjoy this amazing experience, with or without a hired crew. However, there are a few reasons that charter boats can be a nuisance to cruisers. If you haven’t seen our post on crewed charters, click here. Aside from anchoring woes, charter boats are often louder, and more rowdy than cruisers, which can keep us from getting sleep. We love to party just like the rest; and being from Wisconsin, we can likely outdrink most vacationers! JBut there are times when we want to relax and have a chill night, so we try to be away from the crowds and partying. Typically, charter rentals are picked up on Saturdays or Sundays, from one of the main hubs: Nanny Cay or Road Town on Tortola, (both in BVI) or in the USVI. They tend to do the same loop, heading up through the islands, hitting certain spots at certain points during the week. Due to liabilities and more challenging anchorages, charter boats are often not allowed in the more remote anchorages that we frequent. Additionally, most charter guests want to go to the famous places like Willy T’s, the Happy Arrr at Leverick Bay, and Soggy Dollar Bar. They’re all great places, but they’re better when it’s not a charter night.
Different islands have different characteristics and highlights. Tortola is the largest of the BVI islands and is a main hub, with an airport, ferries, Moorings and Marine Max charter headquarters, and more. It is also the most populated island, and therefore has the most amenities in terms of chandlery (boat equipment + supplies), and provisioning (food). That also means it’s busier, so it’s more competitive to find an anchorage or mooring ball, the marinas need to be booked in advance, and you need to be more cautious about locking doors, windows, etc. We haven’t spent much time on this island yet, but got to check out Trellis Bay and Marina Cay. Trellis Bay is on Tortola’s Beef Island and it’s largest draw is the airport there. There’s a long beachfront with buildings that used to house shops, bars, restaurants, and a really cool art studio. Only a few of them have been reopened since the hurricane. Many are still shuttered with Keep Out or No Trespassing signs. Broken boats litter the waterfront as well – some in the water, most were transported by nature or hauled out onto shored. In the middle of Trellis Bay you’ll find the tiny island of Bellamy Cay, which boasts the remains of the Island Last Resort restaurant and bar. We’ve heard that it used to be a fantastic place for cruisers, with live music, full moon parties, and maintained mooring balls right offshore. Marina Cay is also a tiny island off Great Camanoe, Tortola and has anchoring and mooring right offshore. It houses an easily accessible fuel dock as well as a Pusser’s Rum Bar + Restaurant. It’s a beautiful place, though currently under renovation from the hurricanes. However, don’t expect any happy hour specials – their famous painkillers, though half rum, don’t come cheaply! It’s a great spot to stop for an afternoon break, but the anchorage was quite rolly overnight and left us overtired from lack of sleep.
Most of our time, we’ve spent on Virgin Gorda. It’s also a very large island, but seems less populated and has many great anchorages. Spanish Town seems to be its largest city, and they have a fuel dock, customs, bank, small chandlery, and grocery store. Most of the marina area is still being reconstructed, so you need to go inland for almost everything except the fuel dock and small chandlery. We only made day stops in Spanish Town for errands, then spent most of our time in other anchorages. We could write SO much about Virgin Gorda, so we’ll save that for another post.
Anegada is the most northeast of the BVI and is worth the time to get over there if you have a couple of days to spare. It is extremely flat, not being volcanic, and has a lot of coral and rocks around the channel inside to anchor or pick up a mooring ball. The highest point on the island is 28 feet above sea level! Anegada is famous for its lobster, but unfortunately, we didn’t have a chance to test that reputation! With our cruising friends, we decided the best way to see the island was to rent scooters for the day and make a circle checking out all the highlights. We headed east and stopped first at the lookout for the flamingo sanctuary, then hit the Fisherman’s Wharf, making our way up to Jack Bay for lunch at the Bamboo. The food and drinks were good, but the views were spectacular! We headed off toward the West End and the paved road disappeared into a sand road. The road was in terrible condition, and I’m surprised that the scooter rental company didn’t warn us. There were large almost invisible patches of soft sand, big potholes, and rocks everywhere. Our adventurous spirit pushed us ahead, it wasn’t far to the next beach. Unfortunately, the rough road conditions got the better of our scooter skills and we ended up with a little bit of road rash. Ok, that’s an understatement: we’ve been recovering for a week, mostly resting, reading, and watching movies while we determine the true extent of our damage. We’re fortunate that we were wearing helmets, and the primary issues were severe road rash and crush injuries to toes, ankles, and legs. A few elbow scrapes as well, but they were far less traumatic than the leg injuries. I have to say, that I’d rather be here recuperating in the warm weather and tropical breezes, than trying to put on jeans and winter gear in the subzero temps and freezing rain they’re having at home. So we’re not complaining, just being honest: adventuring shenanigans happen. Don’t worry, we expect to make a full recovery!
Jost Van Dyke is the last of the four main BVI islands that we’ve visited. It’s the farthest west, just north of St. John, USVI. It’s home of the famous Soggy Dollar Bar, who claims they invented and perfected the Painkiller cocktail. I don’t know about that, we’ve had some pretty good ones all over BVI in the last month, but they’ve good real style! The bar is on a beautiful beachfront, with chairs and umbrellas – they’re killing it with the ambiance. Beach games, a YouTube webcam feed, food, store, and free wifi. It’s a great place to spend a day! It’s what I expected all of the Caribbean to look like and feel like. Many places destroyed in the hurricanes have not been rebuilt and it’s fortunate that they were able to! We haven’t had a chance to explore the other bars and restaurants in White Bay yet; but we’ll definitely be back here with friends and family for that beachy vibe and fun atmosphere!