Comprised of more than 50 islands, the British Virgin Islands are sailing hot spots that boast perfect tropical weather, calm currents, steady trade winds and protected bays. The Arawak of South America first inhabited the islands around 100 BC. Not long after Christopher Columbus discovered the volcanic Caribbean archipelago in 1493, the islands became a popular haunt for pirates. Today, the islands are tranquil hubs for those in need of a relaxing getaway. Because there are no direct commercial flights to the main airports on the islands, the simplest solution is to charter a flight in a private jet to Beef Island (EIS), Anegada (NGD), Virgin Gorda (VIJ) or one of the smaller airports located throughout the archipelago. Then charter a yacht or catamaran to hop from island to island.
Major British Virgin Islands
Home to the archipelago’s capital, Road Town, Tortola is the largest island at 21 square miles. Here, time seems to stand still, and the roads’ curves lead to gorgeous beaches and dramatic views. Water-ski in Cane Garden Bay. Explore the nature reserve at Sage Mountain National Park. Shop the eclectic boutiques. Enjoy a candlelit meal at the Brandywine Estate Restaurant, known for its sweeping views. Rest and reenergize at Frenchmans, a private estate with villas near Sopers Hole on the island’s west end.
Comprised of stunning white, sandy beaches, Virgin Gorda is the perfect spot if you seek a relaxing getaway. While the laid-back island has a main road connecting the north and south, one of the best ways to travel is by boat. Take time to acquaint yourself with The Baths National Park, which features dramatic rock formations made of giant boulders that form sea grottoes and tranquil pools. Hike in Virgin Gorda Peak National Park. Snorkel along the coral caverns at Nail Bay Beach on the island’s northern tip. Take your yacht to nearby Saba Rock for a unique dining experience in the Lounge. Check into the Owner’s Compound at the Bitter End Yacht Club, a popular hangout among the nautically inclined.
About 14 miles north of Virgin Gorda, Anegada is a flat atoll made of limestone and coral that is 28 feet above sea level at its highest point. More than 300 captains have run their boats into the surrounding reefs since the late 1400s, requiring bareboat charters to have specially trained skippers. The maritime challenge is precisely what attracts visitors to the island. One of the most popular spots to investigate the reefs is Loblolly Bay Beach on the north shore. The illuminating experience is perfect for beginners thanks to calm, shallow waters and reefs that are just feet from the shoreline. As you tour the island, check out the flamingos in the salt ponds. Then grab a bite at Neptune’s Treasure, a family-owned and –operated restaurant that serves fresh seafood. If spending the night, the villa at Lavenda Breeze offers one of the best accommodations on the island.
Jost Van Dyke
A small island northwest of Tortola, Jost Van Dyke is a favorite destination among day hoppers for its rugged, lush terrain and lively watering holes. Take a 15-minute hike to the Bubbly Pool on the island’s east side to see Jacuzzi-like bubbles form when the water swells. Immerse yourself in the island’s Caribbean charm at Great Harbour Beach. If you’re tired of eating seafood, go to Corsairs Beach Bar and Restaurant, which is well-liked for its pizza and hearty breakfast options. If staying overnight, consider booking one of the secluded, privately owned villas at the Sandy Ground Estates, which require a boat to access.
Notable Locations in the British Virgin Islands
- Beef Island: Great views of the surrounding islands; shop for local crafts in Trellis Bay
- Marina Cay, Scrub Island, and Bellamy Cay: Private and semi-private islands known for their lavish amenities, spas and colorful histories
- Norman Island: The inspiration for Treasure Island, Norman Island is rich with wrecks, caves and hidden bays
- Peter Island: The largest private island in the archipelago with majestic views and excellent spa treatments
- Cooper Island: A favorite among divers for its purposefully sunk wrecks