About Tortola beaches
Tortola is the largest of the British Virgin Islands and was once a favourite haunt of Edward Teach, aka Blackbeard the Pirate. These days it attracts lovers of lush landscape, gentle breezes, pristine beaches and sheltered bays. Erupting from the sea, undulating, verdant landscape is dotted with colourful homes, sometimes bumpy roads and often roosters whose main job is to signal the dawn. Reefs and wrecks lie within the clear waters and hidden coves. Tortola is less glitzy than the other Caribbean islands with no casinos, high-rise hotels or crowded shorelines: just some of the best sailing, diving and fishing in the Caribbean.
Most of Tortola’s white sand beaches are accessible by car, but hiring a four-wheel drive is preferable in order to navigate the many winding, bumpy roads. Arching around bays and coves, some beaches are secluded, while others are lined with bars and water sport outfitters. The long stretch of sand on Long Bay (Beef Island) is the perfect place for snorkelling or a romantic sunset walk. Apple Bay Beach, just over the hill from Long Bay, is a surfer paradise. Restaurants and bars line the funky Cane Garden Bay on the north shore. It was the inspiration for Jimmy Buffett’s ‘Cheeseburger in Paradise’ and many consider it the best beach on the island. Try snorkelling at Brewers Bay, just over a steep hill from Cane Garden Bay.
Beyond the beach:
At Sage Mountain National Park, the trail to the summit (523m/1,716ft) offers spectacular views, plus a small rainforest with lush foliage and majestic trees. Wander around the botanic gardens or the island’s old ruins. The Dungeon, Fort Burt, Fort Recovery and Mount Healthy Windmill National Park are several hundred years old.
For the family who enjoys the outdoors, Tortola is the place to go. Sail, snorkel, hike or swim with the dolphins at Dolphin Discovery (Prospect Reef Resort, Road Town). The observation tower at Skyworld (Ridge Road) reveals a 360-degree view of the surrounding islands and cays. On a clear day, you can even see St Croix.
Set sail and explore some of the BVI’s 60 other islands. There is good snorkelling at Virgin Gorda’s Baths, a labyrinth of granite boulders that lead to the sea. Talk about laid back, at Jost Van Dyke the main street is the beach and is known as the ‘party island’. Foxie strums improvised tunes, often incorporating the audience into his lyrics, at his lean-to bar. Discover Anegada, where reef-protected waters are awash with rainbow-coloured fish and just walking distance from shore.
The proximity of the British Virgin Islands, plus the calm waters that encirle them makes the BVI a world-class sailing destination. Explore the islands with a hired boat and captain, or, if you know how to sail, charter a launch and go off on your own. One of the places where you want to lay anchor is the uninhabited Norman Island. It was the inspiration for Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island.