Now that I'm gearing up to go on my next vacation, I'm finally getting around to writing about our last vacation. Back in April, Nick and I went sailing around the British Virgin Islands with Nick's family. His brother chartered the sail boat- he was the captain and the rest of us were the crew for 10 days. While I could recap the entire vacation, minute by minute, I figured I'd save time and energy on everyone's part and just hit some of the highlights.
Best Spots To Visit For A Few Hours
There are a bunch of spots within the British Virgin Islands that you can hop around to and moor for a few hours, however overnight mooring is not allowed. Of those, I thought two spots were extra memorable:
The Baths are at the southern tip of Virgin Gorda. This fun little area is made up of rock formations that create interesting passage ways and caves along the beach. We had a lot of fun exploring this area. Be warned though, there are some tight spots and the wet rocks can get slippery when climbing over them. You can only bring your dinghy in so close to the beach before you have to moor it and swim in. The tide was extremely strong the day we visited the baths. If you aren't a strong swimmer or have kiddos with you, I recommend wearing fins or a life vest to get ashore. We swam with sandals on, but in retrospect, they ended up being more of a pain and we could have walked around barefoot.
If someone was only spending a day in the British Virgin Islands, I would tell them that they HAVE to go to the Indians. The Indians is a small archipelago off of Pelican Island, not too far from Norman Island. The way these little islands formed created an amazing environment for all kinds of marine life. The snorkeling at this spot was AMAZING!! I'm getting giddy just writing about it... 3 months after the fact! The pictures that we have don't even begin to do this area justice. The archipelago was jam packed when we arrived, but after hovering for five minutes or so, another boat untied from their mooring ball and we were able to pull on up and park the boat. It was definitely worth waiting and hovering. If is particularly crowed when you go, make a pass or two until someone starts to untie their boat. You won't regret it!
Best Spots To Moor Overnight
Really you can't go wrong in the British Virgin Islands. It's all beautiful and you will catch the most amazing sunsets everywhere, but here are my favorite spots that we moored at.
Marina Cay was where we stayed at for our first night at sea. It's situated between Great Camanoe and Scrub Island. Being in close proximity to these other islands gave this spot lots of greenery to contrast the turquoise water. One of my favorite parts of Marina Cay is the random British-style phone booth next to the fuel station. It was an interesting juxtaposition for Caribbean architecture next to something ironically British... but I guess that's part of the charm of the BRITISH Virgin Islands.
Saba Rock- Virgin Gorda- Prickly Pear Island
We ended up staying at Saba Rock two nights. Saba Rock is a tiny little island situated between Virgin Gorda and Prickly Pear Island. Saba Rock has a swanky hotel/resort on it and that's pretty much it. I took full advantage of their uber fancy restroom next to the gift shop. Let's just say sailboat plumbing isn't the fanciest and when we had the opportunity to use a really nice and super clean bathroom, I jumped on it!
If you end up mooring here, be sure to take your dinghy over to the Saba Rock Resort to watch the Tarpon fish feeding at 5:00. Get yourself a happyhour drink at the bar and find a spot in the crowd to see the fish go crazy for dinner! Those suckers are huge!
If you are missing the big city life, head over to the Bitter End on Virgin Gorda. While it's not a big city, a few shops and restaurants along a paved pedestrian path sure make it feel like you are in an "urban" environment.
And for a remote experience, swim over to Prickly Pear Island. Prickly Pear is a national park with 180 acres of mangroves and beautiful beaches. On the Saba Rock side, the beach was covered in conch shells, which was a really fun site to see. From Saba Rock, if you walk across Prickly Pear to the top of the foot (if you look at the island is a calve and foot) you can see Richard Branson's island, Necker Island. It's past the island pictured in the corner below (Eustatia Island)
Bright Bay- Norman Island
Norman Island was our very last island and it definitely did not disappoint! Bright Bay is home to the famous Willy T's, however, this isn't really my scene. In stark contrast to this crazy party boat off to one corner of Bright Bay, this spot was one of the most relaxing and picturesque areas to moor at. I don't really have a bunch of words to describe it. Rather, it gave me lots of feeling of peace, tranquility, and beauty. What more can you ask for?
Best Dining Spots
Dining in the British Virgin Islands is pricey and the meals are hit or miss. While the pricing was fairly consistent every where we went, the quality varied significantly. When describing it to friends and family after we got back home, there were places in the BVI that we would pay equally as much here at home and get equally as delicious of a meal and there were other places where we were paying for a five-star dinner and basically eating at a fast food chain. Buffets seem to be a common thing in the BVI, too, but if you can skip the buffet and order off the menu, I suggest that. Here is a list of the places that I would recommend:
Pusser's- Marina Cay
Pusser's is actually a chain, so you may have seen it in other parts of the Caribbean. They had this delicious banana bread that we managed to get extra of and bring it back on the boat to have for breakfast the next morning. A few months after the fact, I can't remember what I had- many a grilled shrimp dish? But I remember Nick has the lobster mac 'n cheese, which was rich and wonderful!
Pirates Bight- Norman Island
Out of everywhere we ate on this trip, Pirates Bight was hands down, my favorite restaurant. I was having GI issues the entire trip (and for nearly 2 months afterward until I found out that I had a strain of e coli), but I didn't let that get me down at Pirates Bight. I had the fish special, which was delicious, and everyone else truly enjoyed their meal. There was also a live band and everyone else in the group danced for a several songs while I lounged on one of the beach chairs (again, overall not feeling so hot) and watched the water gently lap on the shore. This was definitely a special spot spend our last night!
Fat Virgin Café- Virgin Gorda
Fat Virgin Café came as a recommendation from the local who got us squared away on our sailboat, I believe. From Saba Rock, we took the dinghy due south to Virgin Gorda and pulled right up to the dock. We ate lunch on one of the brightly colored picnic tables while enjoying the shade and beautiful view. We were hoping to go into the adjoining boutique, but unfortunately it was closed.
The Crawl Pub- Virgin Gorda
For a taste of something a little less island-y and a little more American (or Italian, rather), Crawl Pub on Virgin Gorda had pretty decent pizza. Nick and I shared a really tasty salad and pizza. Unfortunately they don't have a website so I can't link to them, but it was change of pace from all the fresh fish and tropical fares.
Whistling Pines- Anagada
Anagada is particularly known for their lobsters. And when I say lobsters, I'm not talking about the typical lobsters in the US that generally come from Maine or other parts of New England. No, these are humungous lobsters. Nick and I spotted one crawling around while we were snorkeling the first day and literally, it was the size of a medium size dog. Okay, maybe the snorkel mask distorted it some and it was at the sea floor so our perspective may have been off, but really guys, it was HUGE!
Anyway, back to dinner at Anagada. So, when in Anagada, you have to have the lobster. We walked up and down the beachfront until someone with some entrepreneurial spirit persuaded us to make reservations at Whistling Pines. When you make your reservations, you have to put in what you want to eat that evening. All the adults got lobster in one form or another. My sister-in-law and I both ordered the lobster curry, which ended up being the favorite at the table. The other two lobster options were a half grilled lobster or a whole grilled lobster. For non-lobster eaters, they have other options as well. One of my nieces had the steak and reported that it was delicious and was her favorite meal on the trip (and she is a finicky eater). In addition to whichever lobster selection you make, they bring you a few family-style sides to share at the table. This was probably my second favorite meal of the trip. To top it off, the entire feast took place on the beach, so I kicked off my sandals and let me toes graze through the sand.
Harris' Place- Jost Van Dyke
The owner, Harris's daughter, lured us in with her charismatic personality and willingness to make a deal- a true business woman! Like Whistling Pines, this was another feast. I don't remember exactly what I ordered, but I know every meal came with soup, salad, a side, and dessert. I was definitely stuffed to the max after eating at Harris' Place!
Best Bakery & Delicatessen
Like I mentioned above, food is pricey in the BVI, so it's wise to get some supplies at the grocery store before you set sail. In addition to the normal grocery store, we found a little French bakery near the charter company before we set sail. La Baguette on Tortola is a little shop, but they have all sorts of fun provisions to make snacking on the sailboat extra special. We stocked up on baked goods to have for the first breakfast or two at sea as well as an assortment of meats and cheeses to graze on at lunch and cocktail hour. We even went back on our very last day, after arriving back at Tortola to return our sailboat. While La Baguette wasn't cheap by any means, it wasn't unreasonable and we got plenty of tasty treats that lasted almost the entire trip.
And just for kicks, here are a few more pictures from the trip. We kept a journal of tips and recommendations on what to bring and not bring for future reference and to share with friends, so if I get motivated and coordinate with my in-laws, I'll do a follow up post with those tips!