I never figured out why these islands are called Virgin Islands, but the British Virgin Islands are barely any different to the USVI’s. They are equally beautiful, full of more beautiful beaches, a little pricy, plagued by cruise ships and a lot of boaters and ex-pats escaping the colder north. They’re all connected by ferries, and at points, you could almost swim from the US to the UK without anyone noticing.
Matt from NYC was my new travel buddy, replacing Ursula, now back in NYC. We ferried from St. Thomas to Tortola with a Quebecois couple who was renting a sailboat in Tortola and sailing around the virgin islands for 5 weeks. We settled for our less impressive plan to take public ferries around the islands for 5 days.
In Tortola, we stayed at the Ole Works Inn, a plantation restored into a hotel in Cane Garden Bay. The beach was lined with restaurants and small hotels, where you could find local Anegada lobster and fresh snapper. Though its caught locally, only tourists seem to eat any seafood, and the locals eat BBQ, so we tried some saucy ribs and wings too, but stayed touristy by pairing it with a bottle of champagne that could have paid for my entire BVI visit (thanks Matt!).
On the west end, we stayed at the Jolly Roger, a pub with 5 rooms above the restaurant for rent. We explored the harbor and stumbled into an eerie shipyard, scattered with shipwreck parts, the skeletons of boats in disrepair, and one sunken, rusted ship. We found a make-shift bar built with drift wood fully stocked with countless bottles of rum, but no one around to drink them. We didn’t dare disturb the place, in case some haunted pirate popped up. Just a mile away was Sopers Hole marina, full of shiny new boats I couldn’t imagine anyone abandoning, where we ate the best seafood pasta (pronounced pah-stah, not with that awful American drawl) I’ve ever had.
We only went to Road Town (the capital) for ferry transfers, but found a fresh fruit smoothie stand there that I’d consider going back to just to have another one. We ferried to Jost Van Dyke, home of famous Foxy’s beach bar – the alleged birthplace of the painkiller cocktail. We drank bushwhackers and painkillers on White Bay beach, someplace stolen straight from a picture perfect postcard of the ultimate Caribbean destination.
Josiah’s bay was another dreamy beach, a lazier beach, with a handful of people lying around the only 2 buildings there. Both are restaurants, and one serves a mean chicken roti, and the rest of the coast is deserted for little kids to practice surfing. They caught waves better than I’ll ever learn how to, and it makes me wish I grew up playing in the Caribbean waves with a sun-kissed tan and a 6 pack at age 10.
We daytripped to Virgin Gorda, to see BVI’s number one attraction, “the baths.” I saw pictures and read about this place so many times before actually figuring out what it was, but basically, it’s a beach covered in massive boulder rocks, that you can climb over and through caves, or swim between and snorkel above. Our ferry almost murdered all its passengers with carbon dioxide poisoning as the passenger seating area completely filled with boat exhaust, but we made it, and didn’t even get seasick. Our taxi was flyered with 2002 tourist pamhplets and a roll of kitchen towels that had probably remained unopened for ten years too, but no one seemed to care, much less the driver.
Leaving Beef Island International Airport for St. Martin was almost painless, except when security insisted I buy a 25cent ziplock bag to store my chapstick and sublock in. We had to leave the security checkpoint to buy one in the airport terminal, and come back through security, strip down and unpack everything onto the conveyor belt, at exactly the same moment when another woman came through security with sunscreen. I watched the security inspector pick it up, put it back in her purse, and wave her through. What’s up with that? So I left Beef Island with some beef… pun intended 😛