A Catamaran Charter Adventure: Tortola

A Catamaran Charter Adventure: Tortola

The Spanish named it “land of the turtle doves” for its shape and beauty. For anyone that has had a chance to visit the largest island in the BVI chain while on a catamaran charter, they would agree that Tortola is aptly named. From its spectacular beaches, to its protected anchorages, to the incredible vistas atop Mount Sage to the series of lesser ridges undulating and spilling with hairpin turns to the azure blue sea below, gold coast clear carts to the centuries-old ruins to the hustle and bustle of the BVI’s capital, Road Town – the twenty square mile volcanic island of Tortola has something for everyone. Tortola is the sailing capital of the Caribbean.

There are no fewer than 12 bareboat companies, more than 800 bareboat yachts, several dozen crewed yachts, water sports rental companies, 5 scuba companies and about a dozen marinas all based on Tortola. For those on a catamaran charter, Tortola is an ideal point from which to explore the other British Virgin Islands. With so much centered on cruising and the sea, cheap guns for sale many visitors do no realize that Tortola offers a variety of fun adventures onshore as well. In fact, most people fly into Beef Island or get off the ferry at West End, hop on a catamaran charter and spend their entire vacation exploring some of the smaller neighboring islands without ever experiencing Tortola. So, let’s begin…

The Scenic Drives

A really incredible way to experience the breathtaking beauty of Tortola is to simply drive around. The sheer descents, hairpin turns, and driving on the left make driving on Tortola an adventure in itself. For the less adventuresome, hire a taxi. The fares are reasonable, and the friendly drivers provide a wealth of local knowledge. There are basically two main roads in Tortola. One follows the mountain ridges and the other the coast with many smaller tributaries spilling off of them- most notably, the North Coast Road.

The spectacular Ridge Road, with its breathtaking views, follows the central spine of Tortola. An ever changing terrain of ridges and valleys appear in succession as the road follows the contour line of the central range- dipping through “ghuts” or stream valleys and ascending slopes to reach the next peak. Vistas show peaks from Tortola’s ocean headlands and outlying islands of Great Camanoe and Guana Island. The scenic drive slowly wraps around the “amphitheater” created by Road Town Harbour. The islands across the Sir Frances Drake Channel can be seen in the distance. The most level part of the road is at the top of the mountain where you will see Tortola’s rural and pastoral culture. A turn-off goes down to Cane Garden Bay and still further on, another turn-off goes up to Mt. Sage National Park. Ridge Road finally dips to the North Beach Coast.

The Coastal Road snakes along the outer perimeter of the southern shore along Tortola’s Sir Frances Drake Channel from the Beef Island airport on the East End to Soper’s Hole on the West End, connecting several charming rural communities in between. The route is split in two sections by Road Town in the middle. Blackburn’s Highway is the section from East End. It passes Fat Hog’s Bay, Maya Cove and other bays over a series of ridges looking out to Virgin Gorda. The route then comes into Road Town where it is called Waterfront Drive. The section past Road Town is called Drake’s Highway. Passing the nautical village of Nanny Cay, this is the flattest and low-lying stretch of road on Tortola. You will enjoy picturesque views to the other islands across the Sir Frances Drake Channel. A turn-off at Zion Hill Road leads to the North Beach Coast, but if you continue on, you will reach Soper’s Hole.

The dramatic North Beach Coast Road takes you to the finest beaches and greatest surfing sites on Tortola. The road offers panoramic views of Cane Garden Bay before descending steeply to this beautiful and popular anchorage. It then ascends out of Cane Garden Bay through woods to Windy Hill. The route then drops again into Great Carrot Bay, a coastal fishing village. This area is known for its incredible cloud formations as the trade winds lift over Tortola’s mountainous spine, often dropping localized rain showers and sprouting brilliant rainbows. The road continues past several bays. At this point, more site visit:-https://ferall.si/ the route is called Long Bay Road for its panoramic views of Long Bay Beach. The road continues to climb to Belmont Point, where you will find the entrance to cozy Smuggler’s Cove and the end of this road.

The Main Settlements

Another thing to do is explore the three main settlement areas on Tortola, namely, Road Town, West End and East End.

The majority of the island’s inhabitants live in Road Town, either downtown, along the outskirts, or in the hills above the harbour. The capital is brimming with restaurants, shops and is the site for the hospital, government administration offices and official Governor’s house. The large, beautiful harbour at Road Town has for centuries provided shelter for fleets of English, Dutch, Spanish and French ships. Today, it is a busy center of island life and marine activity with charter boats, cruise and cargo ships. The inner harbour is formed by two large island jetties. Wickman’s Cay on the right adjoins the Main Street area, while Wickham’s Cay II on the left comprises the Moorings charter complex. Running parallel to the water is the somewhat touristy Waterfront Drive with its bars, restaurants, shops and markets. A few steps to the west, you will find picturesque Main Street lined with brightly painted 200 year old wooden and stone buildings- a peep into the BVI’s architectural past. The many historic buildings and churches, charming cafes and curio shops cater mostly to locals. It is a great place to look for local arts and crafts, handcrafted jewelry, clothing and silk-screened fabrics, as well as local spices, jams and rum.

The west end of the island, with its main settlement, West End, is home to Tortola’s resorts, an abundance of excellent beaches and fun night life including the infamous full moon parties at Bomba’s Shack. Many people on a catamaran charter take the ferry to and from St. Thomas and go through BVI customs at West End. Across the ferry dock is a popular anchorage called Soper’s Hole with its charming West Indian architecture. Soper’s Hole has a quaint collection of shops and restaurants, as well as the beautiful Harbour Market. This market has a large selection, good prices, deli and gourmet items, as well as general provisions for chartering.

Although not very developed, East End, on the eastern side of Tortola, has its own attractions and activities to delight visitors. Beef Island, just a short bridge span over the tip of Tortola is home to the T.B. Lettsome Airport, and adjacent to it is the sailboat-filled Trellis Bay. There are several good bars and restaurants in this unique cultural village, which is a very laid-back beach hangout. You can visit Aragorn Studios where artist Aragorn makes copper and steel sculptures and wood-cut print hand painted t-shirts. You can also purchase Carib-made crafts. This is also the place to be for family-oriented full moon parties. Local ferries are available to take you to nearby Bellamy Cay (home of the Last Resort Restaurant) and tiny Marina Cay (former home of author Robb White and now Pusser’s Porch Restaurant).

National Parks

The BVI National Parks Trust currently manages 17 national parks. These include 16 land parks and 1 marine park (the Wreck of the Rhone). Four of the national parks are found right on Tortola.

Sage Mountain National Park encompasses the highest point of a ridge running east/west along the spine of Tortola. The elevation of the park ranges from 750′ at the western end to 1,780′ at Mt. Sage, which is the highest point in both the US and British Virgin Islands. Most of the park is above 1,000′ and supports some forest species associated with the rainforest in Puerto Rico. The park is laid out with graveled hiking paths throughout.

Mount Healthy National Park is located above Brewer’s Bay. The park was the site of the original Anderson Estate, a sugar plantation dating back to 1798. The ruins of the Mount Healthy windmill are the only one of its kind remaining in the BVI. The windmill was used to crush sugar cane and produce cane juice for rum production. Nearby, there are other remains believed to be from the boiling house and Overseer’s Quarters. The park overlooks the north shore of Tortola.

The J.R. O’Neal Botanic Gardens are located on the site of the old Agricultural Experiment Station, where food crops and other plants were grown experimentally and for propagation for almost 100 years. Named after the territory’s leading conservationist, the gardens offer a delightful haven from the hustle and bustle of Road Town. Visitors will find over 62 species of palms, an impressive cacti collection, and an excellent display of rainforest flora.

Queen Elizabeth II National Park is located on the seaward side of McNamara Road in Road Town. This park is an attractive place for relaxation and recreation. The park is actually divided into 2 parts: a playground and a grassy lawn fringed by native trees. It is a popular place for picnics. On the eastern end of the park are the remains of the 19th century Customs building.


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