Virgin Gorda, British Virgin Islands
Virgin Gorda, British Virgin Islands
Virgin Gorda is the third-largest and second most populous island in the British Virgin Islands. It is a small island, about 8 square miles, it is still not over-commercialized and has only a few resorts and villas. Christopher Columbus is said to have named the island “The Fat Virgin,” because the island’s profile on the horizon looks like a fat woman lying on her side.
The main town is Spanish Town on the southwestern part of the island.
An unusual geologic formation known as “The Baths,” located on the southern end of the island, makes Virgin Gorda one of the BVI’s major tourist destinations. At The Baths, the beach shows evidence of the island’s volcanic origins, as huge granite boulders lie in piles on the beach, forming scenic grottoes that are open to the sea. North of The Baths is the Virgin Gorda Yacht Harbor, Formerly owned by Little Dix Bay.
We realize traveling to Virgin Gorda can be an adventure and that is one of the reasons we chose it as the location for our vacation home.
Most commercial airlines fly into either San Juan, Puerto Rico or St. Thomas USVI. Once you arrive at either of these destinations there are several options to choose from.
From San Juan
To fly directly into Virgin Gorda.
There are two small commercial flight options. These are very small planes and luggage weight is limited.
Cape Air is the recommended carrier based on our experience, you can view their website here.
Air Sunshine is also an option and van be viewed here.
Fly to Tortola, Beef Island and take a ferry.
There are three small commercial flight options and then a 15 minute ferry to Virgin Gorda.
Seaborne is the recommended carrier based on the larger size of the aircraft and reliable schedule, but may not work with all the connections through San Juan. To view details visit Seaborne Airlines online.
Cape Air is your next best option and details can be seen here.
Air Sunshine is more reliable to Beef Island than to Virgin Gorda, you can visit them online here.
To view ferry schedules, please visit Best of BVI.
There are also charter flights and private water transfers that can be arranged as well.
From St. Thomas
The only airline that flies from St. Thomas to Virgin Gorda is Air Sunshine.
A variety of ferry services/schedules are available depending on the day you arrive. To view ferry schedules, please visit Best of BVI.
You may also arrange for private water transfers or charter flights.
There are several companies that rent cars and jeeps for the day or by the week. They will meet you with the vehicle at the fery terminal or airport upon arrival or they will bring the vehicle to the villa. Two locally owned companies that we recommend are:
L&S Jeep Rental
Mahogany Car Rentals
If you choose not to rent a vehicle you will need to take a taxi from either the ferry dock or the airport. The number for Mahagony Taxi service is (284) 540-4198 or (284) 341-5750
Our consierge will be there either way to greet you and show you your way to Batu. Then it’s time to relax.
Listed from closest to furthest from Batu.
The Baths – 370M, 5 Minute Walk – Within the Baths National Park, Small but dramatic with huge boulders being part of the landscape. The crawl, which is a trail filled with salt water baths that lead to Devil’s Bay, is the big attraction along with the boulders, of course. Check with teh park ranger at the entrance to see what day is the least crowded. You don’t want to be there on the days the cruise ship passengers visit.
Devil’s Bay – 400M, 5 Minute walk if you don’t go through the crawl – Within the Baths National Park, this is a beautiful picturesqu beach with dramatic views and decent snorkeling if the seas are calm enough.
Spring Bay – 900M, 8 minute walk toward Spanish Town – One of the best beaches on the island, Spring Bay is much larger than the Baths with better snorkeling. It is never crowded and is our go to beach on Virgin Gorda.
Little Trunk Bay – 1.2KM, 15 minute walk right next to Spring Bay – This is a secluded almost hidden beach, as there is only access from the sea or by taking an unmarked trail that you can find just to the right as you hit the beach at Spring Bay. Rarely is there anyone on this beach as it is usually only used by the few villas that are nearby. Good snorkeling.
Big Trunk Bay – 1.2KM, 15 minute walk right next to Little Trunk Bay – Once again, this is a hidden beach that rarely has anyone on it. Access is all the way hidden at the end of Little Trunk Bay via a knotted rope and short steep incline. It is worth the trek. You will feel like you are the only people on Vigin Gorda.
Little Dix Bay – 4KM, 10 minute drive – Part of the Rosewood Little Dix Resort originally built by Laurance S. Rockafeller in 1964, this is probably the calmest beach on the island. It is very large with a natural barrier reef. This is a beach to visit when you want to be pampered and don’t mind paying for it.
Savannah Bay – 5.7KM, 13 minute drive – This is the longest beach on the island and also one of our go to spots for snorkeling and a picnic lunch. There are reefs on both the right and left sides. Decent surf depending on sea conditions, very good snorkeling and has shallow conditions a good distance from the shoreline. Sundays the locals usually do a cook out and sell goat water stew along with other island favorites.
Mahoe Bay – 7.1KM, 16 minute drive – Accessed through the Mahoe Bay villa community. Not as secluded as some of the other beaches as it has villas built close to the shoreline. It is pretty and is usually a bit calmer than Savannah depending on sea conditions.
Nail Bay – 9.5KM, 20 minute drive – Accessed through Nail Bay villa community. More secluded than Mahoe Bay but harder to get to. Decent snorkeling.
Long Bay – 10.1KM, 23 minute drive – Accessed at the end of the Nail Bay villa community. This is a very secluded beach with great snorkeling along the natural reef to the right as you enter the beach.
Prickly Pear Island – 12KM, 25 minute drive including a boat ride- Located on an uninhabited island with a great little beach bar called the Sand Box Bar & Grill. Not great for snorkeling unless you are looking for conch and star fish which are abundant to the left of the dock as you swim toward Saba Rock.
Diving and Snorkeling
There is great snorkeling from many of the beaches listed, but if you want to get off the island or do some diving we recommend using Dive BVI which is the premier dive operatr on the island. They have well trained and friendly staff and offer a variety of dive site options. To view dive sites visit here.
Private Boat Charter
There is nothing better than having your very own boat and captain for the day to go wherever you want in the BVI. We recommend Joe Standish, Captain and owner of Patouche Charters. His trips are geared more for snorkeling, island hopping or sailing and depending on your interests, he offers the following packages. Which can also be viewed here.
Norman Island and Jost Van Dyke
Boat: 36′ Power Cat “Maverick”
Max Passengers: 16
Time: 9:30 AM – 4:00 PM
Includes: Captain, snorkel gear, water/soda, beer, rum punch, fuel
Departure Location: Virgin Gorda Yacht Harbor
Itinerary: One of the “must do” trips while here in the beautiful British Virgin Islands is to plan a visit to 2 of our most famous islands. Norman Island, inspiration for the book “Treasure Island” and the only location in the entire Virgin Islands that has documented evidence of treasure being found. Snorkel at either “The Caves” or “The Indians” weather contingent and after snorkeling to your hearts content it is time to boards “Maverick,” grab a cold drink then it’s off to JVD.
Jost Van Dyke, the birthplace of the infamous Pain Killer at The Soggy Dollar Bar. SDB is located at White Bay. Meet “Old Timer” Mick the bartender who has been a fixture since its opening. His smile is contagious and he has a tool belt of knowledge. Just wait and see, you will understand when you meet him. After joining the Pain Killer Club, playing the Ring Game and lunch at SDB you can dig your toes in the sand, float in the crystal clear blue water or walk down the beach to One Love and have another infamous island cocktail, the Bush Wacker!!! You will spend the afternoon at White Bay, relaxing in a hammock or any of the numerous beach chairs. After the excitement of Jost, you will re-board “Maverick” and head back to Batu arriving back around 4pm.
Boat: 50′ Voyage Saling Catamaran “McKenzie Elin III”
Max Passengers: 8 plus Captain
Price: $5,000 – $6,000 w/Captain
Includes: Captain, drinks, 2 meals a day, snorkel gear and of course our personal attention
Departs from: Virgin Gorda Yacht Harbor
Itinerary: One of the most relaxing ways to explore the BVI is on your own Overnight Charter with an experienced Patouche Captain. We currently offer “McKenzie Elin” our luxery 50′ Voyage Sailing Catamaran for weekly charters. “Mckenzie Elin” offers 4 queen cabins and 4 heads for 8 guests or 4 couples and our captain. The salon area has a large seating area, open gallery and navigation station, all with excellent visibility. “McKenzie Elin” has cold A/C throughour. Your captain will provide breakfast and lunch onboard as well as a welcome aboard dinner of “Surf and Turf”. Normal itineraries are Anegada and the North Sound, or Norman Island and Jost Van Dyke(or anything in between, we are very flexible). So for an unforgettable weekend exploring the BVI, give Patouche a call, you will know why our motto is “Come as guests..Leave as friends…”
Sailing, Kiteboarding and Wind Surfing
The Bitter End Yacht Club is the premier water sports spot on the island and offers a variety of sailing school options tailored to the novice or to your individual preference.
The Virgin Islands are not known for deep sea fishing but that is most likely because travelers come here for the sailing, beaches and relaxing. If fishing is your thing we recommend Ocean Surfari Charters for the die hard angler.
Boats and Dingy’s can be rented ar the Leverick Bay Resort Marina and is a fun way to explore the North Sound for the day. View Details
Keep in mind this is a small island so there is not a whole lot to do other than relax and enjoy the ocean. If you really feel the need to have a cultural, historical, or hiking experience, we have listed a few options below.
The Copper Mine – 3.8KM, 9 minute drive – A national park containing the ruins of an abandoned 19th century copper mine. Local legends suggest the shafts were dug by Spanish adventurers to mine silver in the late 15th century, but no documentary evidence can be found to support this theory, and no firm evidence of Spanish occupation of the islands prior to the Dutch settlement exists, mnuch less the size of settlement which would be needed to sink shafts.
After the islands came under British control, the Copper Mine was contructed in 1837 and its first shaft was sunk in 1838. In two separate periods over the next 24 years, 36 Cornish miners extracted ore from this site with the aid of some 140 British Virgin Islands workmen. The ore which was extracted was sent by road to Spanish Town (the largest settlement and harbor on Virgin Gorda) along Coppermine road(originally built by the miners), and then by ship to Wales and; on the return trip the ships would carry provisions, wood for construction, wages for the workers, and coal with which to power their steam engine.
The mine was abandoned in 1862 and was never reopened. Parts of the original stack, the engine house, and the main building are all that remain. Several of the Cornish miners started families with the native women and there are descendants living in the Virgin Islands to this day.
for more details visit BVI Tourism
Gorda Peak – 9.2KM, 16 minute drive – The highest point on Virgin Gorda at 1,370 ft. Gorda Peak is located on the northwestern ridge, south of North Sound and north of Soldier Bay. Donated by Laurence Rockafeller in 1974, Gorda Peak is one of the last remaining examples of Caribbean dry forest in the region, which makes it a high priority for conservation internationally.
Research conducted by the National Parks Trust through the Darwin Initiative Program revealed regionally restricted and endangered plant species, including Calptranthese Thomasiana and Zanthoxylum Thomasiana, both of which are on the US Federal Endangered Species list.
The vegitation types found within the Park varies with the elevation, from dry scrub forest to a moister forest at higher elevations. Many of the plants have adapted to these dry conditions and produce small waxy leaves that reduce evaporation, allowing them to retain as much water as possible. Gorda Peal is also home to the world’s smallest lizard, the endemic Virgin Gorda gecko(Sphaerodactylus Rarthenopion).
Following trails that lead to the lookout tower at the Peak, hikers are rewarded with a panoramic view of the BVI, particularly the popular anchorage at North Sound. On a clear day Anegada is visible on the horizon to the northeast. A picnic site is conveniently placed under a large mango tree(Mangifera Indica) at the junction of the east and west trails, attracting zebra butterflies and Antillean Crested Hummingbirds(Orthorhynus Cristatus). More deatails
Marine Life – Coral Reefs, and their sister habitats, seagrass meadows and mangroves, are home to over 25 percent of all marine life and yet are one of the most fragile and endangered ecosystems in the world. The BVI is rich in reef assets, having over 300,000 acres of seagrass in the BVI, which in turn hosts 340 marine species that graze on these meadows and depend upon them for their foor source. There is a living, breathing, coral ecosystem in our midst, and all you need to do to experience it is a mask and some flippers.
A few Resources for you:
Flora – Virgin Gorda is a semi-tropical island, neither lush nor overly dry. The mountain sides are covered for much of the year in a thick green carpet of tropical trees, bushes and scrub. Most prevalent of these trees is the wild tamarind, a hardy tree that needs little moisture and has deep roots.
Also covering the hillsides are fields of tall guinea grass, upon which goats feed; as well as wild and fragrant frangipani trees and turpentine trees(locally referred to as tourist trees because of their red and peeling trunks). On dryer areas of the island, there are many varieties of cactus and succulents, including Turks Head, Pipe Organ and Prickly Pear. The Century Plant, a massive succulent with tall, spikey leaves puts out a lofty stalk which can reach 40 feet and contains pods of yellow flowers. Each plant blooms only every eight years but in the spring you will see dozens of the plants adorning the hillsides. The White Cedar, which when in blossom has delicate white or pink flowers, is indigenous to the BVI and is the territoy’s national tree. Fruit trees can also be seen throughout the islands in both groves and in the gardens. The breadfruit, a large shady tree, has a large green fruit that is used as a starchy side dish when cooked; banana trees are seen in the valleys and along the mountainsides, as are mangoes, whose succulent fruit is popular here. Another prevalent tree is the papaya, a fast growing plant whose oblong fruit is a lovely yellow-apricot shade when ripe, but is also boiled when still green and eaten as a vegetable. Sugar apples, guavaberry and soursops are other fruit trees that flourish here.
A great variety of colorful tropical flowers are found in Virgin Gorda gardens, including hibiscus in delicate shades of red, pink, and even yellow; purple and pink bougainvillea; scarlet flamboyant and yellow allamanda. Two of the most highly fragrant flowers found here are those belonging to the jasmine, and frangipani.
Some more resources for you to continue reasearching:
BVI Tourism – Flora/Fauna Gallery
BVI Newbi – Flora/Fauna
VInow – Plants and Animals
Fauna – Some of the creatures that you mat come across on the Virgin Gorda can seem both strange and wonderful. Among the fascinating array of reptiles and birds found is the Green Iguana, which is primarily found around the Virgin Gorda’s North Sound and on Peter Island. There are also a large variety of lizards including anoles and geckos, and small tree frogs, known for their melodic chirping call. The islands only wild mammal is the mongoose which was introduced to BVI in the 1800s.
Among our most common birds are the Green-throated Carib, a small iridescent hummingbird; the delicate yellow and black Bananaquita and the American Kestrel, a falcon that can be seen soaring over the islands’ valleys in search of prey. There are also several doves, including the Ground Dove and the Zenaida. Tortola is named after this small bird which means dove in Spanish. When sailing, or at the beach, you will see a number of sea birds, the most spectacular of which is the Magnificent Frigate, whose wing span can reach eight feet. There are also plenty of Laughing Gulls, Brown Boobies and the comical and clumsy Brown Pelican.
If you would like to know more visit these: