No trip to the British Virgin Islands would be complete with a visit to the beautiful island of Virgin Gorda. Home to one of our most recognizable tourist attractions – The Baths.
But the sad reality is that so much of the rest of what Virgin Gorda has to offer gets overlooked in favour of a visit to our famous monolithic building-sized boulders and I want to show you what else you should be including on your tour.
To explore Virgin Gorda properly I would suggest that you need a minimum of 36-48 hours – that should give you just enough time to hit our beaches, enjoy some meals, tour the Baths and get over to the North Sound and the outer islands.
Follow me – I’ll show you around!
First things first – in order to really explore Virgin Gorda you’re probably going to need a car. The friendly taxi drivers are very good if you’re looking for the odd trip but, if you’re going backwards and forwards over Gorda Peak and in and around the Valley, a rental will likely prove more cost effective. There are a few good rental companies about including L&S, who will meet you at the dock and Speedy’s who will give you a small discount on one of their cars if you came over on the ferry with them.
Secondly – where are you going to stay? If you arrived on a charter boat then you’ll have your own comfy quarters, but if you’re just popping over for the weekend you’ll be looking for a roof over your head. Keep in mind that Virgin Gorda is made up of two main areas, the Valley and the North Sound, you’ll need to decide which one you want to base yourself in.
For those that wish to stay in The Valley a comfortable and family-friendly option is Guavaberry Spring Bay – a little resort made up of affordable one, two and three bedroom wooden cottages nestled among the boulders. Each charming little house is fully equipped with kitchen, living area, bathroom and patio deck and some of the cottages are available with a/c at a small extra cost. Guavaberry Spring Bay worked hard after the hurricane to re-open a small number of their cottages and they are open and ready for guests. They continue with their plans to get more of the cottages re-opened in late 2018/early 2019.
If you fancy something a little more luxurious, perfect for a romantic weekend getaway, I suggest that the newly renovated, and super chic bedrooms, at Saba Rock would be the perfect spot to lay your head. Many of them feature gorgeous balconies ideal for enjoying a glass of champagne and taking in the views of the North Sound.
*Saba Rock is currently closed for a re-build following Hurricane Irma. Nearby Oil Nut Bay has beautiful suites available from December 2018.
Virgin Gorda also has a host of beautiful rental villas located all over the island, available for larger groups but many of them will have a minimum stay stipulation. It is definitely worth considering if you are traveling as a family.
Okay, now we have the logistics out of the way – let’s start building your itinerary! (I’m going to base this around a weekend, but many of these items can equally be done Monday-Friday too).
Day 1 –
We’ve already discussed the fact that you need to visit the Baths, to miss them would be a complete travesty. But before you head off on that little hike you’re going to need to fuel up. So let’s start with breakfast at Top of the Baths.
Normally I’m hesitant to try a restaurant so close to one of the sights – wary of falling into a tourist trap, but Top of the Baths is one of those rare places that enjoys ideal situation and a great breakfast! All the usual suspects are on the menu (pancakes, French toast, eggs benny) along with a few more unusual options like my favourites – the creole omelette and the Tunisian eggs (I like a bit of spice to my breakfast!) all of which come with a choice of tea or coffee.
Tip: Get there early, if you can (it opens at 8:00 am) (a) to ensure that you get there before breakfast finishes and (b) so that you can get on and hike the Baths before the crowds arrive.
Right, once you’ve finished your food it’s time to get cracking and get down to the Baths, grab some bottled water before you go. Hopefully it’s still nice and early and shouldn’t be too crowded (I always recommend checking the cruise ship schedule before you plan a visit) or too hot. Please keep in mind that the hike through the Baths is reasonably strenuous and shouldn’t be undertaken if you suffer from heart problems or an underlying medical condition.
Pay your $3 entrance fee to the National Parks and follow the sandy path down to the entrance to the Baths before making your way through the maze of boulders. Be sure to stop and get pictures in the ‘Cathedral’ which is the largest of the caves with a triangular opening and a small hole at the back where the light comes in and bounces around the cavern and off the water. It’s very pretty and is the quintessential image of the Baths – the lighting is also quite flattering 🙂
Hopefully you didn’t bring too much with you and you can squeeze your way through the nooks and crannies. The responsible part of me advises that you wear some sort of amphibious footwear, but equally I always do it barefoot and have never had an issue.
Eventually you are going to pop out at Devil’s Bay – a beautiful little stretch of white sand a calm turquoise water. If you brought snorkel gear it’s a lovely spot to test it out. Equally you might just want to wade in, bob around and cool off!
When it comes time to leave you could just head back the way you came and go back through the Baths, or you can take the shortcut up to the car park – but personally I like to continue the walk around through Stoney Bay (which is definitely the path less travelled)! As the name suggests it’s a shingle beach that looks across to Fallen Jerusalem. To find it head towards the far end of Devil’s Bay and find the gap in the rocks, there’s a little path.
It’s very quiet and there’s lots of wildlife hanging out undisturbed, there will almost certainly be lizards and hermit crabs and I’ve even seen a couple of small snakes sunning themselves on the path. They’re all harmless and will beat a hasty retreat when they hear you coming!
The path will eventually meet the shortcut to the car park and you’ll end up back by Top of the Baths. Consider paying a visit to Mad Dog Restaurant & Bar for a cold refreshment before you head out, it’s on your left-hand side as you leave the car park (I have it on good authority that their pina coladas and bushwhackers are some of the best you’ll find). *Mad Dog sadly closed following Hurricane Irma in September 2017.
Now – I suggest moving on to Spring Bay for a quick stop, if you’ve chosen to stay at Guavaberry you may have already found this little spot, since it’s right next door. If not head back towards Spanish Town and you’ll see the sign on the roadside. It’s another pretty little beach with boulders, but it tends to be a lot quieter than the Baths!
For lunch we’re going to head up the mountain to Hog Heaven which has one of the best views in the Territory! High up on the hill, perched right on the edge, overlooking the North Sound is this great ribs joint. Simple BBQ food done well. There are other things on the menu but I always gravitate towards the ribs – fresh and local meat (it’s owned by a pig farmer). Why would you go to a place named Hog Heaven and eat anything else? 🙂 The cocktails are great too – frozen rum smoothies!
If BBQ food’s not your bag do not despair – I have you covered! Head into nearby Nail Bay to the Sugarcane Restaurant for some lighter fare – salads, soup, burgers, wraps and even some local favourites including Anegada lobster freshly grilled (when in season) just make sure you still promise to stop by Hog Heaven for a smoothie (and a few pictures!)
On the way back down the mountain after lunch make sure you park up at the various viewing stations for gorgeous views up and down the island and consider hiking Gorda Peak… Work off that lunch with a steep hike up through the brush to the viewing platform (you will need trainers) it’s not for the faint of heart (hopefully you didn’t have too many of those smoothies). I promise that tomorrow’s activities will be less strenuous!
However, if a steep hike doesn’t sound like your idea of fun, consider paying a visit to one of our other National Parks and explore the Copper Mine ruins instead.
After this there will be enough time to maybe take a quick nap and hopefully a shower – you’ll want to be ready before sunset though because we’re headed to CocoMaya for cocktails and sunset views by the fire pit before dinner!
Get to CocoMaya, grab a seat on the swings and a lychee champagne cocktail, maybe sample a snack or two at the bar – share the edamame. Then make your way into the restaurant and enjoy their delicious tapas style small plates and mains (also designed to be shared). I actually have too many recommendations for this place (I’ll obviously have to do a full post soon) but I will say this – get the churros for dessert… you won’t see them on the menu (they are hiding on the iPad) but they are seriously good… dunk them in the milk ice cream and espresso.
By now you should be ready to roll your way back to bed!
Day 2 –
If you’ve read my post on what to eat in the BVI you may remember a mention of the Sunday buffet brunch at the Bitter End Yacht Club. It’s fab and only $45 including bottomless mimosas. Buuuut I recently found out that the Sunday breakfast buffet (8:00 am – 10:30 am) is only $25 and still includes the mimosas! Bargain! Plus, the breakfast buffet is where they hide all the bacon… so that’s where we’re headed! Pick up the boat at Gun Creek for the short trip over.
*Bitter End is currently closed for rebuilding following damage due to Hurricane Irma. Tentative plans to re-open the marina area and restaurant in March 2019 have been voiced. I will provide an update if we hear more.
After breakfast stay a while at the Bitter End and explore – there are a couple of little walks that you can do, you can lounge on the beach or swim out to the platform. Ask nicely and you can even rent a Hobie cat for an hour. Head over to Saba Rock to browse the gift shop, check out the aquarium, maybe enjoy a drink and the views.
Then I have a couple of suggestions for your afternoon.
Book a tour with Gumption’s Learning Adventures and enjoy his wildlife tour. Visit Necker Island to learn about the animals that call it home. Be aware that this tour is very popular so availability is limited and it will need to be booked in advance.
Or hook up with local dive operators DiveBVI and (it hopefully goes without saying that you will need to abstain from the mimosas if you’re choosing this option) request to dive the new Virgin Gorda attraction an artificial reef project, the Kodiak Queen. Advanced reservations and open water certification are required. Not open water certified, not a problem – another recommendation would be for BVI SNUBA, a fantastic way for divers and non-divers to explore underwater together, no prior diving experience required!
If you’re staying a second night I have a couple of recommendations for dinner!
If you’re staying in the North Sound head over to the restaurant at Leverick, situated upstairs you can look out over the marina as you dine. The seared scallops or the lobster risotto make for tempting starters and they serve the juiciest strip loin steak. Downstairs serves a more casual menu of pizzas, tacos, snacks and wraps.
If you’re headed back to the Valley, please consider checking out Chez Bamboo for an eclectic mix of different cuisines; sushi, Caribbean dishes, delicious dim sum items – there is truly something for everyone!
Wow this is a long post – see, I told you there was lots to do in Virgin Gorda! Any suggestions you think that I’ve missed?