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Virgin Gorda, British Virgin Islands

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Did You Know…?

  • The island is called Virgin Gorda (i.e., Fat Virgin) because its profile reminded Columbus of a reclining woman.
  • Philanthropist Laurance Rockefeller donated the land for Gorda Peak National Park in 1974.
  • The island is home to the world’s smallest lizard, the Virgin Gorda gecko.
  • Sir Richard Branson owns the nearby Necker Island.
  • Virgin Gorda is part of the British Virgin islands, but the official B.V.I. currency is the U.S. dollar.

The Fat Virgin’s Baths

Virgin Gorda, at the eastern reaches of the British Virgin Islands, is often called sleepy. True, it is not lively in the way a city or a string of nightclubs might be, but its assets are of another sort.

It is a particularly fine choice for those who relish being active in and around the sea. Virgin Gorda’s key selling points along those lines are diving, fishing, sailing and snorkeling. The island also counts numerous white-sand beaches and protected bays — places where a vacationer can settle in free of crowds and do absolutely nothing.

Virgin Gorda boasts the Baths, a beach covered with ancient granite boulders, up to 40 feet in diameter, that form a labyrinth of stone caverns and secret rock pools. It’s a beach, but also a photographer’s delight. A hike through this geological wonder can include scaling the boulders via a series of ladders to reach another beach, Devil’s Bay, a tranquil location for snorkeling and swimming.

The Baths site is to the island’s southwest, whereas Virgin Gorda’s northern side is hilly, reaching its highest point at Gorda Peak (1,370 feet), which gives its name to one of the island’s several national parks. The hilly terrain is suited for hiking, yielding great views atop Gorda Peak. It also lends itself to tooling around on scooters or via Jeep.

Interested visitors may pursue the island’s history, either quite actively with a rugged hike to the ruins at Little Fort National Park or, more casually, with an excursion to Coppermine Point, site of a 19th century Cornish copper mine. The latter provides sweeping views of the Caribbean and the sounds of a strong surf hitting the rocky point.

Four islands are nearby to the north — Eustatia, Mosquito, Necker and Prickly Pear — where visitors may swim (Prickly Pear), moor their boats at dive sites (Mosquito and Prickly Pear) or find exclusive accommodations (Eustatia and Necker) for really getting away from it all, even from the sleepy Virgin Gorda.

For that matter, roads don’t extend to all northern coastal areas with the result that many of Virgin Gorda’s resorts are accessible only by boat.

Things to do for Venturers

  • Go sailing in the island’s North Sound where protected waters and proximity to several tiny islands offer nearly perfect sailing conditions. Or, charter a motorboat for area sightseeing.
  • Take a vigorous hike with an educational slant. The goal is Little Fort National Park, site of a Spanish fortress and a wildlife sanctuary. Park entry is at the seashore, and access to the fort’s ruins are at the end of a rugged trail through dense vegetation.
  • Rent a scooter for getting around the island, at least the parts with roads. Or, make that a Jeep.
  • Show your PADI certification and dive the waters in the Virgin Gorda area. For one choice, dive around South Bay on Ginger Island, where there’s a gently sloping wall of hard coral.
  • Be competitive. Get into the Pro-Am Regatta Week, a sailing event in October that pits amateurs and novice sailors against America’s Cup skippers and other world class sailors.
  • Take a parasailing tour over North Sound. Or, stay at sea level for some windsurfing.

Things to do for Centrics

  • Hike one of the trails to the top of the mountain in Gorda Peak National Park.
  • In March, attend the island’s Jazz on the Hill concert series. Or make a visit to coincide with the springtime Spanish Town Fisherman’s Jamboree.
  • Carry your camera for some serious photography at the Baths, a boulder-strewn beach area. And walk from this beach to Devil’s Bay, a move that involves scaling the boulders with the help of ladders and rope handrails.
  • Sightsee from a helicopter.
  • Kayaking is an option. Visit local outfitters for the equipment.
  • Exploit the available nightlife. Look for a full-moon party. Or, make that a restaurant with live music, which could be jazz.

Things to do for Authentics

  • Take in the endless views of the Caribbean from Coppermine Point on the island’s southeast tip.
  • For quiet beach time, head to Mountain Trunk, Pond Bay or Savannah Bay on the north shore. Or make Prickly Pear Island your preferred beach site.
  • Stay at Little Dix Bay, the first luxury resort in the British Virgin Islands, built in the 1960s. Sample the spa services, offered here in private treatment cottages. Or, if traveling with a sizeable group, book your stay in a private villa.
  • Visit another B.V.I. island via water taxi. The taxi ride itself is part of the experience.
  • Charter a vessel for a half or full day of sportfishing.
  • Picnic and snorkel at Spring Bay National Park. Or, snorkel at the Blinders, near the Baths, where you can eye submerged boulders.

Additional Resources

For more information, consult the British Virgin Islands Tourist Board at www.tbvitourism.com