Destination Guides Travel, Food & Drink

An Idyllic Escape: Virgin Gorda, British Virgin Islands

With its immaculate beaches, dramatic wild landscape, and endless beauty, Virgin Gorda is the tropical island that dreams are made of

Surrounded by coral reefs between the waves of the Atlantic and the calmer Caribbean Sea is Virgin Gorda, just eight-and-a-half square miles (22 sq km) of breathtaking landscape and endearing charm. Bordered by palm-fringed white-sand beaches, its untamed beauty is the perfect foil for boutique resorts and bays dotted along the coast.

The third-largest of the British Virgin Islands, Gorda’s most famous landmark is The Baths National Park at the southwest point of the island—a sci-fi landscape of vast granite boulders, some 40 feet (12 m) high, interspersed with rock pools and grottos tumbling down to the beach. There’s a handy series of steps and rope handrails to help you explore the boulders from the beach at The Baths all the way to Devil’s Bay.

Sign saying to the Cave and the Baths, Devil's Bay
Will you visit Devil's Bay or The Baths first? The area, which has been a national park since 1990, offers water sports and stunning vistas. Source Alamy

Close by is Spring Bay National Park, which is similar but minus the people. It’s a tiny but accessible beach with more boulders jutting out of the crystal-clear water. There’s a BBQ pit if you fancy cooking.

Traveling north, the flat tropical landscape gives way to forests and Gorda Peak National Park before dipping down to North Sound and its first-class harbor and boating.

Choose Your Water Sport

Snorkeler underwater in front of large granite boulders
One of the easiest ways to explore the treasures of Virgin Gorda is to simply grab a mask and snorkel. Once underwater, you’ll be rewarded with amazing visibility, coral, reefs, and abundant fish populations. Source: Alamy

A mecca for snorkeling, sailing, hiking, and beachcombing, Virgin Gorda’s main industry is tourism, kick-started by Laurance Rockefeller in the 1960s when he built the Little Dix Bay resort, still a prime draw today.

There are plenty of opportunities to relax on Virgin Gorda but, if you prefer to be active, you could charter a yacht or book a deep-sea fishing trip. Heading out on the water provides the chance to explore hidden coves and hard-to-reach beaches. The snorkeling and diving here are unrivalled but, if that’s all too much, you could simply lie back in a glass-bottom boat and watch the coral and marine life instead.

Family of three enjoying a drink at The Bath & Turtle
“There are a lot of customers who we serve two or three meals a day—breakfast, lunch, and dinner,” says proprietor Rose Giacinto of The Bath and Turtle. “We want it to be a place where people linger.” Courtesy: Marta Garraus

Virgin Gorda’s commercial center is Spanish Town, with its marina and ferry dock, shops, and restaurants. But this isn’t the place for fast-lane living. Life is pleasingly slow-paced here, with a real sense of community and natural beauty to fill the senses. If you need a pitstop, try The Bath and Turtle for homemade goodies, local produce, and seafood. Those in the know recommend the Johnnycake made of ham, eggs, and cheese. Meanwhile, for a sugary treat, visit LSL Bakery, a long-standing local favourite of almost 30 years.

Enjoy a Secluded Dinner on the Beach

Secluded dining on the beach at night
Fusing flavors of south east Asia and Latin America with a touch of Caribbean, the CocoMaya menu is fresh and vibrant. Local produce is regularly sourced including consciously caught seafood. Courtesy: Marta Garraus

When it’s time for a pre-dinner cocktail or two, the island’s drink of choice is rum, and the most famous cocktail is the Painkiller, a blend of rum, pineapple, and orange juice. For dinner, head to CocoMaya and enjoy private dining on the beach with the water lapping at your feet. It’s a truly idyllic spot. Ask the chef to create a special menu just for you and your guests.

Famous faces live on Virgin Gorda to blend in, not to stand out. And for a change of scene, nearby Necker Island, Tortola, Saint Thomas, and Ginger Island are easily accessible, making Virgin Gorda the perfect base for island-hopping.

On the Market

External view from patio area onto infinity pool and beach beyond, Virgin Gorda
To come here

In addition to the spectacular Valley Trunk Estate, here’s another of Virgin Gorda’s premier estates, which could be yours. Settle into the relaxed lifestyle of modern beach living with this striking six-bedroom beachfront villa, situated just steps from the white sand and sparkling waters of Oil Nut Bay. Centrally located near the beach club and resort center, the villa features a generous outdoor terrace with large pool, ample lounging areas, and a path straight onto the sand.

Banner image: Alamy