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A rum cocktail, a beach of powder-soft sand, the blue waters of the Caribbean stretching out as far as the eye can see – on Virgin Gorda your island-paradise daydream is an everyday vacation reality. The British Virgin Islands are a group of 60 mostly volcanic islands, discovered by Columbus at the end of the 15th century, settled by the Dutch then taken over by the British in 1666. Virgin Gorda, or ‘Fat Virgin’, said to have been named by Columbus after he decided it looked somewhat like a plump female form, may be stout but it’s also small – you can drive from one end to the other in around 20 minutes. The BVI’s are known for being a playground of the rich and famous – Richard Branson’s Necker Island is here, and Samuel L Jackson has a home on Virgin Gorda – with yachts big and small docking at its many picturesque coves. But thus far the island has managed to retain a chilled-out charm, as goats and chickens wander, and locals take time out to sip a cold Carib beer in one of the island’s laidback bars. It’s English speaking, and the American dollar is the local currency, so for US Citizens, there’s no need to even visit the bureau de change at the airport.
For many, the Caribbean is, understandably, all about beaches, and Virgin Gorda is no slouch in this department. One of the most visited on its shores lies at the island’s southern tip, in an area declared a National Park in 1990. The beautiful bay of The Baths is strewn with huge granite boulders, scattered as if by some capricious giant suddenly disinterested in his game of marbles. Take your sneakers or swim shoes and spend a happy couple of hours scrambling up, over and around the smooth grey stones, many engraved with the names of past explorers, then emerge at Devil's Bay, a clearing at the end of the rocks with clear waters perfect for a swim, a snorkel or just a snooze in the sun. It’s a good idea to head to The Baths either earlier or later in the day – come in the middle and you’re likely to find that there are a lot of other people wanting to share the many pretty sea pools and grottoes.
Perhaps you’d like to visit an island that’s even more relaxed, even less developed, where the beaches have that Robinson Crusoe vibe. Then you probably want to head to Anegada. Alone among the BVI’s in being formed of coral and limestone, rather than volcanic rock, Anegada is also known as ‘Drowned Island’ because its highest point is only 28 feet above sea level. Its low-lying nature makes it hard to see until you’re almost right on top of it, meaning that in the past many vessels have met their fate on the island’s surrounding reef – more than 300 ships have sunk off its coast, leaving a higher concentration of wrecks here than anywhere else in the Caribbean. Which of course means great diving – marine creatures have moved in, and divers seeking colorful underwater worlds teeming with tropical fish are spoilt for choice. Up on dry land, which is protected by the BVI National Parks Trust, you’ll find blooming cacti, wild orchids, rare rock iguanas and large flocks of preening pink flamingos. Favorite beaches include Loblolly Bay and Cow Wreck Bay, where you’re likely to have a good stretch of sand to yourselves – just pack up the cooler before you head out as because the island is not particularly well served by cafes, bars or restaurants.
The biggest and best dive in the BVI’s however, is the RMS Rhone. The Rhone met her end in 1867 when she crashed into the rocks of Salt Island in a squalling hurricane, resulting in 124 lost souls and 23 survivors washed up on shore. Now the site of the wreck and its surrounding waters have been designated as the Rhone National Marine Park – the only park of its kind in the British Virgin Islands. The coral-encrusted steel vessel is largely intact, and home to moray eels, snappers, grunts, soldierfish, parrotfish, turtles and octopus, and intermediate to advanced divers can dive down 80 feet to hang out with the sea life.
Compact though it is, this juicy little BVI Island offers something to suit every taste. Perhaps you are planning a Virgin Gorda honeymoon , and you want romantic seclusion with views of the gin-clear Caribbean? We have just the villa for you. Or maybe you want to bring the family or a group of friends for some sun-soaked R&R. Whatever your key criteria, you’re sure to find your ideal vacation home with Luxury Retreats.
Virgin Gorda’s huge smooth grey boulders are a feature throughout the island, but down south at The Baths is where they reach their picturesque peak. The Baths rentals are in many cases blessed with a view across this gorgeous National Park, as well as with luxury facilities such as a tennis court, gym, and pool. Set the table on the terrace, mix up a rum punch and sizzle a lobster on the barbecue as the orange sun sinks into the ocean blue.
Located at the secluded northeastern end of the island, our Oil Nut Bay villas offer peace and quiet in the midst of stunning natural beauty. Cliffside hideaways make for intimate romantic retreats, some accessible only by boat, while beachside villas sleeping up to 12 provide easy access to sandy fun for all the family.