THE MANY BEACHES OF TORTOLA
By – Nancy Terrell - (reprinted from All At Sea - 2005)
As September is most probably the hottest month in the year, a really good way to unwind and cool down is to visit one of the many beautiful beaches of the BVI and set up your beach chairs in the shade. As we are blessed with numerous awesome and shady beaches I will try and give you the “cooks tour” of how to get the most enjoyment out of some of the most scenic sites in the Caribbean. We will begin our tour at the West End Ferry Terminal and cross over, on the – Road to the North Side.
Starting at the North Shore on the far western side and working eastward we begin with one of the local’s favorite beaches – Smuggler’s Cove - a beguiling beach where swimming is a must, with a classic bar and a lot of history. In fact, John Steinbeck’s ---- was filmed there several decades ago. Working our way along the coast you will come to one of the most famous beaches in all of the Caribbean – Long Bay West - the definitive in Caribbean beaches with picturesque palm trees, white sand and turquoise surf breaking over its reefs. This beach makes up in beauty what it lacks in good swimming areas. Next there you will come to the Apple Bay area, including Little Apple Bay, Cappoons Bay, and Carrot Bay, all of which have a variety of beaches that are often narrow, sometimes rocky, but exhilarating nonetheless. Egbert Donovan at the North Shore Shell Museum Restaurant has a collection of seashells and driftwood and is very knowledgeable about shelling in the BVI. He is also wonderfully entertaining.
Just the other side of the mountain next to Sugar Mill Hotel (where there is a small private beach) you will find Cane Garden Bay, one of the most popular beaches and tourist spots on the island. Here you will also find good dining and entertaining, a beautiful anchorage and an activity center for water rentals. However, Cane Garden Bay is only really crowded, and then only in its beach bar section, when a cruise ship or the British Navy docks in Road Town, which is rare in September.
Heading west we come to a very special place, quite beautiful in a wild, rugged way fitting to this ocean coast, Brewer's Bay seems to attract those, among others, who are naturalists. The beach there is excellent and is protected by extensive coral reefs. Off the beaten path, you will also find some old sugar mill ruins, a local beach bar and lots of shade. This is a really nice beach – don’t miss it. Next is Elizabeth Beach, now the home to Lambert Bay Resort. This is also an excellent beach on the Ocean Coast however do watch out for the undertow both here and at the next beach – Josiah’s Bay. Both are exposed to ground seas that come out of the North but there are seldom people there so they are nice and private, again with plenty of shade.
Crossing over to Beef Island, where the airport is located you will find Long Bay East, a beautiful secluded and pristine beach filled with salt marsh flats. This is a great beach for swimming (watch for the quick drop-off) and collecting seashells. It also has marvelous vistas to the outlying islands. One of the most charming areas on Tortola is Trellis Bay on Beef Island. Here you will find artisan shops, and Internet Café & restaurant, The Loose Mongoose and watersports rentals. There is also an active harbor here where many of the local sailors live aboard. This is a great beach for beachcombing, hunting marine life, and snorkeling rather than swimming but you can certainly get wet.
While Tortola’s beaches are very safe, be sure to bring your bug spray (especially in the late afternoon) and your sun lotion. Also be very careful not to sit under the Manchineel tree, if it “weeps” your skin will surely break out. Most BVI beaches are well protected behind reefs, but check about undertow and surf dangers before swimming, especially on Tortola's northern beaches. When swimming, avoid jellyfish in general, stay with friends and mostly, enjoy the views and bathtub water. After all – this is PARADISE!