Tortola is the gateway to the British Virgin Islands and is the largest of more than 50 islands, islets and cays that make up the country. Tortola is home to the territory’s government and the capital, Road Town.
The island of Tortola is about 13 miles long with a population of 23,000. Green mountains reaching more than 10,000 ft run through the middle of the island, neatly demarking the north and south. Stunning white beaches and radical surf sites lie on the north shore while the calmer waters of south shore make it the perfect base for marinas and ferry service providers.
Nature lovers can trek though Sage Mountain, a national park rising to 1,780 ft. Trails wind through tropical vegetation and the remains of a primeval rainforest. A little less strenuous is a stroll through the J.R. O’Neal Botanical Gardens located in Road Town. The park is a peaceful, four-acre garden showcasing indigenous flora and fauna.
Historical sites are dotted around the island including two museums in town: Government House which has been preserved as a museum and The VI Folk Museum displaying artifacts from the Amerindian and Plantation era and from the 19th Century RMS Rhone. Other points of historic and cultural interest are the North Shore Shell Museum in Carrot Bay and the ruins at Fort Burt, Fort Recovery, The William Thornton Estate Ruin, Josiah’s Bay Plantation, a former distillery, which now serves as an art gallery and the Callwood Rum Distillery at Cane Garden Bay. The distillery still produces rum using the traditional methods of two centuries past.
Road Town has a thriving business district housing the financial services industry. The original Main Street is a treasure trove of gift, retail and coffee shops housed in quaint, historic West Indian buildings. Road Town also boasts an exciting range of restaurants and bars to suit different tastes and budgets.
To the west of Tortola is the picturesque Soper’s Hole with it’s attractive shopping wharf and restaurants. It is also the first port of call for ferries arriving from the US Virgin Islands.
To the east is Beef Island with a choice of seaside experiences: from a mile-long stretch of empty, white sandy beaches to the shallow, reef protected waters of Well Bay to Trellis Bay Village, a bohemian community of artisans and restaurateurs.
From fine dining to ribs fresh from a roadside BBQ, there are plenty of dining options throughout Tortola and all are easily accessible from anywhere on the island.
Known as the hub of this regional sailing mecca, Tortola has a number of sail and power boat charter companies through which visitors can arrange short excursions to explore the sister islands and uninhabited cays and bays.
Taxis are readily available but if you are staying out of town, a rental car is highly recommended.