My name is Michael Winter Jr and I was born and raised on Tortola in the British Virgin Islands. I’m 28 and work as a part-time photographer. I grew up in Sea Cows Bay which is on the South Central coast of Tortola.
What inspired my passion for photography is my love for sunsets. Each sunset is unique in so many ways: the colors, the vibrancy and the way the sun sets fire to the sea and sky. What I love most about living in the British Virgin Islands is the beauty on offer with the beaches and with the people.
There are many beaches situated around the islands, some of which are easy to access and others where you need to hike to find a hidden gem. Tortola and its nearby islands pack a big punch when it comes to beauty.
You can always find something to do while you are here: whether it be swimming, having drinks (like the famous Painkiller), sailing to different islands and little cays, snorkeling and diving in our many dive sites.
A typical day for me in the British Virgin Islands is heading into work at one of the well-known marinas – like Nanny Cay Resort and Marina – and after a day’s work I love to spend time with my wife and one year old son.
Sometimes, in my free time, I take them to different locations during sunset such as Long Bay Beach (West) located at the Western end of Tortola. This spot is famous for its sunsets. During the weekend, I head to any beach where the lighting is just right. The beaches we mainly swim at are Smuggler’s Cove, Rogues Bay and Long Bay Beach (Beef Island).
My favorite place to shoot in Tortola would have to be between Long Bay Beach (West) and Smuggler’s Cove. Both places are located on the Western end of the island and both spots always guarantee amazing sunsets!
12 Things To Do in the British Virgin Islands
While I love living on Tortola, the rest of the British Virgin Islands offer so much. Sailing between the islands and finding destinations like Virgin Gorda or the little Jost Van Dyke is such a wonderful experience. There is so much to do in BVI that it can be hard to know where to begin. That is why I have put together the top 12 things to do to help you plan your trip.
1. Take a Sailing Charter in the British Virgin Islands
You can find everything in BVI from luxury long-term private charters, to day trips visiting a few nearby islands. Rates will all depend on what type of experience you would like to have. The British Virgin Islands is made up of four main islands and over 30 islets/cays/smaller islands where you can sail to find your slice of untouched island paradise. Sailing here is so much fun!
2. Have a Painkiller at Willy T’s Floating Bar
Floating in a spot off Norman Island, Willy T’s is a legendary bar that was converted from an old tanker. It became a bucket-list place in the Caribbean up until 2017 when Hurricane Irma hit. However, the floating bar came back in 2019 to its original spot and to its former glory. Here you can order Painkillers, wine, beers, burgers, salads and jump into the sea.
3. Explore Baths National Park in Virgin Gorda
The Baths on Virgin Gorda is where you can find these series of incredible granite boulders and sea pools. This is the perfect place to enjoy a day of exploration, adventure and swimming. While in the area, you can also check out Devils Bay which offers tranquil beaches perfect for swimming and snorkeling, or just for sunbathing on the beach reading a good book.
4. Bask in the Sun at White Bay, Jost Van Dyke
White Bay is the definition of paradise! It was listed by Forbes as one of the best Caribbean beaches. Picture walking on the whitest and softest sand in the world with crystal-clear waters inviting you in for a swim after you have soaked in some sun. During the holidays, this beach is known for its yacht-filled parties. If you want to avoid the crowds just avoid those dates.
5. Hike the Trails of Sage Mountain National Park
Sage Mountain was the first recognized national park in BVI. It’s home to the highest point in both the British and US Virgin Islands – 1,716 feet above sea level with sweeping views of many islands in the distance. You can reach this mountain by driving to a car park and then walking to the entrance. From here there are 12 different trails for hikers to choose from.
6. Swim at the Caves near Norman Island
The caves of Norman Island are epic spots to go swimming from one cave to the next. For the more adventurous, you can climb up cliffs and go cliff-jumping from above! The snorkeling in the area is also fantastic but the only way to get here is by boat, so just ensure you book for this excursion.
7. Go Snorkeling around “The Indians”, Norman Island
Another wonderful spot off Norman Island, “The Indians” are three rock formations sticking out of the water and a plethora of marine life below the water! On one side you can see tons of soft coral and sea fans, while the other side has a steep wall where you can find sea creatures like moray eels, snappers, colorful fish, sea turtles and if you are super lucky dolphins!
8. Scuba Dive at the Shipwrecks of the British Virgin Islands
If you plan on scuba diving during your trip of the British Virgin Islands, you will be spoilt for choice as there are diving operators located on Tortola, Virgin Gorda, Jost Van Dyke, Scrub Island and Cooper Island. Some of the best diving experiences you can have in BVI revolve around shipwrecks, such as the famous RMS Rhone shipwreck. This can be done from Tortola.
9. See the Conch Shells at Anegada Conch Middens
Seeing the mountain of conch shells in Anegada is one of the most unique experiences in BVI. This is because the carbon of the shells date back to the 13th century, which means indigenous groups were fishing these waters well before Europeans arrived. Why these shells were placed here and built up is still a mystery. You will have to make your own guess when you go!
10. Check out Salt Pond on Salt Island
Salt Island is an uninhabited island no more than one mile long and one mile wide. The only way to get to the island is by chartering a yacht or by taking a powerboat (like most places in BVI). The Salt Pond here is actually the saltiest of all the salt ponds in the Virgin Islands. Historically, the salt has been used to preserve meat and also exported to other islands.
11. Mix & Mingle with the Beautiful Locals
In the British Virgin Islands, the people are just as beautiful as the surroundings. The best way to meet locals is at bars, clubs, markets or during the festival season when the festivals take place. Before COVID, you would find more interactions at the local Spring Regattas, music festivals and New Years parties on Beef Island, or at Foxy’s on Jost Van Dyke.
12. Enjoy the Cuisine of the British Virgin Islands
It’s guaranteed that once you visit the restaurants of BVI you will leave more than satisfied! Some of my top spots are Bananakeet restaurant, Sugar Mill restaurant, Seven on the Pier, D’ Coal Pot in Carrot Bay, Pearl of the Orient for sushi, Myett’s Bar and Grill, and Loose Mongoose located on Beef Island for that amazing formal or casual dinner spot.
Some of the top choices for bars are Peg Leg beach bar in Nanny Cay, Pusser’s Road Town Pub, Rudy’s Bar, Tropix Cocktail Bar located on the Tortola Pier Park, Loose Mongoose and many more amazing places!
Tips for Visiting the British Virgin Islands
A couple of tips for people looking to visit the British Virgin Islands are the following. First of all, you must fill out the BVI portal for travel authorisation and you should know that travel by air to the territory is only permitted through Terrance B. Lettsome International Airport (Beef Island).
Travelers who have been vaccinated with the final dose (two of Pfizer, Moderna or Astrazeneca) administered at least 14 days before travel can enter BVI by sea through the Road Town Jetty, Soper’s Hole Dock, West End, Dog Hole Dock, Jost Van Dyke, St Thomas Bay Dock or Virgin Gorda.
Partially vaccinated travelers (those who have received one dose of a two-dose vaccine or whose final vaccine dose was administered less than two weeks before arriving) are only permitted to enter through the Road Town Jetty or Terrance B. Lettsome International Airport. Everyone entering BVI will be subject to pre-approval testing and quarantine protocols.
Finally, when looking for accommodation, I can recommend the following places for an amazing stay here in the British Virgin Islands: Long Bay Beach Resort and Nanny Cay Resort & Marina, just to name a few.