Start & Finish: Harbour Drive, in the center of Road Town.
Time: 2 hours, not counting stops.
Best Time: Any day before 5:30pm.
Worst Time: Sunday, when many places are closed.
This tour concentrates on Tortola's West End, site of some of the lovelier beaches and vistas. Along the north coast you'll find many of the least developed beaches, which boast such imaginative names as Apple Bay, Little Carrot and Great Carrot bays, and Ballast Bay. Stop at any of them to swim or snorkel wherever it looks safe; if in doubt, ask a local.
1. Wickham's Cay
Here you'll find the densest concentration of shops and restaurants in Road Town. At first glance, Road Town seems to be a scattered sprawl of modern buildings that form a crescent along the harborfront and up the hillsides. At Wickham's Cay, however, some of the town's charm is more apparent, with its clapboard painted in bright pastel colors, shutters at the windows, and verandas gracing the facades.
You can spend the good part of a day exploring a re-creation of a Caribbean town at Wickham's Cay II, with the West Indian-style buildings with red tin roofs. For lunch, there are various restaurants serving Caribbean cuisine and fresh seafood. Most of the activity centers on Village Cay Center (tel. 284/494-2711), with slips for boats, ice for sale, a small spa, and various shops catering to yachties. From this point, sightseers can take day sails aboard the White Squall II, an 80-foot schooner that docks here. Also at the ferry dock is Crafts Alive Village, with a collection of small shops selling local crafts for the most part. There is also a colorful farmers' market every Saturday morning. Islanders sail in on boats from the neighboring islands to hawk home-grown farm products.
From Road Town, head southwest along the coastal road, passing the capital's many bars and restaurants. You'll also pass St. Paul's Episcopal Church (established in 1937) and the Faith Tabernacle Church. Less than 3.2km (2 miles) away on your left is the sandy peninsula containing:
2. Nanny Cay Marina and Hotel
There's an attractive restaurant here called Pegleg Landing and the opportunity to view some fine yachts bobbing at anchor.
Along the same road, 4km (2 1/2 miles) southwest of Road Town, you'll get panoramic views of 8km-wide (5-mile) Sir Francis Drake Channel, which is loved by yachters throughout the world as the heart of sailing in the Virgin Islands. It is a beautiful stretch of water filled with some of the most expensive yachts in the Western Hemisphere. The white triangles of their sails against the incredible blue sea is one of the great scenic experiences in the Caribbean. Irregularly shaped islands (most of them uninhabited) appear on the south side of the channel, curving around like a pearl necklace. This expanse of uncluttered road is one of the loveliest on Tortola.
The crumbling antique masonry on the right side of the road (look through the creeping vegetation) is the ruins of a stone prison built by the English in the 18th century for pirates and unruly slaves. Lush St. John will appear across the distant channel.
Continuing on, you'll come to the unpretentious hamlet of:
3. West End
Here, you'll see the pier at Soper's Hole. Yachters and boaters report to the Immigration and Customs officer stationed here.
Turn left on the hamlet's only bridge to:
4. Frenchman's Cay
Enjoy the scenic view and, to the west, Little Thatch Island.
Retrace your route toward Road Town. At the first major intersection, turn left up Zion's Hill. Tucked into a hollow in the hillside is the:
5. Zion Hill Methodist Church
This church boasts a devoted local following, despite its rural isolation.
Continue on the road that runs along the island's northern coast, past some of its greatest beaches; you'll pass the Methodist Church of Carrot Bay and the Seventh-Day Adventist Church of Tortola.
6. Quito's Gazebo
Quito's Gazebo (tel. 284/495-4837) is located at Cane Garden Bay, on the island's north coast. The owner is Quito Rymer, one of the island's best musicians. The place serves piña coladas (either virgin or laced with liberal quantities of local Callwood's rum) from an enlarged gazebo built almost directly above the waves.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.