Written By Diane Mackenzie with photos by Don Mackenzie






I spent many vacations chartering down in the British Virgin Islands as a child and teenager.  My memories of Tortola were of the Beef Island Airport and the tiny airplane we flew in, a very bumpy van ride to the Moorings, an industrial seeming Road Town Harbor with freighters and ferries, going to Fort Burt for dinner on our first night, and then leaving for the fabulous sailing and wondrous turquoise blue bays that awaited us.  Tortola was a place where you cleared customs and picked up your boat!

Since Don and I are helping to support the BVI Rendezvous this year – we decided to stop into Nanny Cay on our way from St. Martin to our new home in Puerto Rico. I was surprised and delighted to discover a Tortola that had much more to offer!

As we pulled into our slip at Nanny Cay, we were greeted by several young dockhands who were happy to see us arrive and eagerly got us secured, powered up, and connected to water. We felt immediately welcomed.  The D Dock is the main transient and ex-pat live aboard dock busy with sailors chatting it up, exchanging advice and well – working on their boats of course!

The marina is lovely.  A beautiful well-kept swimming pool right next to the beach bar, a small sandy beach perfect for a late afternoon dip in the sea, and an outdoor restaurant.  Clearly a meeting ground for locals and boaters alike with friendly staff, good food, and a spectacular view including a tease of the oranges, purples, and ever-changing blues of a Caribbean sunset.  The marina also provides a chandlery, a grocery store, private showers with toilets (11 of them!), laundry facilities, and a wonderful hotel.









And then it was time to explore the island. So many nooks and crannies to explore – from the bustling harbor of Road Town to the quaint and pleasant Sopers Hole where one can have a very easy check in with Customs before heading into Pussers for a famous painkiller.  I was disappointed as we came into Cane Garden Bay - I do have a memory of anchoring on a long white sandy beach there – the beach is there but it has become the cruise line destination and there were a couple of cruise ships  in that day – so we were determined to find the perfect Tortola/BVI beach that was more secluded. 

On our way out of Cane Garden Bay we had a brief (a bit early in the day) stop for a rum tasting at the Callwood Rum distillery.  This is not your French Islands Rum plantation – it is the oldest continuously operating pot distillery that takes you back 200 years as you taste, for $1 their 5 pure sugar cane rums. I think Don liked “Pany Dropper” the best!”  

The views as you drive along the north coast on a high ridge are jaw dropping.  And then we discovered two awesome beaches! Long Bay Beach offers a long strip of white sand perfect for a long walk.  Water shoes are needed for a dip into the rolling seas as it is a bit rocky – but the surf was fun to play in and the two restaurants on the beach are perfect for a relaxing lunch, a game of corn hole, or giant jenga.  1778 Restaurant is a part of the gorgeous Long Bay Beach Resort and offers beach chairs for those who need an after-lunch nap.  Next door the Tropical Fusion Beach Bar and Restaurant offers local fare and a perfect Caribbean vibe. 









After driving down some crazy dirt roads we came to my new favorite – Smugglers Cove.  A spectacular view of Jost Van Dyke (home of the famous Soggy Dollar), this is clearly the beach the locals go to.  There are beach chairs ($5) two local beach bars for beverages, snacks and lunch, and a sandy spread of beach for the perfect swim and snorkeling. 









Tortola is also home to the smallest National Park ever – Mount Healthy National Park that has a great sugar mill ruin – definitely worth the stop.  Sage Mountain National Park offers several trails and great hiking opportunities.  Sage Mountain is the highest point in the British and US Virgin Islands and the views of this incredibly special place in the world are mesmerizing.

We paid $74 to Customs and Immigration for the two of us to clear in and $13 as we cleared out. We found Customs to be easy and straight forward – love the Customs at Sopers Hole!

The BVI are known to many of us as the crowded charter capital of the Caribbean and are often avoided.  But, as Don and I have discovered, there are still some wide open places where you can drop the hook, wonderful National Parks that can be hiked (and are not crowded), hidden beaches, good snorkeling and diving spots, an abundance of beach bars and yummy restaurants, and of course those easy yet fun day sails to the numerous bays and harbors.

As we settle into our new marina home on the east coast of Puerto Rico, we look forward to many cruising adventures ahead in both the US and British Virgin Islands. We hope to see you there! Let us know when you are on your way.

And do not forget – if you are joining the BVI Rendezvous, reservations for Nanny Cay must be made by February 1st, 2024 and we are planning a day of diving with the dive shop in Nanny Cay, a hiking day, and a beach day to Smugglers Cove as well as a weekend trip to Virgin Gorda Sound (where you can anchor) and a beach day of games, Hobie cat races, and sundowners at the Bitter End.