A beautiful beachfront villa with friends on a new island to explore was just what the doctor ordered. Beautiful Virgin Gorda seemed like the perfect choice for our 2017 summer vacation.
But this story starts 2.5 weeks prior to our July 1st take-off. And not in a good way.
As I was starting to pull things out for the trip one night, I flipped through our passports to see whose was whose and paused to look at little Ellie’s photo from years ago. I thought to myself how glad she will be to get an updated photo when it’s time to renew. Turns out that time was 2 months ago. Cue the panic mode. For some reason I thought she was good for another year. Major mom fail. And major planner fail. I plan and book everything so far ahead of time that I never thought I would be caught in this situation. So I set about stalking the appointment calendar at the DC Passport Agency, took a day off work, and Ellie and I went to take care of business in person. Cost more in time and money but it was done, and I knew it was a mistake I would never make again. It arrived with 5 days to spare. Phew.
But that wasn’t the end of our pre-travel woes. Our group of 14 (4 families) met at 6:30 AM on departure day at Philadelphia airport.
Since we had a little bit of time before take-off, some went to the bar for Bloody Mary’s. Those who did not learned that our boarding time would be slightly delayed since the crew had not yet arrived from Boston. No problem since we had 4 hours to kill in St. Thomas before catching the ferry to VG. Then departure time was bumped back an hour. Fine. A 3 hour buffer was plenty. So the boys continued drinking.
Every so often we would get another update with an even greater delay. We had a plane but no crew, and they wouldn’t be arriving now until 11 at a distant gate, then needed to get lunch and walk to our gate. The ladies fretted and the men drank…seemingly without a worry in the world. Did they not care that if we missed this ferry we would be stranded on crowded St. Thomas for the night as our pricey villa went unused while we paid for another room on St. Thomas?! And lost a day of vacation.
We had looked into chartering a private boat to take us over but the issue was with customs and no one would take us over if we didn’t land by a certain time. We called the ferry and asked if they could wait for us but they couldn’t promise anything and told us to call back when we landed. So we tracked that flight from Boston and hoped and prayed.
We finally took off after 12 PM for an almost 4 hour flight. You can do the math. Our plane would be landing as the ferry was departing. I was stressed out the entire flight. But the guys were feeling no pain after spending hours in Chickie’s and Pete’s. We landed shortly before 4, waited to get off the plane, then hustled to baggage claim (this is why we rarely check luggage anymore). I didn’t even pause to listen to the steel drum band that greeted us nor to take a complimentary rum shot, which is my favorite part of the arrival process.
I secured a cab for 14 while the others grabbed bags. We piled in and headed to Charlotte Amalie port with fingers crossed. Never have I been so happy to see a sight like I was to see that Speedy’s ferry still at the dock.
Finally I could relax. We sat up top with the wind in our hair and sea spray on our face…we were on our way.
That is one long ferry ride…1 hour and 45 minutes. We killed time by trying to name each beach on St. John and each BVI as we passed by.
I loved Virgin Gorda as soon as we pulled up to the port in Spanish Town. To the left of the dock was a beach with local kids swimming and boulders lining the shore as the sun was sinking into the sky. After we cleared customs, a friendly man with a wide smile beckoned us…Wesley from Virgin Gorda Car Rental was waiting with our Suzuki Jimny. Paperwork was already filled out…all we had to do was sign, load up and then off to our villa.
The short ride to Mahoe Bay gave us a taste of what to expect in the coming week. Expansive views of ocean, sea, beaches and green mountains at every turn. This island reminds me of a cross between St. John and Anguilla. Two of my favorites, so how could I not love it as well. With a population of less than 4,000 occupying a land mass measuring 8.5 square miles, the island never felt crowded, in fact we were often the only ones on a beach at any given time. (Devil’s Bay and the Baths notwithstanding). Virgin Gorda is the third largest British Virgin Island, nicknamed the Fat Virgin which is what the shape of the island looked like to Christopher Columbus.
Our home away from home was Caribbean Wind. A large beachfront villa with lush, tropical landscaping and perfect sunset views. I was so thankful we had decided to get the house provisioned so we didn’t have to arrive and immediately hit the grocery store. Provisioning is a great idea in theory…but in reality, there were substitutions made, items missing, and items cancelled when they ran out of something. And almost everything was more expensive than the listed prices. It’s a sleepy island so I get it, but I think I prefer shopping myself and knowing what I am going to get and how much I will be paying for it.
After settling in, we made a quick dinner of grouper and veggies over rice. It was a perfect first night meal. The kids swam in the pool and the ocean, and then we all tossed a ball around the calm shallow water of Mahoe Bay by the light of the moon.
I made a conscious effort to relish the wonderful feeling that is the first night of vacation because I knew in the blink of an eye it would our last night. We listened to some tunes and poured some wine to round out the night then off to bed in anticipation of a fun day ahead.
Sunday dawned bright and clear, and as was the case most mornings, we were up with the sun. What a beautiful view we had from our balcony. There was even a mango tree in view of our outdoor shower.
We decided to make this a villa gravity day after the long and trying travel day we had, and since we had everything we could want right in front of us. We checked out the house and grounds in the light of day, ate a leisurely breakfast, walked on the beach, swam, snorkeled and sunned.
The snorkeling was good at the reef to the far North end of Mahoe. Some in our group saw an octopus, school of squid and a sea turtle. In the late afternoon we spent some time limin’ in the rooftop hot tub which looked like a big wine barrel.
We also had a villa cat that we named Mr. Jingles. He sure ate well while we were there. And spent time a lot of time snoozing in the cushioned lounged chairs in the outdoor living area.
We cooked another meal at home…tuna this evening (I will say that all of the frozen fish from Buck’s Market was very good), watched the sunset, got makeovers from the girls, played cards, then hit the sack.
Monday was boat day. Our group had the use of a 39’ boat and captain (from Bradley Powerboats) for the day. It was a lovely ride to Leverick Bay. I was hoping we could have gone to Anegada but with everything else that was already planned, there wouldn’t be time.
Our first stop was Trellis Bay, Tortola. When my friend told the captain this, he looked at us like we were crazy. Then she explained there was a cool Artisan shop she wanted to visit. Sadly, the item that I wanted..a large whale wall sculpture…was $14,000. I had to pass. Trellis is a funky, artsy little area with some cool sculptures and carvings on the beach. And a huge purple hammock that the kids enjoyed. But that’s about it. Not your typical tourist stop. But then again, we aren’t typical tourists.
We had a quick pain killer at a little local bar then back to the boat to make our way to Marina Cay. After the obligatory photos in front of the iconic red phone booth, we headed over to Pusser’s.
Now we have a Pusser’s in Annapolis, MD but it never impressed me much. I much prefer the original BVI location. Marina Cay is very a pretty little island with only a dock, beach, store and restaurant. Everyone was hot and immediately jumped in the water off of the small beach. Pusser’s makes a good pain killer, but my favorite is the still the original at Soggy Dollar. We herded our group back to the boat in search of lunch.
We decided on Cooper Island as it was halfway between Marina Cay and the Willy T.
We got a great table at Cooper Island Beach Club and had a wonderful lunch. Awesome roti and conch fritters. Probably the best conch fritters I have ever had. And they pour some yummy cocktails.
Next up…jumping off the back of the Willy T floating boat bar/restaurant. The kids had a blast. As did some of the adults.
Then our final stop of the day…snorkeling at the Indians. Nice, healthy coral and lots of fish.
We had mentioned to the captain that we had wanted to go to Saba Rock so he took us by before docking but with only 15 minutes to spare, and tired and cranky kids, we opted not to stop.
Back to the house for happy hour, sunset, dinner, games and bed. Most of our nights were spent this way. It may sound boring to some but it was perfect for us.
Tuesday was 4th of July and though it’s obviously not celebrated on this island, we each donned an article of clothing which exhibited our American pride. After a typical morning at the villa…coffee, walk on the beach, breakfast…we all set off to Spring Bay. Everyone loved this beach with its boulder-lined lagoon. And for much of the day we were the only ones there. Kids and adults alike loved jumping off the huge rocks into the calm, clear waters below. We had planned to venture out for lunch but everyone was so happy here that the guys picked up sandwiches at the deli and we ate on the beach.
It was so relaxing just sitting in the lagoon while baby sergeant majors nibbled on our toes. But I didn’t sit for too long as there were many areas to explore and photos to be taken.
We met a couple at Spring Bay who live on the island and taught at the school. The gentleman (Mr. C) had a group of island children in tow. Summer camp – VG style. We chatted with them a while and soaked up a little more Spring Bay sun before packing it in.
We spent the rest of the day and evening at villa. Since it was Independence Day…one of our group brought some big floating (bio-degradable) lanterns to release on the beach, so we all gathered at the water’s edge. This was a great idea, however it was too breezy and they would not get airborne. We aborted this plan so as not to set any gardens or villas on fire. Two families in our bunch stayed on for a second week on Tortola and since there was no wind that week they were able to make the lanterns float.
Wednesday our group split up…those who had had enough fun in the sun went to Leverick Bay to shop, then to Hog Heaven for lunch. We made our way to Savannah Bay for the day.
We secured a palapa in the sea grapes and did some swimming and snorkeling.
Totally different type of beach than Spring Bay…more reminiscent of the beaches on Anguilla and Provo.
We also noticed a sign for a poisonous tree next to the path leading to the beach. If you stand under it after a rain, you will suffer terrible blisters. And if you ingest a berry, you may die. Needless to say…we kept our distance. Except to take this photo.
After a while, Mr. C and his super fun summer camp group showed up. The East end of the beach has high sand dunes which the kids were sliding down on rafts. Sledding…island style. Since our empty beach was getting more crowded (relatively speaking) we decided to pack up.
We headed back to the villa in the afternoon to take advantage of an empty house. But not before stopping at the Savannah Bay overlook.
We made lunch, cranked up the music and spent some time in the hot tub (which was actually just a warm, somewhat bubbly small pool) and admired the views.
Tonight we were excited to be heading to CocoMaya for dinner.
The setting was great and the food was delish. And our background music was that of Oren Hodge. But the items are pricey and portions are small. Even though we ordered a lot, I still left hungry.
Thursday we had the best of intentions to get out the door by 7:30 AM to make it to the Baths before the excursion boats let loose their herds. But coordinating 14 people (including a 2 year old) is no simple task. So Mark cleaned the pool while we waited 😉
We arrived much later than anticipated…right about the time I saw the swarms of yellow life vests swimming ashore.
So it was a cozy affair inside the Baths but cool nonetheless. And a sight I am glad our daughter could experience.
We spent a little time at the beach after emerging from the boulders but it was too crowded for our liking so after Mark made his way back through (while waiting for 60 people to climb up that little wooden ladder) to look for Ellie’s missing sunglasses that we thought may still be at Devil’s Bay, we headed to Spring bay (no sunglasses to be found) for some more boulder jumping and lagoon limin’.
Then we made our back to The Top of the Baths for lunch. I liked this restaurant a lot…nice setting, great views and a pool to occupy the kids. The food was very good..we had the jerk chicken. But they certainly pushed “island time” to the limit. Our food took forever and the kids were over it. Thank goodness for Shirley Temples and virgin pina coladas.
As everyone made their way back in the late afternoon…many peeled off to their respective rooms for a nap. I can’t nap at home and certainly can’t nap on vacation. I don’t like to waste any more precious vacay hours sleeping than I have to.
Photo creds to Kelly for the villa shots below.
This evening was supposed to be when we were taking family photos but it got pushed to the next night, so Kelly took a few shots of me to test the lighting since I was already showered and ready. My own mini-photo shoot. And who could ask for a better backdrop.
Once everyone was back out, we were treated to another spectacular sunset.
Friday morning – our last day of vacation. Depression was slowly setting in. We had to make the most of this day.
Again, Mark, Ellie and I set off early on our own. While at Spring Bay the day before, we became privy to another beach to the North that could only be accessed by foot. This was our first stop. After wading through the water and weaving in and out of boulders, we made it to Little Trunk Bay.
Then a trail and more boulders and we had arrived at Valley Trunk Bay. What a beautiful stretch of beach. It was the perfect combination of sand, sea, boulders, palm trees, cacti, sea grapes and scenic views. This beach quickly joined the ranks of my favorite beaches which include Shoal Bay East (Anguilla), Salomon Bay (St. John), White Bay (Jost Van Dyke), and Crescent Beach (Compass Cay, Exuma).
Next we drove the length of the island to Leverick Bay while oohing and ahhhing along the way at the picturesque scenery. Even the concrete walls are covered with beautiful murals.
I also stopped along to way to take 5,000 photos at the famous overlook.
At Leverick we poked into a few shops to pick up souvenirs, then stopped by to check out the North Sound public works facility.
Then off to Hog Heaven for some lunch and to take in the expansive views. We only encountered a little traffic on the way…
We arrived just as some squalls were coming into view from the East. It was fascinating to watch the rain and clouds skim across the sea…and thankfully right past us.
Then back to blue skies and puffy white clouds.
My husband raved about the fried chicken and Dark & Stormy cocktail. And the service couldn’t have been better.
Before heading back to the villa to savor our last afternoon in the sun, I wanted to check out Mountain Trunk Bay and Nail Bay. The Nail Bay area is beautiful and lush and it looks like each of the little villas at the resort have great views. The beach itself is wide but the sand is the brownest that I saw on the island. I can appreciate the characteristics of volcanic islands, but I am a sucker for soft white sand. Which the island does offer as well. I loved the variety of the different types of beaches on Virgin Gorda.
A quick stop at the Mahoe Bay overlook…
Then an afternoon just to be. We had a quick afternoon shower but that didn’t drive anyone out of the pool. Our weather had followed a typical summer Caribbean forecast. Mainly sunny skies, some passing clouds, only a couple of brief day time showers, and more significant rain overnight most nights.
Then the girls did a re-make of a photo I took at Island Stones villa on St. John 5 years earlier…a silly random pose (the girls were 6,7,7 & 5 in the first shot and 11, 12, 12 and 10 in the re-make). Then we took a new one with the addition of little Sierra. Hopefully we will re-do that shot in a few years.
Then it was time for family photos. Kelly is a wonderful self-taught photographer and was going to take photos of everyone and get a group shot. Unfortunately this was the evening that the sky looked most threatening so it was a rushed affair.
Then she took few pictures of the girls on the beach while we waited to see if the weather was going to hold out.
We thought the group photo wasn’t going to happen, but after sunset, the most beautiful sky appeared and we got our shot.
Dinner was a potluck of leftovers and cocktails. Then one last evening of togetherness in the outdoor living space.
I sure do miss this view. Props to my daughter, Ellie, for taking this great shot.
We were up early on Saturday to gas up the rental car and wait for the ferry back to St. Thomas. The journey home was uneventful as I mentally prepared for re-entry.
The biggest disappointment of the trip was that we did not get to visit Necker Island to see the lemurs, tortoises and flamingos. We had tried for months to secure one of the very limited available tour dates with Gumption. But they had sold out prior to any of the openings ever making it to the website. I tried to find out if there was another avenue to book but communication with See It Clear Tours (the only operator who does this tour) was a bit challenging.
Next time I want to try more restaurants like The Treehouse and Saba Rock; I want to visit Anegada; and hopefully get a chance to see Necker. And while I loved Mahoe Bay, I would stay in the Spring Bay area next time for close proximity to the beaches we loved the most.
Until next time my British Virgin lover…