January 2003by Barbara, Deirdre & Michael
While the ladies were dining on ribs and rum and enjoying the villa, Michael headed directly to Peter Island. Taxis run from the West End ferry dock to Road Town, and the Peter Island ferry departs from there. "I was truly stunned by the beauty of Peter Island," Michael said. "Just staggered." The entire island is a private resort, complete with 52 rooms, private villas, swimming pool and a beachfront spa and fitness center. The open-air lobby offers terrific views of Sir Francis Drake Channel - and fresh, hot coffee each morning. Guests can join in a nature walk, play tennis, go mountain biking, take up windsurfing or sailing or join the divemaster for SCUBA diving on the wreck of the RMS Rhone. Dead Chest Island, visible from the beach, is said to be the spot where Blackbeard marooned 15 mutinous men, and nearby Norman Island was the inspiration for Robert Louis Stevenson's classic, "Treasure Island."
Michael joined the resort's general manager Friday evening for dinner at Tradewinds, one of the resort's two restaurants. The restaurant specializes in island-inspired dishes such as rum-basted tropical lamb satay with grilled pineapple and coconut-lime sauce, and the wine room has more than 300 selections from which to choose. Deadman's Bar and Grill near the beach offers lighter fare and features a steel drum band every Sunday.
After an incredible dinner and an evening tour of the resort, Michael boarded the ferry back to Road Town and crossed Deadman's Bay under a midnight sky. The taxi dropped him at the bottom of the hill on Frenchman's Cay, and he realized that he had no idea which of the three steep driveways led up to the villa. "Our villa wasn't the one at the top of the first hill, or the second!" Michael said. But after scrambling up the third hill, luggage in hand, Frenchman's Lookout awaited. Climbing into one of the many hammocks, Michael slept under the stars, swinging to the sound of the waves.
The next day, Saturday, was our villa "Boot Camp" day. We met up with our local rep first thing in the morning and off we went, criss-crossing the island, up and down and back over the high spine of Tortola. The island is very lush and green, and the views from just about anywhere are spectacular. Although the topography is a bit challenging -- with many of the villas situated at the tops of hills that seem to go straight up -- the island is just perfect for first-time visitors. It's fun, it's safe and the scenery is spectacular. Of course repeat visitors have plenty to look forward to, too. That's why they return.
Tortola's beaches are top notch, with Cane Garden Bay, Smugglers Cove and Brewers Bay on the northwest coast the best of the bunch. We stopped in Cane Garden Bay for lunch. We skipped the burgers though, opting for a plate of the local fare: conch fritters, Johnny Cakes and fried fish washed down with "Painkillers," a popular local rum drink that lives up to its name.
We visited 12 villas Saturday, traveling from Steele Point on the southwest tip of the island, around the one road that circles the island and back and forth across the interior hills until finally crossing the bridge to Beef Island. Despite the occasional cow wandering across the road and the numerous goats and chickens for whom we stopped, we arrived on Beef Island with time for a drink before our ferry to Virgin Gorda. After downing a round of "No-Se Ums," a rum drink known for the punch you don't see coming until it's too late, we boarded the ferry and crossed Drake's Passage. Streaks of sunshine peaked through the cloud, and by the time we arrived on Virgin Gorda the sun had turned the sky a brilliant orange.
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