Tour Tortola by Land--Sights and Scenic Drives


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Tortola. The main island of the BVI, Tortola (tor-'tO-l&) (see road map) means "Turtle Dove," so-named for its shape and beauty. Of volcanic origin, a central mountainous "spine" forms its core with a series of lesser ridges undulating and spilling to the sea. Spectacular views abound with vistas opening up to outlying islands across the azure blue sea and emerald colors above reefs. The scenery is enhanced by ascents like "airplace rides," sheer descents and hairpin turns that require mirrors to be posted in places. Yes, driving on Tortola is an experience in itself. Some feel safer in jeeps and four-wheel-drive vehicles. And yes, drive on the left!

 
RoadTourIcon.gif (3490 bytes) Tour Tortola by Land
Sights And Scenic Drives

Ridge Road

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The central spine of Tortola is the route of a main road, called aptly enough, "Ridge Road."

From the East End, look for the police station-a large white building, and turn inland from the coastal road at Little Dicks Road to begin.

Climbing up onto the ridge, this section of Ridge Road has views to Josiah's Bay with its large salt pond, which is reached via Josiah's Bay Road.

An everchanging tableau of ridges, valleys and islands appear in succession as the road follows the ridge or contour line, dipping through "ghuts," or stream valleys and transversing slopes to navigate the next peak.

The background views here show peaks from Tortola's ocean headlands and outlying islands of Great Camanoe and easternmost Guana Island.

 
Flight over Tortola with Quito Rymer's 'Caribbean Run.'

This scenic drive appears to slowly wrap around the "amphitheater" created by the spacious Road Town Harbour. The islands across the Sir Francis Drake Channel form a backdrop in the distance.

Since the top of a mountain is often its most level part, Ridge Road is the location of a whole way of life, reflecting Tortola's historically rural and pastoral culture.

See Life on Ridge Road, including Shadow Stables for horseback riding.

Here are found island farm houses with the traditional red tin roofs.
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Just past the Cool Breeze Bar is the turn off to Brewer's Bay at Brewer's Bay Road East. Mt. Healthy National Park, the ruins of windmill powered sugar mill at an historic sugar plantation, is down this road.

Further on is the turn-off to the right to Skyworld, the restaurant in the clouds with the 360 panoramic views.
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Another turnoff, at an outdoor bar sitting next to the road, goes down to Cane Garden Bay

Still further on, a turnoff goes up to Mount Sage National Park, with free trails, a semi rain forest, mahogany trees, mountain doves and spectacular views.

As Ridge Road finally dips to the North Beach Coast, half way down toWindy Hill are the overgrown stone walls and other ruins of the18th century St. Michael's Church, reputedly headed by a pirate priest who used this vantage to spy passing ships, now usually charter boats.

Lost on Ridge Road? Click here.

North Beach
Coast Road

This dramatic drive enchants and weaves itself amongst some of the finest beaches and places in the islands.

To begin, take Ridge Road's ocean-side turn-off to Cane Garden Bay Road past Skyworld. From Road Town, take Joe's Hill Road and continue over Ridge Road to Cane Garden Bay Road.

There are dramatic views of Brewer's Bay seen here, reached by Brewer's Bay Road West.

Follow this Tour Tortola icon for more detailed descriptions for traveling by foot or vehicle.

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Preferably in a valiant little jeep like the one perched here (with four-wheel drive) on a crest above Brewer's Bay.

The road offers a panoramic view of its namesake, Cane Garden Bay, before descending steeply and then slipping along this beautiful beach.

The route ascends out of Cane Garden Bay through woods before reaching Ridge Road's terminus at Windy Hill. The road becomes the North Coast Road as the  North Beach Coast begins.

This route drops once more, past  into Great Carrot Bay, a coastal village.

On the cliffside way down is Just Limin' and on the flatland is Mrs. Scatliffe's and Palm's Delight restaurants. Also, the North Shore Shell Museum is found at a restaurant by that name.

Keep a look out for fascinating cloud formations as the tradewinds lift over Tortola's mountainous spine, often dropping very localized rain and sprouting rainbows. The play of cloud shadows over these rolling ridges and ethereal peaks is a continual, and majestic, work of art.

Passing Little Carrot Bay, the road goes on by Apple Bay, home of the famous Sugar Mill Restaurant.

It quickly passes Cappoon's Bay, Tortola's best surfing spot and home of Bomba's Beach Shack, a ramshackle structure right in the surf.

Next door is Little Apple Bay, where Sebastian's On the Beach serves as a kind of crossroads at Zion Hill Road, the way to Soper's Hole.

The coast road becomes Long Bay Road and surmounting the next ridge presents a view of spectacular Long Bay Beach. Drive right through this fine resort, perhaps stopping to sample the great local food at Nathan's Snackette, right before climbing some more.

Further on, a "rustic" road leads past Belmont Point to cozy Smuggler's Cove. Here you will find a unique "living museum" in a decaying beach bar as well as a giant Arawak zemi.

Sir Francis
Drake Channel
Coastal Road

Another coastal road (this island is all coasts) runs along Tortola's Sir Francis Drake Channel from the Beef Island Airport on the East End to Soper's Hole on the West End.

This route is split into two main sections by Road Town in the middle.

The section from the Beef Island Airport on the East End, called Blackburn's Highway, passes Fat Hog's Bay, Maya Cove and other bays, going over a series of ridges looking out to Virgin Gorda, like this one seen from the Virgin Gorda ferry.
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The route then comes into Road Town, becoming Waterfront Drive and making a half-circle around the harbour Capital and main habitation. Here is a modern supermarket and the beginning of our Road Tour of Road Town with great dock and dining spots on the harbour.

Other intown sights include the Virgin Island Folk Museum and J.R.O'Neal Botanic Garden as well as a Dining Tour of the largest selection of restaurants in the islands.

A delightful side tour can be taken of Road Town's Main Street Shops.

Before leaving Road Town, don't miss Fort Burt, still guarding the harbour as Tortola's most intact historic ruin

The section past Road Town, called Drake's Highway, quickly passes Sea Cow's Bay, a quaint village with the Struggling Man's Place, an local restaurant with great coastal views.

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Going on by Nanny Cay, a nautical village, this is a generally easy, low-lying, route, the flattest stretch of road on Tortola.
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Picturesque views to the outlying islands across the Sir Francis Drake Channel characterize this route. A vision of serenity!

Ft. Recovery, at the Ft. Recovery Estate Villas resort, has the unrestored remains of a 17th century Dutch fort facing the water.

There is an turn-off inland at Zion Hill Road to the North Beach Coast, marked by this gas station, and the hillock in back that is one of a shapely set called The Towers.

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This route finally reaches beautiful Soper's Hole on the West End of Tortola. The Wharf, with its West Indian style shopping village on Frenchman's Cay, is a delightful ending to this route.