Anchoring at Cooper Island
A dangerous reef – ominously called Dry Rocks – sits in the middle of Ginger Island Passage so navigate cautiously between Ginger Island and Cooper Island, otherwise you’ll spoil your BVI yacht charter. The north is better protected than the south toward Cistern Point because there are fewer reefs. A north swell can complicate things.
Anchoring is only allowed outside the mooring field because the bottom is covered with sea grass. Manchioneel Bay is part of the Department of Conservation & Fisheries’ sea grass monitoring program and considered essential for marine health.
Moor-Secure Ltd. operates 30 moorings in Manchioneel Bay available for vessels up to 30 feet and 20 net tons. Get a mooring ball on a first-come basis; reservations aren’t available. There are two dinghy docks. Arrive early – possibly even before noon – to ensure you get a spot in the mooring field. The holding of the weed-covered bottom is often poor.
Moorings along the beach toward the southern end of the mooring field are best for catamarans and monohulls as the water is just 7 or 8 feet deep in parts.
Reasons to visit Cooper Island
Located just across Sir Francis Drake Channel to the east of Tortola, Cooper Island has a small but beautiful, palm-lined beach; a variety of sport activities; a coffee shop; a boutique; a rum bar; one of the most popular restaurants in the BVI; and a few accommodation options.
One visitor called it “the most enchanting of all the islands in the BVI.” The sun sets into the bay, making for dramatic sunsets.
Manchioneel Bay is named for a tree found onshore. But don’t pick the fruit of these trees because it’s poisonous.
Services at Cooper Island
Services include ice (available at the minibar); free Wifi; and garbage collection provided by Deliverance and Deep Blue Charters.
Where to stay at Cooper Island
Cooper Island Beach Club
Cooper Island Beach Club (VHF 16) is a family-owned, eco-resort with 10 beachfront guest rooms – all with views of the Sir Francis Drake Channel and nearby islands. The open floor plan design means that two rooms can be turned into a 2-bedroom, 2-bathroom suite if needed. Full board packages are available. Two hillside rooms offer extra privacy for an additional charge.
Beach Cottages of Cooper Island
Beach Cottages of Cooper Island offers two properties on Cooper Island. Enjoy a rum punch while sunbathing on a private beach. A path leads to the Cooper Island Beach Club. The Pink Beach House sits right on the beach and is intended for a romantic getaway for two. The Hideaway has one bedroom, a view of the bay and channel from above, and a path down to the white sand beach. Both properties are solar-powered.
House at Quart-a-Nancy Point
One of just a few private homes on Cooper Island, the oceanfront house at Quart-a-Nancy Point can sleep up to six adults in three bedrooms. Built in the 1960s as an artists’ retreat, the home features a large patio, courtyard with a barbecue and stairs to the jetty.
Where to eat at Cooper Island
Cooper Island Beach Club Restaurant is open daily from mid-October to mid-August. Enjoy lunch between 12 and 3 p.m., and dinner beginning at 5:30 p.m. Reservations are recommended for dinner, especially during high season (December to April).
There’s no need to dress up but cover your swimsuit before entering the restaurant. Hamburgers and fish and chips are popular lunch choices. Sample dinner options include braised brisket, banana leaf-wrapped Mahi Mahi, and 8-ounce beef strip loin.
What to do at Cooper Island
Exploring the water
Visitors recommend snorkeling along the shoreline and out to the dinghy mooring balls. Some report encountering rays, barracuda, tarpons and sea turtles, attracted by the turtle grass on the bottom of the harbor.
Rent PADI-certified instruction from the dive shop, fill your tank, rent equipment, or book a reef or wreck snorkel or dive trip (RMS Rhone is at nearby Salt Island). The dive shop also rents single and double kayaks, stand-up paddleboards and boat charters (sailing classes available). Often, pre-booking and minimum numbers are required so contact the shop before arriving.
The Rum Bar – part of Cooper Island Beach Club – serves more than 100 rums from throughout the Caribbean. It claims to offer the largest selection of rum of any restaurant or bar in the Virgin Islands. Try a variety of these rums – and learn their history from the knowledgeable bartenders – by ordering a rum sampler board. The Rum Bar, which is open from 1 to 11 p.m. daily, also serves cocktails and now has a brewing room, offering wheat beer, pilsner and IPA. $1 of every IPA sold is donated to BVI Sea Turtle conservation.
Relaxing on the beach
A coconut plantation sits behind Cooper Island’s small beach. Kids will enjoy making sand castles while the adults read and soak up the sun on the beach. Relax even more by booking a massage.