Tortola is the biggest and busiest (population of ca. 30,000) island of the British Virgin Islands. The list of anchorages is long, most located around the capital city of the BVI, Road Town. The most popular anchorages are Road Harbour, Prospect Reef Marina and Nanny Cay Marina. The coast of Tortola can be split into 2 parts. The south side (Road Harbour) is less hospitable and rocky. The north side is where all the beaches and attractions are. Top beaches on the north side are Cane Garden Bay and Smugglers cove. Hills run from East to West, surrounded by the main road alongside the coast, with the prominent Ridge Road leading through the top of the hills, disecting the island in two halves. The airport is located in the north of Tortola, on Beef Island (if you are in the vicinity, definitely have a look to Well Bay- a private, but accessible beach).
Getting around and real life need to know
As in all of the BVI, cars drive on the left side of the road. The electricity is the US plug – 120V, 60 HZ. Note that power is unstable and always use a surge protector. The easiest way to get around the island is a taxi (Road Town and Cane Garden Bay) or a car rental. Note that hitch hiking is common and considered safe. The local airport is on Beef Island (Terrance B. Lettsome International Airport) and receives flights mainly from Puerto Rico and other Caribbean Islands. Recently, the government has secured a deal with BVI Airways for direct Miami flights, but the dates of first flights are still to be announced (April 2018).
History of Tortola
Discovered by Columbus, who named Tortola “Santa Ana”, Tortola received it’s name as a mutation of “Ter Tholen,” given to it by Dutch colonists. Columbus named the archipelago after 11,000 beheaded virgins of St. Ursula, a 5th century legend.
Blackbeard and Captain Kidd were the first permanent residents, taking advantage of the naturally well defended locations that would be easy to flee, such as West End (today’s Soper’s Hole).
In the 16th century, the English took over and the sugarcane industry took off, fueled by kidnappings of thousands of slaves from Africa. After the abolition of slavery, the sugarcane industry lost it’s profitability, especially because Cuba and most South American countries still had slavery. Here is where the emancipation movement starts, with uprisings and unrest, after farmer Hodge killed a slave over a mango (and was hung afterwards).