Make Memories in the British Virgin Islands’ Channels Less Traveled

The best of the BVI can be found just beyond the beaten path, in spots such as Fallen Jerusalem and Anegada's North Shore.
Sandy Spit BVI
That ­heavenly made-for-­television isle in the middle of the sea that you’ve lusted after since childhood does, in fact, exist. It’s in the BVI, and it’s called Sandy Spit. Antony/

Set amid the azure waters of the Caribbean, the British Virgin Islands has long been a coveted destination for sun-seeking adventurers. With its vibrant coral reefs, quiet coves, and lively beach bars, the BVI is synonymous with relaxation and indulgence. 

The BVI is also renowned for its tourist attractions and well-­trodden paths, which is why, on a recent charter, our group of experienced charterers intentionally strayed from the familiar hotspots. In doing so, we found a side of the BVI that produced memories and stories anew. These newfound (to us) destinations offered a fresh glimpse into the singular charm of the BVI, which are just waiting to be discovered by intrepid souls who dare to look a little farther.

Sandy Spit

As the waves gently caressed the sides of our dinghy, I took a deep breath and gazed ahead at Sandy Spit, a tiny gem nestled in the heart of the British Virgin Islands. The sun painted a golden path on the water, as if guiding my wife and me toward a paradise we’d long dreamed of.

As the dinghy kissed the ­beachline, I leaped onto the ­pristine sands with anticipation and wonder, feeling the warmth radiating through my toes. Our friends had dropped us off for a few hours, promising to return later to whisk us away to the next destination on the itinerary. But for now, Sandy Spit was ours alone.

The island, barely more than a sandbar, stretched out in all directions, adorned with only a few swaying palm trees and a blanket of powdery white sand. The sand was cool and velvety, a luxurious carpet leading toward our own private sanctuary. We knew in a moment that this tiny island ­epitomized paradise in its purest form. It was a rare gift, a slice of heaven carved out just for us.

A simple isle merits simple pleasures, which, for us, included a charming picnic of tropical fruits, and the discovery of seashells and treasures that had washed up on the shore. Surrounded on all sides by majestic blue water and the beautifully jagged landscape of the BVI beyond it, it felt like we were all alone in the world’s most storied charter playground. Even today, when stress starts to get the better of me, I close my eyes and return to that perfect day on that tiny isle where time stood still.

Salt Island

Wreck of the RMS Rhone, iron-hulled steam sailing vessel, sank after the Great Hurricane of 1867 off the coast of Salt Island, near Tortola, British Virgin Islands, Caribbean
The Rhone wreck might get top billing, but neighboring Salt Island is an overlooked gem to explore. Stuart Westmorland/Danita Delimont/

A tiny droplet of moisture traced a path down my forehead while I leaned over the front of the RIB, maneuvering the painter to secure the dinghy to the mooring line near Black Rock Point on Salt Island. Submerged in the clear, shimmering water below were the remnants of the Rhone, a majestic steamship once belonging to the Royal Mail service. Its demise occurred during a hurricane back in 1867. 

With the dinghy secured and dive flag deployed, I glanced behind me for lurking jellyfish and then rolled backward off the dink, plunging into the bathlike water. An extraordinary world revealed itself: the vibrant dance of skittish reef fish, the kaleidoscope of corals in full bloom, and the whimsical sea turtle that was blissfully unaware of the concept of ­personal space. I swear that I almost heard the whispers of the 123 lost souls, as if they were keenly observing my every movement. It was ­haunting as each kick drove me deeper into the unknown, extending the boundaries of my comfort zone. 

While the Rhone is one of the most-sought-after diving destinations in the BVI, few charterers take the time to explore adjacent Salt Island, a place steeped in history and shrouded in mystery. Walking along the deserted shores, I felt a sense of awe as I discovered the remnants of salt pans that once served as the island’s lifeblood. I imagined the toil and perseverance of the salt miners of old. The weight of their stories added a layer of depth to the experience. 

History enthusiasts can learn a lot here about cultural heritage and the significance of salt production in shaping the region’s economy—not to mention escape from the crowds while reveling in the island’s seldom-touched beauty.

Fallen Jerusalem

Fallen Jerusalem Island near Virgin Gorda, British Virgin Islan
Uninhabited Fallen Jerusalem is due west across the channel from the popular Baths. Mary Baratto/

As tourists flocked to the iconic giant boulders of the Baths on Virgin Gorda, I sought a quieter and more intimate experience. I’d heard whispers of a secluded cove nearby named Fallen Jerusalem, so we sailed across the channel toward it, accompanied by playful dolphins that danced in our wake. 

Approaching the shore, we were greeted not by other charterers, but instead by towering cliffs draped with vibrant greenery, framing a pristine beach. A leisurely stroll along the shoreline revealed hidden tide pools teeming with vibrant marine life. These natural pools, like tiny windows into an underwater world, offered a unique opportunity to observe colorful fish and delicate coral formations up close. 

Fallen Jerusalem has captivating underwater caves and grottoes that ­snorkelers and divers can explore under a cloak of solitude. The surrounding waters are protected as a marine sanctuary, ensuring the preservation of the island’s underwater ecosystem and contributing to ­sustainable tourism practices. 

Spring Bay

Beautiful tropical beach with white sand, turquoise ocean water and blue sky at Virgin Gorda, British Virgin Islands in Caribbean
Spring Bay sits just to the east of Fallen Jerusalem. BlueOrange Studio/

Spring Bay is a frequently overlooked beachcomber’s paradise. Sprinkled (although less liberally) with the same awe-inspiring granite boulders as its famous neighbor, the Baths, Spring Bay’s sprawling beachline offers a sense of peaceful grandeur. The soft white sands, calm waters, and swaying palm trees make it an idyllic spot to unwind with a Painkiller cocktail in hand and without the distractions of crowds.  

We had heard rumors of the great beaches surrounding the Baths, but nothing could have prepared us for the expanse of powdery white sand that ­greeted us like a welcoming carpet, nestled perfectly in the island’s lee. Turquoise waters lapped gently against the shore, inviting us to dip our toes and settle into a lovely, lazy beach day. We set up camp beneath the shade of a towering palm tree and spread out our beach towels to enjoy a picnic lunch and some tasty libations from our own galley, which was on the hook about a hundred feet off the shoreline. We reveled in the warm embrace of the ocean, our laughter echoing off the rocks as we played in the cove like carefree children. Donning snorkeling gear, we were instantly transported to a world teeming with schools of fish darting around us, and delicate coral formations posing as intricate sculptures. 

After a few carefree hours, Spring Bay became more than a beach to us; it was a cherished memory. Later, basking in the warm afterglow of a day well spent, we recalled how boat after boat had cruised right on by this picture-perfect setting on final approach to the Baths, without so much as a glance. Ah, their loss. 

Anegada’s North Shore

colorful coral reef and bright fish
The ­barrier reef protecting Anegada’s north shore delivers world-class ­snorkeling right off the beach. Veronicka/

To go or not to go? That is always the question about Anegada, especially if it involves motorsailing for several hours head-to-wind. Weather permitting, I say go, but not just for the food. It’s easy to become captivated by the island’s succulent lobster and breathtaking beaches, however, the hidden gems along the north shore truly make this stopover a must-do. 

First off, because the lengthy offshore trek to get there isn’t for everyone, Anegada allows you to escape the crowds. The beaches are the epitome of ­untouched beauty, with fine white sands that stretch for miles and gin-clear waters that seem to merge with the sky. But the crown jewels of the north shore are its thriving coral reefs. Snorkeling or diving in these waters offers a glimpse into an underwater wonderland where colorful fish dance amid massive, shallow coral formations. The ­abundance and ­diversity of marine life will leave you in awe, making for an ­unforgettable adventure.

Anegada is a relatively small island, so getting around is straightforward. To reach the north shore, rent a moped or an RV. Driving along the quiet roads allows you to soak it all in at your own pace, and you’ll have the freedom to explore the hidden coves and secluded beaches that dot the coastline. Make sure to visit Cow Wreck Beach and Loblolly Bay, two secluded stretches of pristine shoreline with world-class reefs for snorkeling. As the sun begins to set, make your way to Flamingo Pond Lookout to witness majestic flamingos in their natural habitat. 

After a day on Anegada, you’ll probably have worked up a healthy appetite for the legendary lobster. To the victors belong the spoils.