Tortola. The main island of the BVI, Tortola (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!
From the East End, look for the police station-a large white building, and turn inland from the coastal 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.
The background views here show peaks from Tortola's ocean headlands and outlying islands of Great Camanoe and easternmost Guana Island.
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.
Shadow Stables (4-2262) on Ridge Road just east of Skyworld offers the chance to ride in the sky.
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.
Another turnoff, at an outdoor bar with four stools sitting next to the road, goes 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).
The North Beach
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.
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. The road becomes the North Coast Road as the North Beach Coast begins.
This route drops once more into Great Carrot Bay, a coastal village. The North Shore Shell Museum is here at a restaurant by that name.
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.
The 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.
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.
Going on by Nanny Cay, a nautical village, this is an especially easy, low-lying, route, the flattest stretch of road on Tortola.
Ft. Recovery, at the Ft. Recovery Estate Villas resort, has the unrestored remains of a 17th century Dutch fort facing the water.
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.