Virgin Gorda Stories and Tips

Just Ask Edith, the bar tender at Mad Dog's

Stumbling upon Edith, the bartender at Mad Dogs, was as good of a start that anyone could have asked for when traveling miles from home. Cracking open a Carib, a locally brewed pilsner, at the seaside bar perched on the rocks just above an outcropping of massive boulders, Edith filled us in on Virgin Gorda’s most intimate of hideaways.

Known locally, and perhaps even worldwide, as the creator of the best Pina Coladas, Edith can certainly fill you in on the island's "sip sip" or good-natured gossip.

With her quite and unassuming way, she politely declined questions related to her secret cocktail ingredients, but happily pointed us and a handful of other adventure-seekers to the best kept secrets of the British Virgin Islands.

For instance, the Mineshaft Full Moon Party, held each month - was at the top of her list of suggestions, and one I'd whole heartedly recommend myself. Lincoln, a jovial fixture at the restaurant, is sure to give you his lively version of the local scene. Decline his offers for the famous "Cave In" (a secret beverage with "a little bit of everything") and you’ll live to tell friends back home of the evening. From atop the large hillside deck, guests are treated to island fungi music, native islanders (that don’t make appearances until well after 2am), and an excellent local dish of flying fish.

When most people hear the name BVI, they immediately think of the "Yachting Capital of the World." However, Lincoln and many of the other locals (like Coco – one of the wait staff at the restaurant), will ensure that there are other treasure too. For a trip to the islands wouldn't be complete without also sampling Anegada lobster, local conch, fresh papaya, mangos, and passion fruit galore.

With full bellies and a good night's sleep we awoke to explore nearby islands such as Jost Van Dyke, a four-mile long treasure, known as the "barefoot" island due to its casual lifestyle. However, Edith and other locals will warn not to let the nickname fool you. Jost Van Dyke may be a favorite destination of yachties and movie stars due to its protected anchorages and relatively unknown status, but it is still one of the best party islands of the Caribbean.

Foxy Callwood, the larger than life bartender/owner, has hosted some of the biggest parities on the island at his popular beachside watering hole called Foxxy’s. Halloween parties, catamaran races, and legendary New Year’s Eve parties are hosted with style as yacht owners, Rastafarians, European backpackers, and locals converge on this tiny island along with a famous face or two.

Everyone on the popular, yet still unknown island, will tell you -- before leaving Jost Van Dyke you must try a "Pain Killer" (a mighty rum concoction) invented at the Soggy Dollar Bar. Named the "Best Beach Bar in the Caribbean" in 2000 and 2001, it didn’t come as a surprise when Islands Magazine chose the digs as "The Number One Watering Hole in the World" in 2002. Despite its fame, the Soggy Dollar Bar has no dock, leading thirsty patrons to often swim ashore from their boat – thus paying for drinks with "soggy dollars." If you’re brave, or intoxicated, dare to ask the bartender Kendrick (call him KC) to a game of ring-toss before you leave.

Just down the Sir Frances Drake Passage, is another treasure – Treasure Island that is. Make sure to his it as well on your short boat ride back to Virgin Gorda.

In actuality it’s called Norman Island, the acclaimed island in which the Robert Louis Stevenson’s ‘Treasure Island’ was based. Appropriately, a pirate ship has sat at anchor in the busy bay since 1987. After the brig called William Thornton sunk, locals resurrected what is now known as Willy T, a world famous floating bar where truly anything goes.

Back on Virgin Gorda, or "fat virgin" as Christopher Columbus tagged it, you’ll want to save time between island hopping for a true day at the beach. Pick any, as they are all as close to perfect as one could hope. Practically private, you’ll rarely see more than another party or two, and some even are known to go "topless" – the beaches are just that secluded! For a good bet, try Spring Bay (designated as National Park) and go to "The Crawl," a series of boulders that form peaceful pools of water and a break from the sun. Little Trunk Bay, Savannah Bay, and the small beach at Guava Berry Estates are very nice as well, and provide the kind of snorkeling experience one would expect to find on a commissioned day charter. Just off the beach are a number of excellent coral heads, barracuda, and tropical fish that’ll have you guessing at for weeks.

What does this mean for you?

An entire week, maybe longer if you're lucky, of the kind of luxury most of us only come close to on a post card or travel channel segment. As BVI continues to define itself far beyond sun and placid waters, you’ll want to saver these moments before the secret is let out of the bag.

Enjoy yourself, and don't forget to tip Edith for such good advice.

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