The ruins of St. Philips Anglican Church, the first church established for freed Africans in the Americas // © 2015 Abby O’Neal
Feature image (above): Close in proximity to Peter Island Resort & Spa, Deadman’s Beach is open to the public. // © 2015 Peter Island Resort & Spa
The British Virgin Islands (BVI) in the Caribbean is known for crystal-clear waters, a large concentration of five-star resorts and, of course, hundreds of perfect (nautical) miles to enjoy seamless sailing. In fact, sailing may be the islands’ claim to fame, considering the consistent trade winds, pleasant year-round weather and approximately 50 unique isles to explore.
But travelers to the sunny paradise are often surprised to discover a wealth of relatively unknown attractions that only few, in-the-know repeat visitors and locals experience. We rounded up our five favorite “secrets” that make BVI truly unique.
Peter Island Resort & Spa is not so private.
Peter Island Resort & Spa is one of the destination’s most exclusive island resorts, known for its five-star accommodations, gourmet meals, decadent spa and five secluded, white-sand beaches. To play here, you must be a guest — but there are exceptions.
One of the beaches, Deadman’s Beach, is open to visitors. Skippers, sailors and yachters can moor their boats to enjoy the untainted beach or swim with sea turtles. (It’s one of the few places throughout the islands where sea turtles can be found.)
Travelers that are not guests of Peter Island Resort are also invited to book its spa, one of the best in the islands, and dine at the property’s signature Tradewinds Restaurant, famous for the coconut French toast that staff member Jean Kelly has perfected for more than 20 years.
The museum at 1780 Lower Estate Sugar Works is a hidden gem of culture.
The Caribbean may not be a hot spot for museum-hopping, but BVI is home to a handful of terrific museums for cultural experiences. A surprise gem is the museum at 1780 Lower Estate Sugar Works, an estate in Tortola originally built by slaves that was home to sugar production until the 1940s. The relatively unknown museum features wonderful artifacts and exhibits detailing BVI’s history and culture for more than a century.
Scaramouche is an Italian hot spot for locals.
With few visits from tourists, Scaramouche is BVI’s best-kept secret. While the Italian restaurant, located in Soper’s Hole (West End Tortola), has become the favorite stomping ground for pasta-loving, ex-pat locals and sailors, tourists only hear of it through word-of-mouth.
The upstairs level is set for elevated dining, while the downstairs level is a social bar and lounge. Both afford terrific bay views and memorable sunsets. Opened by an Italian couple (you’ll be hard-pressed to find Italian cuisine dished out by Italians in BVI), Scaramouche is also one of few places in BVI that serves up delicious craft cocktails.
History resonates at the ruins of St. Philips Anglican Church.
There are a handful of must-see attractions most visitors include in their BVI itineraries — such as The Baths and Sandy Spit — but other notable sites go relatively unnoticed.
An underrated attraction is St. Philips Anglican Church in Kingstown, Tortola. It’s known to be the first church established for freed Africans in the Americas. After the abolition of slavery in 1807, liberated slaves built this church in 1840. While the church is now in ruins (restoration efforts are underway), the spot is a draw for history buffs to reflect on the community’s past hardships.
Rosewood Little Dix Bay was established by a Rockefeller.
It’s not unusual that Rosewood Hotels & Resorts nabbed Little Dix Bay in 1993. The intimate resort was conceived, built and opened in 1964 by Laurance S. Rockefeller, who loved the area’s half-mile, crescent-shaped beach, charming landscape and secluded coves.
Much of Rosewood Little Dix Bay’s original design has been preserved, including Pavilion restaurant’s various-angled, wood-shingle roof, a unique design and structure unusual for the Caribbean. Once visitors settle in, they may stumble upon a trail from the spa that leads them to a spacious, rocky cove and seriously sublime (and secret) beach.