St. John & The British Virgin Islands

Our big vacation this year took us back to the Virgin Islands. Our first stop would be one of our favorite spots in the world: St. John, along with the British Virgin Islands of Tortola, Virgin Gorda, and Anegada. You may remember we visited Virgin Gorda on our honeymoon, but this would be our first visit to Tortola and Anegada.


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We arrive in St. John around 4pm and almost immediately the trip got off to a rocky start. (Except for Sunshine Rentals - who made us right at the dock with the Jeep!) Colt got car sick on the way to our Eco-tent. We powered on and made it to our room. As we were getting settled, Colt accidentally dropped the room keys off the balcony onto the hillside below (fortunately later recovered by hotel staff). Once settled, we stopped at the Thirsty Donkey, a new restaurant in Coral Bay. The owners had just relocated to St. John from Birmingham to open the restaurant. Food was great - I had an Indian chicken dish with a shrimp appetizer. On the way home, Sadie fell getting out of the car and landed on a cactus. We spent the next hour+ pulling needles out of her arms, hands, and legs. It was painful to see but she was a trooper. Fortunately, we got all of our accidents and mishaps out the first day - the rest of the trip would be smooth sailing.

We started our first full day with breakfast at Pickles. Pickles is a deli in Coral Bay and a good spot for breakfast or lunch. We were only on St. John for the weekend, so our plan was to hit our old favorites and try to check out a few new places. Our first stop would be Francis Bay.

Next, we wanted to explore some new territory so we headed to the east end of St. John to check out South Haulover Beach. There were scenic views with a floating bar in the bay, which we hadn't seen before. We had a short swim there and then headed back to Coral Bay for lunch at Aqua Bistro. The food here is fantastic and is a great spot for lunch or dinner.

After lunch, we went to Maho Bay - currently ranked #1 on our Places to Be on Planet Earth list. We stayed at Maho for a few hours before heading to the Cruz Bay for dinner. We ate at "The Beach Bar", a waterfront restaurant with good pub style food and a fun beach-side atmosphere.


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Sunday morning we visited Miss Lucy's, another favorite spot, for Sunday Brunch. We had pancakes and the Blackstrap French Toast, which was stuffed with bananas and cream cheese. The French Toast was amazing.

After breakfast we explored the southwest side of the island, but didn't really find any new spots worth going to, so we headed to Trunk Bay, which for once was not very crowded. Colt and I snorkeled the well known underwater trail there while the girls got some beach time in.

Next, we headed to the ruins of the Annaberg Sugar Mill. We've been several times before, but it was the kids' first visit to the ruins. They had a great time exploring and learning some of the island's history. After visiting Anaberg, it was back to our favorite spot on the island, Maho Bay, for the rest of the afternoon. For dinner, it was another old favorite: Shipwreck Landing, for shrimp scampi and Mahi Mahi.


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Monday morning we dropped our Jeep back off in Cruz Bay and did a little shopping before boarding the ferry to Tortola - the kids' first trip outside the U.S! We breezed through customs and picked up our rental from Jerry's Car Rentals, then headed for our house.

The roads in Tortola are an experience. Many roads have 2-3 different names, so the road name on the map doesn't always match the name on the street sign. Many roads don't have signs at all. Some roads are paved - until they aren't. On top of that, there is a lot of road construction going on. Once you get your head around that, navigating the island is very easy.

Once we got settled our rental, "Gryphon's Lair", which you may have seen on an episode of House Hunter's International, we headed to the local grocery for provisions for the week. We ate out every meal on St. John as the Eco-Tents aren't well suited for keeping food around (Bugs!) so we tried to eat in most of the time on Tortola. Our first night we stayed in with pizza and a movie (Pirates of the Caribbean!)

Our plan Tuesday was to check out the beaches on Tortola. That morning a Disney cruise ship came into port, so we hopped online to check out the ship's excursions so we could try to avoid them! Most people would be headed to the Baths or Cane Garden Bay, so we headed over to Brewer's Bay. This is a great beach. There were a few people there but not crowded. We got in some good snorkeling and beach time before lunch.

After some incredible burgers at the Fish n' Lime Inn, we made the journey to Smuggler's Cove. This was another really cool beach. It's a bit off the beaten path, so there were only a handful of people there to share the beach with. We stayed here a couple hours but could have stayed much longer.

Next, we made a quick stop at Long Beach. The water was rough here so we headed on to Cane Garden Bay. It was getting late in the afternoon by this time, so the cruisers would be back on their ship. Cane Garden Bay is a very scenic beach, but definitely on the touristy side. There are understandably lots of food options and restaurants here as well.

Next we headed to the Bananakeet Café, known for it's beautiful views of the sunset and swim-up pool. Unfortunately, the pool closes at 6p (sorry, kids), you need a reservation for a decent table, and the menu looked ho-hum and seemed overpriced. We left.

We decided on the Tamarin Resort. We read good reviews in the traveler log at our rental, and this place did not disappoint. The Tamarin also had a (open) pool, and a casual laid-back atmosphere. The kids loved the pool and the food was very good. The kids had pizza while Susan and I had the mahi-mahi and coconut shrimp. Definitely a spot we'll come back to next time on the island.


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Wednesday started early with the 7am ferry to Anegada. Anegada sits roughly 30 miles NE from the other islands and is harder to get to. The ferry runs 3x a week and is about a 1.5 hour ride. Anegada is very flat island surrounded by reef, where the other islands are volcanic and more mountainous. The population is sparse, and outside of the high season we had the beaches mostly to ourselves.

We rented a Jeep for the day and made our way counter-clockwise around the island. First stop was Loblolly Bay. We strolled the deserted beach and grabbed a quick bite to eat at Big Bamboo. Next stop was Anegada Beach Club. Another beautiful beach here. From there, we headed to the famous Cow Wreck Beach. There's a great bar/restaurant here and one of the most well known beaches on the island. We spent the next few hours here playing on the beach and snorkeling - we saw 2 large great barracuda - before packing up to catch the ferry home. We stopped at Neptune's for Lobster Pizza (which was meh) on the way out. The ferry left at 4p and we didn't want to miss it - the ferry only comes 3 times a week.

One the coolest experiences we had on Anegada was on the way out. We had a little time for some last minute exploring before the ferry left and we came across a shallow area across from the flamingo lookout where you could walk hundreds of yards offshore in knee-deep water. We saw dozens of nurse sharks as we walked out - very cool!


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Thursday was our final full day on the island. We kicked off the day with a visit to Lambert Beach, located just below our rental property. We had the beach to ourselves and spent a few hours here playing on the beach, sea kayaks, and climbing the boulders. We really enjoyed the beach here - next visit we'll spend a lot more time here!

Thursday afternoon we ferried over to Virgin Gorda to visit The Baths, a boulder-filled beach that is one of the most visited in the Caribbean. The kids loved exploring, particularly the hike down to the beach where they got to climb ladders, go through natural tunnels, and climb over boulders. The Baths is always a great visit.

On our last day, we checked out at 10 and made our way down to Soper's Hole Marina to catch the ferry back to the USVI. After lunch at Pusser's, we checked in and BARELY made the ferry home. Kudos to BVI Customs for holding the boat for us! However, the ferry DID leave us at STJ customs and started to St. Thomas without us. Fortunately we were able to flag them down and they returned for us. We made it back home around midnight that night. It was another great trip to the islands!

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