Background of the British Virgin Islands

photo of a beach from introduction to the British Virgin Islands
One of the many wonderful beaches in the British Virgin islands

This guide is the culmination of 14 years spent living, sailing and captaining a charter yacht in the British Virgin Islands. We would take up to 12 guests at a time for week long charters and were heavily into scuba diving, fishing, and visiting the out of the way places

Because of our desire to give our guests a unique experience, we did not do the traditional charter milk run that a lot of other boats do in the British Virgin islands. I have gained an in depth knowledge of the area and have visited places where most have not.

I hope to pass some of this knowledge on to you. If you plan on visiting the British Virgin Islands on a crewed charter yacht, a bareboat, a land based vacation or on a cruise ship day stop, there is something here for everyone. In our resource section you will find all the islands of the BVI with a description of their anchorages and some history.

The British Virgin Islands

The Caribbean islands were formed by techtonic plate movement along the edge of the Caribbean plate, this movement caused volcanic activity and land mass upheavals. Prior to this plate movement the water here would have been thousands of feet deep.

The shifting plates pushed up the islands and created shallow water (mostly 60 to 130 feet) around the islands. Going just a few miles out on either end, you come to the north and south drops where the water drops from a couple of hundred feet deep to thousands of feet deep.

These areas Have upwelling currents that bring nutrients to the surface which attracts large schools of bait fish which in turn attracts large pelagic fish. The north drop is one of the premier fishing areas in the world.


The largest island on the British Virgin Islands is the main island of Tortola which has the capital of Road town and is the center of commerce and government. Tortola is connected via a small bridge to a much smaller island named Beef island. This is where the British Virgin Island airport is located.
This fact confuses some as when booking flights to the British Virgin islands, most know they want to go to Tortola but the plane tickets say beef island airport!

one of the photos of the article Introduction to the British Virgin islands
Spanish Town, Virgin Gorda

The next most populated island of the British Virgin islands is Virgin Gorda. So named because Columbus, after being at sea for some time, thought the silhouette of the island reminded him of a fat lady laying down.

The main town on Virgin Gorda is Spanish Town. Way back in time Spanish town was in fact the capital of the British Virgin Islands but was destroyed in a hurricane, it was decided to move the capital to Road town as it was safer.

The next 2 main islands are Jost Van Dyke and Anegada. These are both sparsly populated and both have a much more relaxed way of life. Many of the other smaller islands have resorts or private homes on them.


All islands in the British Virgin Islands can be accessed by boat and all beaches are public property even on islands that are completely privately owned. Of the privately owned islands the most famous of all must be Necker Island. Necker island as well as Mosquito island are owned by the world famous Sir Richard Branson, and is home to the Necker Island Resort.

This resort has been listed as the most exclusive resort in the world with many famous celebrities having rented the island in the past as an exclusive luxury get away.

Immediately to the west of the British Virgin Islands are the US Virgin Islands. This Chain consists of 3 main islands and many smaller islands and cays much the same as in the BVI. St Thomas is the main island with St John and St Croix being the other 2.

St Thomas and St John lay very close to each other with only a couple of miles separating them, St Croix lays some 40 miles to the south. Continuing to the west is the Spanish Virgin Islands. These consist of Puerto Rico ,Vieques and Culebra.