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Norman Island: Treasure anyone?

Posted by on May 18, 2013

Last year we spent 6 days on Jost van Dyke and we loved it so much we never left the island. This year, since we’re staying 10 days, we decided to do a day trip or two.

Our first day trip was to Norman Island, a 2.5 mile-long uninhabited island that was the model for Robert Louis Stevenson’s book Treasure Island.

We rose early for the 7am ferry from Jost Van Dyke to West End, Tortola. Once there, a taxi took us around the bay to Soper’s Hole, where we had almost 2 hours to kill before setting sail for our day trip. Timing is indeed everything, for just as we arrived, we heard “Anyone want any wine?” Ummmm…yeah! Lucky for us, some folks were leaving the sailboat they had rented for a week and were giving away bottles of wine and cases of soda they couldn’t take with them. We took some of both and also took these as a sign that it was going to be a good day…[Mental note: Good to hang around yachting docks when crews are unpacking. Free stuff!]

Having just made friends with 4 other folks on the ferry who were also doing our day trip, we all went and had a lovely breakfast at D’ Best Coffee Shop. We chatted and got to know each other a bit before heading out to sea. That’s one thing about island vacations. Everyone is so relaxed and happy. It brings out the best in all of us. We chatted easily and became fast friends with Carrie, Ryan, Mel, and Ken.

Once aboard the 45-foot Mystique 2 catamaran that we had booked through Voyage Charters (left, double-click to see captions), we met our South African crew team–Adam and Kelly. And also found out we had this boat, built for 36, all to ourselves with only 10 people. Score! It was a beautiful sailboat and Adam and Kelly were excellent hosts–fun, down to earth, and extremely knowledgeable and helpful.


We motored out of Tortola and into the Sir Francis Drake Channel for about 15 minutes before putting up the sails and letting the wind (and Adam) steer us towards Norman Island. The view as we sailed was stunning. We were surrounded by the undeveloped St. John nature reserve on our right and the not-yet-overdeveloped Tortola to our left (though houses are being added by the minute. Ugh.)

Our first stop was at a group of rocks off the shore of Norman Island called “The Indians” (left). Many locals have told us this is some of the best snorkeling in the BVIs. While beautiful, Jeff and I tended to disagree–we preferred snorkeling at the Baths (more on that in a later post). But they are definitely worth a stop, especially if you’re willing to brave the “swim-through” by diving down through a hole in the reef, turning upside down to view it, and then coming out on the other side. Me, not so much. But others loved it!

After the Indians, we motored quickly over to the caves. Three caves can be found in the rocky shores of Norman Island. The middle one (pictured here) was used in one of the Pirates of the Caribbean movies. Jeff and I chose to snorkel outside the caves instead (looking for a  sea turtle that was supposedly nearby). Though we never found the turtle, the snorkeling was beautiful. We saw similar fish and coral here as to the Indians, and to Sandy Spit near Jost van Dyke, on our previous days’ dinghy adventure. I feel like I’m swimming in an aquarium…very cool.

After the caves, Adam took us to Pirates Bight, a beach restaurant on Norman Island. I love the restaurants here–open air, casual, with sand, bathing suits, and no shoes completely acceptable. The food was delicious. Jeff had a chicken roti (traditional West Indian wrap) and I devoured a chicken fajita. Snorkeling makes a girl hungry!

After lunch, Adam dinghy’ed the others to Willy T’s (left), the famous floating restaurant and bar. They are famous for their ingenious marketing idea. If you jump off the boat topless, they’ll give you a free T-shirt to cover up when you come aboard. (Can you see 3 drunken men coming up with this brilliant business plan? I can!) It’s worked like a charm over the years and people flock to Willy T’s for a chance to bare all. (Though rumor has it that they don’t give out free T-shirts anymore….but that hasn’t stopped the topless jumpers.)

While the others were at Willy T’s, Jeff and I snorkeled off the beach at Pirates Bight. We were rewarded with a view of a rarely seen spotted eagle ray. I’ll admit, it scared the bejeepers out of me, especially when I saw the size of it’s tail. He was graceful and beautiful, but all I could think of was the Crocodile Hunter’s ill-fated interaction with a stingray barb. Crikey! (I’ve since learned that eagle rays don’t have stingers…)

All good things must come to an end, so we jumped back aboard the Mystique and sailed back to Tortola. Along the way, with Kelly’s delicious Pain Killers and Rum Punches in hand, we concocted a plan for the next day. With recommendations from Adam, we called Jost van Dyke Scuba company and asked if Martin could take 6 of us out to Virgin Gorda for a day trip. Lucky for us, he was available. So by the time we docked at West End, our plans for the next day were made. A trip for 6 on a powerboat to Virgin Gorda directly from Jost van Dyke. Excellent! We were some very happy campers (ahem, boaters) indeed!!!!!

After docking, some of us shopped for a bit in Soper’s Hole while the rest of us went to Happy Hour at the Fish ‘n’ Lime (previously Jolly Rogers) near the ferry dock. We reminisced about our great day at sea and look forward to tomorrow. We took the 6pm ferry back to Jost Van Dyke, arriving just as the sun was setting on a great day…

6 Responses to Norman Island: Treasure anyone?

  1. Kathan

    These pictures are lovely. Jen you almost have me convinced we would enjoy some down time ont his remote island.

    • Jen

      Aha! Mission accomplished, then 😉 This place is magical.

    • Diane

      Almost convinced? What is the matter with you, Griscik?? All of our favorite components are included in this tropical vacation!

      • Jen

        That’s what I thought! But then she only liked the NZ posts because it was better than cleaning her closet…so I’m thinking she’s just a hard sell. Crazy lady!

  2. Lsura

    Sounds magnificent! I know how shy you guys are so it doesn’t surprise me that you have found new friends on your vacation. BVI is now on my list of future vacations. Enjoy the sun & fun. Happy Anniversary!

    • Jen

      Thanks for the anniversary wishes–10 years flew by. And indeed BVI should be on everyone’s vacation list…it’s so close, and so beautiful!

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