The North Sound of Virgin Gorda is surrounded by the horseshoe-shaped northeastern peninsula of the island. While the southernmost areas of Leverick Bay and Gun Creek are accessible by car, the rest of the North Sound is only accessible by boat. You might think this would be a limitation, but it is anything but!
Instead, the area teems with yachtsmen, sailors, and every other type of boating enthusiast you can think of. The North Sound has come by its nicknames of “a boater’s paradise” and “a sailor’s playground” honestly. I can only imagine how much money is floating in this sound.
The heart of the North Sound (in the center of the picture below) lies in the Bitter End Yacht Club and surrounding areas, including Saba Rock and Biras Creek.
The best map I’ve seen of the area can be found here. It’s very helpful for orientation in the North Sound, in case you ever think of visiting this area!
[And, mental note, this map actually tells you which direction is north--that said, most people base their directional instructions on the North Sound being north (which is actually east). You get the picture. Use the local terminology to find places, but if want to know where the sun rises and sets, find east and west!]
Bitter End Yacht Club
The Bitter End Yacht Club is the heart and soul of the North Sound. This end of the North Sound was dubbed “the bitter end” since it once represented the last part of the BVIs before boaters reached the Atlantic (bitter, indeed!). [Now the resort at Oil Nut Bay holds this honor, since it is located at the very tip of Virgin Gorda.]
Jeff and I wanted to check out the Bitter End Yacht Club, so we took the free water taxi from Gun Creek, not really having a clue what we would do once we got there. As we approached, it was easy to see why it was dubbed a “sailor’s playground.” Woah! Boats and activity were everywhere.
Serious money was on display at the Bitter End, unlike anywhere else we’ve seen on Virgin Gorda. That said, everything is about watersports, no matter what your budget (from yachting to snorkeling).
As we disembarked the ferry, we were scared/impressed by the “Daily Activities” board, noticing that there were numerous daily activities planned, including day trips, watersport classes, and even a sailing school. As it turned out, one of today’s activities was a sunset sail that was beginning 5 minutes after our arrival. Lucky us–we jumped on board!
Once aboard, we realized exactly how big the yacht club was….for the accommodation extended around both sides of the mountain. Crikey!
We motored out into the Eustatia Sound before hoisting the sail and sailing around Necker Island. (Wave to Mr. Branson, everyone!) We sailed far beyond Necker Island, so that once we turned back towards the main channel we would be sailing into the setting sun. This is the only way to see the sun set from the North Sound…
The sail was idyllic. A warm breeze, rum punch in hand, watching the sun set over the British Virgin Islands. Sometimes I have to pinch myself to believe it’s real. Gorgeous.
Saba Rock is a small island directly across from the Bitter End Yacht Club. It is almost entirely made up of a hotel, restaurant, and bar from which you can watch the myriad of entertaining water sports going on in the sound.
To get to Saba Rock, catch a free water taxi from Gun Creek. Reservations are needed for lunch or dinner.
From what we could tell, the resort at Biras Creek is as sedate as Bitter End Yacht Club is dynamic. A boutique resort with 31 rooms overlooking the Caribbean Sea, Biras Creek is tucked away in the far corner of the sound.
Very secluded and quiet, I can imagine that wealthy people come here to get away from it all. The megayachts parked in the harbor gave it away…
We took the water taxi over from Gun Creek in order to take a look around the resort. Again, we didn’t know what to expect. Once on the resort, we quickly came across a sign that basically said “guests only” but that the staff would be welcome to take “visitors” on a guided tour. It’s a good thing we had been chatting with the wife and kids of the resort’s general manager on our way over on the taxi, and that she gave us the green light to walk around the property!
She advised us to have a look around, but warned that the restaurant was “quite formal.” We knowingly assured her we were just here to take a look. She was exceptionally kind and polite when saying we didn’t belong here! Ha!
Ahhh, do you smell money in the air? We did. This place was very well appointed, but not entirely over the top. A more appropriate word might have been retreat, rather than resort. You could hear a pin drop here. We saw very few people as we walked around.
If money weren’t a consideration in our lodging choices, I think we’d like this place. They pride themselves on staying small, and they even have five rescue horses on the property that they rescued from Puerto Rico. Something about that spoke to me.
Prickly Pear Island
Prickly Pear Island, so named for the prickly pear cactus that grows there, is a nature preserve with one beach bar (the Sand Box). Beach chairs line the beach, waiting for visitors. This area is only accessible by boat, and the free water taxis do not stop there (at least that we saw). So each time that we went by, it was pretty empty. This was about the only area of the North Sound that we didn’t visit during our stay.
As you have guessed by now, Gun Creek is the jetty where you can grab complimentary water taxis to various areas of the Sound, including Bitter End Yacht Club, Saba Rock, and Biras Creek. There isn’t much else to speak of in Gun Creek–with the exception of a gas station and grocery store used by the locals.
Ferry schedules can be found here. Generally speaking, ferries to Bitter End Yacht Club leave at the half hour, ferries to Biras Creek leave at 45 minutes past the hour, and boats depart both of these places to return to Gun Creek on the hour. Definitely check the schedule before you go, though, as this is an island and there are quirky exceptions.
Saba Rock has its own schedule, but basically you can call them and they’ll come pick you up.
Across from the North Sound is the South Sound (shocking, I know). This area is rarely spoken about and there are very few villas that you can rent here. I’m not sure of the reason, because it is a gorgeous area. It reminds me of the view of Hanauma Bay in Oahu.
The North Sound of Virgin Gorda has certainly treated us well during our stay here. It’s easy to see why sailors love it so much. It really is like a playground for boaters–they all act like kids in a candy shop. Their energy is infectious.
Who knows, maybe some day we’ll see it from the sailboat side. For now, we are good with terra firma!