Road Town, Tortola, British Virgin Islands
Road Town is the capital city of the British Virgin
Islands, and a hub for transportation and business.
||It's built around a protected bay that was used for
centuries by pirates and smugglers, military ships and merchant ships
seeking protection, and today is known to be one of the best small harbors
in the Caribbean for pleasure sailing. It is the largest city
in the islands, population just under 10,000.
The slightly silly name comes from a nautical term,
"the roads," which describes the type of harbor Road Town is built
Though the location of Tortola is not strategically or economically
significant, the fact that it was a sizable island with good harbors and inlets
generated plenty of interest from early explorers. The earliest Dutch settlers
found they could not turn a profit, and largely abandoned it; pirates
subsequently took over, and used Tortola as one of their favorite bases of
operation. The British drove out the pirates, then fortified and took over the
island. Because Road Town had an excellent fort dating to Dutch colonial days
and was well-protected, subsequent conquerors and brigands avoided it.
With such a long history, Road Town inevitably has lots of
beautiful island architecture and historical sites located throughout its park
like town limits, and traveling around in the little town is delightful. The
oldest building, the HM Prison, only dates back to the 1840s, but there are
dozens of sites ripe in history, and locals will be happy to point them out to
The real thing to do in Road Town, however, is bare boating
chartering private yachts to sail yourself. Most charter companies offer
lessons in sailing to prepare you for the big trip out by yourself, or a captain
to sail with you if you are just not prepared to do it all yourself. You'll find
charter companies at marinas all over town, and Nanny Cay especially is a center
Between boat trips, there are many lovely things to see and
do in Road Town. Don't miss the J. R. O'Neal Botanical Gardens, where a
miniature tropical rainforest is the home to a wide variety of indigenous birds
and colorful flowers. Queen Elizabeth Park is also an excellent place in city
limits to appreciate nature between visits to the beaches and marinas.
Speaking of beaches, Road Town has only small ones: one out
on Nanny Cay in the middle of the harbor, and several semiprivate beaches
primarily attached to hotels. That's okay, because there are dozens of beaches
just outside of Road Town, and the town is primarily a place out of which to
base day trips by land (especially to the beautiful beaches of Tortola) or by
sea (to anywhere in the British Virgin Islands area).
In the Main Street area, you'll find rows of shops. In
nearby Wickham's Cay, you'll find even more shops as well as places to arrange
water sport excursions of many sorts. At almost any shopping area here, you can
find lots of great Caribbean attire and souvenirs, but be sure to read the
labels; a lot of "local" items are made overseas and just branded
to Tortola Beaches home from Road Town.