Road Town, located in Tortola, is the capital city of the wonderfully stunning British Virgin Islands (BVI). The harbour of Road Town is really beautiful and displays busy marine life and international tourism. It’s a stunning horseshoe-shaped harbour with a wonderful tropical climate. The name ‘Road Town’ comes from the nautical term “the roads” – a place less sheltered than a harbour but in which ships may lay anchor. Tortola is the largest of the BrisithVirgin Islands and its name derives from the Spanish word for turtle dove – how lovely!
When docking in the Virgin islands Cruise liners tend to dock at Road Town which is a relatively new cruise complex. The port has capacity for two ships to dock at the same time so it’s likely you won’t be the only ship docking during the height of the tourism months. The town centre is only a short walk from the dock and so is easily accessible for passengers docking for the day. For some passengers docking in Road Town is a gateway to exploring some of the other local islands such as Virgin Gorda or Jost Van Dyke. A popular place to visit on Virgin Gorda is The Baths – a popular white sandy beach with giant boulders and a unique cave system.
Basic Info of Road Town, British Virgin Islands:
Main airport: Road Town is served by the British Virgin Islands’ only major airport – Terrance B. Lettsome International Airport. A long-distance flight from the UK to the British Virgin Islands will take just under 9 hours direct. Airlines such as British Airways fly here.
Currency: US dollar.
Language: English, though you might notice some local dialects as with any of the Caribbean islands.
Crafts Alive Marketplace
This vibrant market consists of a collection of colourful tents on the waterfront which sell lots of batiks (local fabrics) local to Tortola. There’s also you usual souvenir stands selling all you need for a beach day or gifts to take home.
Tortola Pier Park
If you fancy a spot of retail therapy then head to Tortola Pier Park where there are over 40 stores and plenty of places to eat and drink. It is only a short walk from the cruise port and there will be lots of companies and taxis offering tours. Feel free to seek advice on the best places to visit from the locals.
J.R. O’Neal Botanic Gardens
This 4.5-acre garden is a delight to wander around. There’s plenty of exotic and indigenous plants to admire. It’s close to the port and is $3 to enter which seems like a bargain to us! We are National Trust members here in England and so often visit gardens and enjoy being in nature.
1780 Lower Estate Sugar Works Museum
This is a lovely little museum that details the history of Road Town and the BVI and tells you all about how sugar and rum were produced here until the 1940s. The museum is run by volunteers and worth a little stop to hear a bit more about the culture here. It’s open Monday to Fridays, 9am – 3pm.
Old Government House
Located at the south end of Main Street in the town centre is the Old Government House. This manor was once home to England’s governor of the British Virgin Islands and is a beautiful display of British colonial architecture. Entry prices are $5 for visitors and it’s an easy walk from the cruise pier.
Look out for some of Road Town’s stunning beaches which are postcard picture perfect. There’s plenty to choose from too so do some research before you cruise to discover your favourite. Some of the ones we like the look of are Elizabeth Beach, Smugglers Cove, Apple Bay, Long Bay Beach and Brewer’s Bay.
One of the most popular beaches on the island is Cane Garden Bay on Tortola’s north shore. It has lots of places to eat drink and relax and also various water sports such as windsurfing and snorkelling available too. Most cruise lines will offer a transfer here but these are often quite pricey for what they offer in our opinion. Shore Excursions Group offers a Tortola Beach Day trip costing $49 per person. This includes a couple of photo stops en route to Cane Garden Bay Beach where you will have a couple of hours to enjoy what’s on offer. We still think beach transfers are quite pricey and you may be able to find a local taxi for cheaper.
A trip over to neighbouring island Virgin Gorda via ferry transfer if offered from the port by various companies and most cruise lines too. These give you a great opportunity to visit the famous baths and explore the crazy rock formations and caves here. For example, a four-hour tour booked via Shore Excursions Group will cost $139 per person.
Rhone National Marine Park
If diving is your thing then head to the Rhone National Marine Park for a chance to dive amongst amazing coral reefs and see many tropical fish. There’s also the chance to see the HMS Rhone wreck and which sunk during a hurricane in 1867! This is a great spot for snorkelling too.
A little further afield
Head to Dolphin Discovery for a chance to swim with dolphins at Tortola’s Prospect Reef. There are shows here too which we aren’t really fans of but this might be your thing and is probably great fun for families. Dolphin discovery swim packages start at $184 and more details can be found on their website.
Sage Mountain National Park
If you are looking for some fresh air and a hike then this is the place for you. The Sage Mountain National Park contains the highest point in the British Virgin Islands and has stunning views of the surrounding islands. There are 12 main hiking trails visitors can take across the 86 acre park, with them all being well signposted. Lots of Tripadvisor reviews mention that the road to the national park is quite windy, narrow and hard to navigate so for cruise passengers a cruise excursion is probably best if you are wanting to head here.
Tours and Excursions in Road Town
As with all of the Caribbean islands, there are lots of local tour companies offering a variety of tours, many of which can be pre-booked to time with the ship timings in the dock or many which can be arranged once you step off the ship. There are also lots of taxis available which you can arrange bespoke tours with it you know where you want to head. It’s good to confirm a price before you take the ride. Below we have listed a couple of tour excursions we have seen online from the main tour operator sites but do have a google before you travel to see what takes your fancy.
Viator offers a shore excursion entitled ‘the hidden Tortola treasures‘. This tour offers visitors a chance to explore Tortola’s historical sites and enjoy a drink at the restaurant at Sage Mountain. The tour picks up from the cruise port and lasts about 3 hours (a similar length to tours offered by cruise lines). This tour can be booked online in advance and costs £56 per person.
Ground Sea Adventures BVI offers a range of activities from Road Town including paddle boarding, island hiking and surf lessons. Their paddle boarding rental looks really fun and is something we haven’t tried yet although I’ve heard once you have got your balance it’s super easy! Imagine gliding along the coastline on a paddleboard admiring all the amazing coastal views – sounds like a good plan to me!
We love the sound of the Original Virgin Canopy Tour which is a fun ziplining trail through the hills of Tortola. With amazing views, easy to use the equipment and fun ziplines this sounds great for adrenaline seeks and those who fancy trying something a bit different. There are 7 zip lines here and a tour takes 1-1.5 hours. This experience will set you back $85 for adults and $75 for children aged 13 and under. Taxi drivers will be happy to take you to the zip line site and offer good rates from the cruise port.
A scenic mountain view tour booked through the Shore Excursions Group will cost $54 per person and take visitors on a three-hour tour around Tortola. The main sights include Romney-Pier Park, Cane Garden Bay Beach, Sky World Restaurant and more. We very much like the sound of this, especially as it includes free drinks!
With so much to offer, Road Town seems like a great port on a Caribbean cruise. With its glorious beaches horseshoe-shaped road harbour and lots of tour options on offer, we feel there will be something for everyone.
Have you ever cruised to Road Town? Let us know in the comments below what you thought! And if you haven’t been before, what do you think you would plan to do if you docked here?