Norman Island, nestled in the far south of the British Virgin Islands, is thought to be the inspiration for Robert Louis Stevenson’s pirate masterpiece Treasure Island. Also known as ‘Treasure Island’ to the locals, this uninhabited and privately-owned island has it all: adventure, history, pirate treasure and a legendary floating bar. Besides this, it’s also one of the safest spots to vacation in the Virgin Islands. Fans of the book will see uncanny resemblances in the island’s landmarks and plot. In the early 18th century, the Spanish galleon Nuestra Senora de Guadalupe had its crew mutiny aboard the ship and bury 55 chests of silver doubloons in the caves at Norman Island. A lot of the treasure has been discovered since, but it’s believed that there’s more still hidden on the island.
Want to vacation like a pirate in the Caribbean? Consider this real-life pirate retreat!
Norman Island is to the south of Peter Island and Tortola and to the east of St. Thomas. If you’re flying in from the United States, you can head straight for St. Thomas’ East End and rent a custom charter to cross the Francis Drake Channel and into British seas. The excursion shows you all of Norman Island’s popular and secret sites and educates you on the island’s rich history.
Snorkel in the Caves of Norman Island
When you arrive at Norman Island, one of your first stops should be the Caves, located in calm, warm waters on the island’s southern side. You can join a tour or sail there yourself. Here, rumors still abound of hidden pirate treasure, and you’ll see why—the underwater caves go 70 feet into the island’s interior and are filled with labyrinths of coral reefs and colorful schools of friendly fish that swim right up to you.
If you bring a flashlight, you’ll see etchings carved into the walls and ceilings! Treasure was found here up until the 20th century, so if you have the courage to swim deep into the dark interior, you might just find some silver doubloons for yourself!
Dine & Celebrate Like a Pirate
Back on the island, check out Pirate’s Bight—their Bootstrap Burger is a must-try! Pirates Bight is also renowned for its cocktails, like the Bushwhacker and the Rum Bucket, and amazing live music. Afterward, travel over to the secure mooring and take in Norman Island’s stunning surroundings of pristine beaches and deep blue water.
Or, for the ultimate pirate experience, consider the famous and beloved floating restaurant and bar, Willy T. Reserve a slot on the Dolphin Water Taxi while you’re partying at Pirates Bight or even text them if you’re out treasure-hunting on Norman Island’s many hiking trails. Once onboard, start with some rum punch and prepare for a rowdy celebration! You can even “walk the plank” and jump into the water. Note that even though you’re living as a pirate here, a reservation is recommended.
The Willy T. can also float you all the way to the Indians near Pelican Island—one of the top spots to dive in the Caribbean. Underwater here it’s a winding maze of brilliant coral gardens and colorful reef fish, such as blue tang, damselfish and flatworms.
Stay on Your Own Boat or at a Luxury Resort
If you plan on renting a sail and want to spend the night in solitude, consider anchoring at one of Norman Island’s southern coves or Privateer Bay for the night. These places have no harbors or yacht club and you’ll feel like pirates and other seafarers did centuries ago: amidst the stars and dark ocean, listening to the wind rushing through the island cliffs around you.
For those who prefer a bit more luxury, check out the casually elegant Peter Island Resort & Spa on nearby Peter Island, Tortola. Tortola is just a boat ride away from Norman Island and offers calm, palm-shaded beaches like Apple Bay and Smuggler’s Cove, as well as powerboating activities.
Explore Smaller Islands Near Norman Island, BVI
If you feel like exploring more uninhabited islands or playing castaway, consider some of the tiny islets near Norman Island. The islet of Jost Van Dyke near Tortola is a former pirate hideout that’s a few square miles in size and named after a 17th-century privateer. While you’re in the area, sail over to the tiny Gilligan-esque Sandy Spit—it’s within “spitting distance” from Jost van Dyke and you can walk around it in just a few minutes. You can snorkel here or simply wander the beautiful, empty beach. Afterward, sail back to Norman Island and conclude your perfect pirate beach vacation surrounded by the calm Caribbean Sea and an unpolluted, clear night sky.
Tags: British Virgin Islands