Progressing from laid-back to more laid-back, mountainous and arid Virgin Gorda fits right in. Its main road sticks to the center of the island, connecting its odd-shaped north and south appendages; sailing is the preferred mode of transportation. Spanish Town, the most noteworthy settlement, is on the southern wing, as are The Baths. Here smooth, giant boulders are scattered about the beach and form delightful sea grottoes just offshore.
Lovely Virgin Gorda sits at the end of the chain that stretches eastward from St. Thomas. Virgin Gorda, or "Fat Virgin," received its name from Christopher Columbus. The explorer envisioned the island as a reclining pregnant woman, with Virgin Gorda Peak being her belly and the boulders of The Baths her toes.
Virgin Gorda runs at a slow pace. Goats still wander across the roads in places like North Sound. But that's changing. Virgin Gorda Yacht Harbour, the center of commerce and activity in Spanish Town, is expanding. More hotels and condominium developments are in the works, and pricey villas are going up all over the island. That said, budget travelers can still find modest villas and guesthouses all over the island to while away a few days or more.
Virgin Gorda isn't all that easy to get to, but once you're here you can find enough diversions to make getting out of your chaise lounge worthwhile. You can drive from one end of the island to the other in about 20 minutes, but make sure to take time to visit Copper Mine Point to learn about the island's history or to hike up Virgin Gorda Peak to survey the surroundings. At numerous spots with stellar views, the local government has thoughtfully built viewing platforms with adjacent parking. It's worth a stop to snap some photos.
The scenery on the northeastern side of the island is the most dramatic, with a steep road ending at Leverick Bay and Gun Creek in North Sound. For lunch you can hop aboard a ferry to Biras Creek Resort, the Bitter End Yacht Club, or Saba Rock Resort. Head to the other end of the island for views of the huge boulders that spill over from The Baths into the southwest section of Virgin Gorda. You can find several restaurants dotted around this end of the island.
In truth, though, it's the beaches that make Virgin Gorda special. Stretches of talcum-powder sand fringe aquamarine waters. Popular places like The Baths see hordes of people, but just a quick walk down the road brings you to quieter beaches like Spring Bay. On the other side of Spanish Town you may be the only person at such sandy spots as Savannah Bay.
If shopping's on your agenda, you can find stores in Virgin Gorda Yacht Harbour selling items perfect for rounding out your tropical wardrobe or tucking into your suitcase to enjoy when you get home.
Virgin Gorda has very little crime and hardly any frosty attitudes among its more than 3,100 permanent residents. In short, the island provides a welcome respite in a region that's changing rapidly.