Tortola is the largest of the British Virgin Islands, first spotted by Christopher Columbus on his famous voyage. Its first true inhabitants were pirates, but eventually in the 17th century the British set up a plantation colony. Sugar was the crop of choice for well over 100 years. After slavery was abolished, the sugar trade dwindled here, but Tortola still has strong ties to Great Britain and is the capital island of the British Virgin Islands. Tortola's mountainous terrain was originally formed by volcanoes, and is 13.5 miles long by 3 miles wide, and covers nearly 22 square miles.
Tortola is served by a major airport, plus ferries make for easy travel to other islands of the British Island chain. Tourists flock to Tortola's sandy beaches, and enjoy relaxing under the palm trees at places with names like Smuggler's Cove, Apple Bay, and Elizabeth Beach. Swimming and snorkeling are favorite pastimes at these locations. Visitors can nestle their boats at protected spots like Cane Garden Bay, Soper's Hole, and Brandywine Bay, just to name a few. Places to go scuba diving abound at many points around the island.
There's plenty to do on land as well. Explore the ruins of Fort Recovery and Fort Burt. Visit the Callwood's Rum Distillery, which is still a working facility. The British Virgin Islands Folk Museum in Road Town welcomes inquisitive tourists from all over. Road Town also has the beautiful O'Neal Botanical Gardens with peaceful wandering paths. Or head for Sage Mountain National Park and see the old forests and the rugged terrain caused by volcanoes centuries ago.
Road Town's Main Street offers shopping for everyone to purchase a reminder of their time on Tortola. Choose from the work of local craftsman, jewelry and handmade soap, or for the palate, purchase one of the variety of spices, jam, or rum.
On Tortola, visitors can sample a wide range of cuisine in a number of different settings, from an old sugar mill to rustic cottages. Mouth-watering local seafood such as lobster and conch, plus the land fare of goat give tourists a dining experience they won't forget. Tortola also has a wide variety of accommodations. Pitch a tent and sleep under the stars at a campground, escape from the real world at a high-end resort, or rent a private villa.