Bitter End Yacht Club, Virgin Gorda, British Virgin Islands
Bitter End presides over this sailor’s paradise. But as we discovered, it’s not all about the boats.
The BVI, and especially the North Sound of Virgin Gorda, have been in the news a lot lately. From former President Barack Obama kite surfing with Sir Richard Branson to the recent marketing campaign by Vineyard Vines, I decided to reflect on our brief visit to Bitter End…
Dreamy vistas, pristine beaches, lush gardens, mouthwatering food, shabby-chic luxury, and just about every water sport imaginable. Bitter End Yacht Club is one of those destinations you research online, then when you arrive, you realize that nothing you read came close to describing how incredible this place really is. While Bitter End has it’s roots firmly planted in the sailing and yachting scene, we discovered that there is much more to this idyllic paradise than just the boats.
An afternoon in paradise
We could see Bitter End Yacht Club from the balcony of our villa on the other side of the North Sound. It had been seducing us for a few days, begging us to visit. It was on our must-see list for the trip, but since our friends had never been to Virgin Gorda before, we spent the first couple of days exploring the island and lounging on beaches. On day three, though, we finally carved out the afternoon and drove a few minutes down the road from our villa to Gun Creek, where our party of twelve boarded the complimentary ferry to Bitter End. While we would have preferred to arrived by private yacht, our schedule (and pocketbooks) only gave us an afternoon to explore.
After a quick trip across the North Sound, we drew closer to our destination. Sailboats and yachts of all shapes and sizes dotted the mooring field just offshore. A few guests were paddling in the still waters near the dinghy dock. Hobie cats sat idle on the beach after a long day on the water. Kites soared through the air, pulling delighted surfers through the turquoise waters of the Eustatia Sound.
A real-life fantasy land
As we disembarked, it was as if we stepped into a real-life fantasy land. Everything about this place reminded me of some kind of Disney movie set, designed to replicate the perfect island paradise. Red roofs and palm thatch dominated the skyline. Coconut palms swayed gently in the breeze. The sand was impossibly white. The water, impossibly blue. The grounds were immaculate, littered with tropical flowers and shrubs. Everyone we encountered welcomed us with a warm, genuine smile. Even the resident pelican greeted us from her perch on the mast, just outside the iconic lobby building.
We hit the ground running… literally. We didn’t know where to begin. It was sensory overload in its purest form. The girls scattered, running in every direction, torn between ducking into the shops, exploring the “town”, or jumping into the water. The women strolled lazily along the boardwalk, soaking in the surroundings, searching out the nearest hammocks or lounge chairs, eager to just relax as the sun dipped lower in the sky. The dads, all amateur photographers, broke out our cameras, unsure of what to shoot first before we realized that we could pretty much just point our cameras in any direction and end up with a postcard-perfect shot.
Ugh. Why did we only spend the afternoon here?
We had only been here for a few minutes, but right off the bat, I was bummed. This was easily one of the coolest places we’ve ever been, and we had to leave in a few hours. Ugh. Maybe we could spend another day here if we could work it into our schedule. I felt the urgency to experience as much of Bitter End as I could, unsure if we’d ever be back.
We gathered ourselves and decided to head around the corner to check out the Windward Mark Bar and grab some painkillers and rum punch. As we pulled up to the bar, the older girls got distracted and ran over to check out a small manmade grotto that they noticed from a distance. The kid in me wanted to run off and check out the grotto, too, but I had some painkillers to polish off.
The younger kids stuck with the adults at the bar and devoured their virgin pina coladas. We chatted with other guests while throwing back some painkillers (and for some reason, shots). We discovered the couple that was sitting next to us was from the town of Clifton, a mere 20 minutes from our hometown. Small world. They owned a catamaran and would return here several times a year to unwind with their teenage kids. Not a bad gig. I would love to be doing something similar in 5-10 years!
As much as I wanted to sit at the bar and chat with our newfound friends, the explorer and photographer in me couldn’t sit still. The golden hour was approaching, and I had barely scratched the surface of this place. I headed over to the grotto to see what the kids were up to. They had found a coconut and were in the process of trying to crack it open. I think they’ve been watching too much Survivor. I helped them look for a sharp rock and decided to play hero. After a few minutes of hard work, we finally got it open. “Eww, what the heck?! This tastes like saltwater!”, our oldest exclaimed. I laughed at their disappointment as I walked away with sore shoulders and scraped up knuckles, heading off to see where the trail would take me.
As I wandered along the trail, I passed several thatch-roofed beach bungalows, sheltering families from the late-day sun. Random beach towels were spread out across the sand, their owners no doubt out somewhere nearby enjoying the day. Saba Rock was just across the channel, and while it was just a few hundred yards away, it would have to wait for our visit tomorrow. I took some footage and snapped some photos before I felt guilty for leaving my wife and friends. I turned around and headed back.
A playground for all ages
The girls had wandered to the water’s edge where they had discovered a live conch and were staring at it with equal parts fascination and disgust. “Is this what conch fritters are made from?!”, one of them yelled. They returned the critter to the water and ran off to the swim dock, where they decided to hold an impromptu dance party. They even tried charging “admission.” I informed them that we parents had already paid the admission in the form of this awesome vacation in paradise. They concurred, and we were let through 🙂
While the kids continued playing, the adults headed back to the beach and claimed a few lounges and hammocks, content to finish off our drinks and watch the sunset before heading over to Crawl Pub for dinner. As hungry as we were, gazing out at the North Sound as the golden sunshine streamed through the clouds, watching the dinghies heading out for dinner… this was pure relaxation. Catching up with friends. No distractions. Beautiful scenery. Strong drinks. I wanted to hit the pause button.
The sun began its descent in the sky, heading ever closer to the horizon. The palm trees rustled in the gentle breeze. The small waves lapped gently at the shore. A boy and his younger brother paddled by in a hollowed out wooden canoe. The girls were the only other voices we heard as they continued their dance party. This place was heaven. But dinner was calling…
Dining al fresco as the sun set behind the hills. What a way to end the day. As night fell, we were all exhausted, full, buzzed, happy, content. We wandered around a bit after dinner, ducking into a couple of shops before they closed for the night. The kids played hide and seek around the main lobby building. The lighting around the property was enchanting, lending a magical glow to the place as it basked underneath the moonlit sky. We lingered as long as we could, stretching our time here as long as we possibly could… But we begrudgingly boarded the last ferry out of town and headed back to the villa, sad to be leaving Bitter End, but overjoyed for the lasting memories she provided.
Getting here & additional information
Visit the Bitter End Yacht Club website for additional information on getting here, room rates, activites, specials, events, and more.
Bitter end can be accessed via the North Sound Express Ferry out of Beef Island or, if you’re already on Virgin Gorda, via the Gun Creek Ferry. If you’re loaded and want to arrive in style, opt for a private yacht or a sea plane for a truly dramatic entry.