Virgin Gorda is the second most populous of the British Virgin Islands. At about eight square miles, it is the third largest island (after Tortola and Anegada). Legend holds that Christopher Columbus named the island due to the island’s profile on the horizon. The name in Spanish means “Fat Virgin.”
History of Virgin Gorda
As one of the four main islands in the BVI, Virgin Gorda is a prime tourist destination. A volcanic island, it was created from the same geological activity that gave rise to many of the other islands in the archipelago. Indigenous peoples have lived, fished, and farmed on Virgin Gorda for over a thousand years. Although mainly inhabited by Arawak, there were also Ciboney and Carabs. These peoples mined the copper in the island, creating jewelry, weapons, and currency.
The 16th century brought European exploration and settling. Virgin Gorda was home to many pirate colonies and settlements, as it was not colonized as quickly as other local islands. The reefs, coves, and cliffs all lend themselves well to defense, and its location at the western end of the archipelago made it a common stop for sailors arriving and leaving.
During the late 1600’s, the English took control of the island. Building sugar plantations, the economy began to thrive. When slavery was abolished in the early 19th century, the economy quickly tanked. Europeans turned toward mining copper, but the mines eventually dried up. Over a hundred years later, the town began to grow as a tourist destination. It’s hilly landscape, unique geographic formations, and beautiful flora and fauna made it an ideal location for the wealthy to vacation.
Visiting Virgin Gorda
Virgin Gorda is one of the most visited places int he Virgin Islands. One of the biggest tourist destination is The Baths, an area at the southern tip of the island. The Baths offers a beautiful geological formation of giant granite boulders. The granite rocks formed from the cooling of magma, and created numerous caves and fun areas to climb around. It’s a hot spot for families, snorkeling, and swimming.
The biggest tourist area Spanish Town, and it is the second largest town in the entire archipelago (after Road Town on Tortola). Spanish Town is home to an airport, multiple ferries, shopping, and bars. The Baths are just a mile or so south, and Spanish Town is a prime spot to visit on your trip to the British Virgin Islands.
North Sound, the harbour at the northeast end of the island, is considered one of the great harbours of the world. Bordered by several islands and reefs, the harbour is unusually calm. It’s a great place for water sports and activities, with over 3,000 acres of protected waters. With over a hundred moorings, it’s a destination of choice for many sailors and yachts.
Although Virgin Gorda is a realtively big island with almost 4,000 residents, it offers a relatively relaxed atmosphere. A day on Virgin Gorda can be spent hanging out at the beach, climbing around the Baths, relaxing at a bar, or walking around town and shopping. It’s a fun place, and a must-visit when in the BVI!
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