British Virgin Islands

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Bitter End Yacht Club on Virgin Gorda is loaded with water sports and features its own sailing school.

We’ve been to the Caribbean quite a few times but hadn’t yet made it to the British Virgin Islands (BVI). Our recent trip uncovered a jewel in the rough, filled with wild landscapes, fabulous scuba and some unforgettable resorts.

Our first stop was the island of Tortola. We stayed at a house at Frenchmans Lookout, a favorite of supermodel Kate Moss. We were enchanted by this five-bedroom house, available to families or any VIP seeking an exclusive vacation. Here’s the lowdown: The house has four bedrooms on the top floor and another on the main floor. All rooms are fabulous but we’re told that the paying guest usually gets dibs on the Master Suite. Whatever the choice, each room has stunning views of the Sir Francis Drake Channel and, depending on the room, views of Virgin Gorda, St. John, St. Thomas, Little Thatch or Jost Van Dyke.

The house has well-trained staff, ready to serve every need, including a chef to pre- pare bespoke meals.

The Frenchmans Lookout  experience is complemented by a spin in the property’s 35-foot powerboat, whose captain led us to “off-the-beaten path” places, including some of BVI’s most interesting waterfront bars. Our favorite was Soggy Dollar Bar on Jost Van Dyke where we indulged in the local cocktail, the Painkiller, a concoction of dark rum, orange juice, pineapple juice, coconut cream and shaved ice topped with nutmeg.

Guests interested in being pampered can request in-house treatments or visit the nearby Serenity Spa at Soper’s Hole Marina, West end, Tortola, where top therapists Appu and Monali are trained in the ancient Indian science of Ayurveda. Note: Make reservations at least two weeks in advance during high season with Mary Liz Wheelis (info@ frenchmanslookout.com; 011- 866-940-0020); she is also the liaison for luxury travel advisors for Frenchmans Lookout.

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Frenchmans Lookout on Tortola is known for its simple elegant touches, such as the terra-cotta floors of its rooms.

Getting There: Clients can fly into Tortola’s Beef Island Airport (a half-hour drive) or St. Thomas, which requires a one-hour ferry transfer. (Worth Knowing: If clients arrive in St. Thomas, House Manager Lynn Johnston (info@frenchmanslookout.com) will meet them at the airport and escort them to the public ferry. A private water taxi can also be arranged.

Johnston can arrange lunch and dinner at nearby resorts, such as Little Dix Bay or Peter Island. She can also set up a private scuba diving lesson or a cocktail party at the house.

Our next stop was at Bitter End Yacht Club on Virgin Gorda. With 85 beachfront bungalow-style guest rooms, 70 moorings and 20 slips, a sailing school, two restaurants and a spa, the property served up a tremendous sense of adventure, primarily because it’s accessible only by sea. This makes it ideal for high-profile clients seeking a low-key and secluded (but not isolated) getaway.

Demanding clients will want to be in Bitter End’s Premium Beachfront Villas, the original cottages of Bitter End. Recently upgraded with air conditioning, the cottages are just steps away from the beach and the property’s restaurants.

The Estate House, a two- bedroom, two-and-a-half bath private residence, is recommended for families (up to six), not just for its spaciousness but for its great vistas of the Caribbean. (Consider this abode as well if you have two couples traveling together.) Families should also consider booking adjoining rooms in the bungalow-style Beachfront Villas or in the large North Sound Suites, which are actually 20 bungalows tucked into the hillside. The suites’ front decks, with table and chairs, provide a spectacular view of the mega-yachts that come and go as they jet set through the islands. Note: TV is available only on request.

Although the spa at Bitter End is small, it has 15 therapists who service it 12 hours a day. For that reason, it’s easy to snag an appointment. In fact, it may be wise to wait to see the list of resort activities that are available before committing to the spa. During our stay in February, just on one day, we had a choice of several diving, snorkeling and sailing trips, not to mention a champagne cruise.

In keeping with the environment, the Sailor’s Massage is a combination of Swedish and deep-tissue techniques meant to relieve fatigue and rejuvenate tired and sore muscles and soft tissues. In addition to treatments using Decleor products, the spa offers experiences using local ingredients, such as the detoxifying Neem Leaf Wrap, the Mineral Salt Glow treatment and the Aloe Wrap. Spa Director Aadesh Banthia (aadesh_83@yahoo.com; 011-284-494-2745) can assist with any queries. Those wishing to book spa treatments in advance may do so online. Note: Children may want to visit the spa to get their hair braided or indulge in a pedicure or manicure. Brides can also arrange for a day of wedding preparations, including hair and makeup. Consider booking a couples’ massage for the bride and groom as well.

Dining at Bitter End is a true seaside experience. We suggest some freshly caught wahoo and, for dessert, a piece of Key Lime Pie, made fresh daily by executive Baker Winston Butler. Hint: The best seats for dining are on the Almond Walk, open select nights during the week. Contact Dining Room Manager Annie (marneaud@beyc.com; 011-284-494-2746, ext. 329) with your queries. There is no need to reserve in advance.

All accommodations can be booked via the GDS. Luxury travel advisors with questions can speak to the Resort Manager, Mary Jo Ryan (mryan@beyc.com; 011-284-494-2746), or the Director of Group Sales and Special events, John Glynn. It is recommended that arrangements prior to a guest’s arrival be directed to Rooms Division Manager Khrystine Allen (kallen@beyc.com; 011-284-494-2745).

For details on sailing or fishing excursions at Bitter End, visit www.luxuryta.com. Bitter End Yacht Club is on hiatus from August 16 to October 4.

To access this charming and rustic island outpost, we recommend clients fly into Tortola and connect with the North Sound express, a high-speed ferry, for a 30-minute trip that arrives at Bitter End.

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The pool area at Frenchmans Lookout overlooks the sound below.

An alternative route is to book to the Virgin Gorda Airport, where guests will be picked up by Potter’s Taxi and taken to Gun Creek, where a five-minute ferry ride transfers guests to the dock at Bitter End. Guests can also fly into St. Thomas, where they will require either ferry or charter transport from St. Thomas to Beef Island or Virgin Gorda.

If sailing to Bitter end isn’t an option, the family-owned enclave has its own helipad. Virgin Gorda can handle small charter planes and Beef Island can receive private jets.

Want to give clients a glimpse of what the BVI has to offer prior to their visit? Recommend they read The Last Patriot, by Brad Thor; the region was also used for the filming of the Hollywood thriller The Deep. Bitter End Yacht Club was also included in the book Dove by Robin Lee Graham, which was also made into a movie.

Advisor Insight

Caroline Wallace, an independent associate with Sterling Brownell Travel, recently visited Frenchmans Lookout. Here’s her report:

Frenchmans Lookout has an amazing setting on top of the hill over- looking Soper’s Hole and St. John. It is one of the most beautiful places I have ever stayed in the Caribbean. Being in the travel business, there are few places I wish to return to, as there is so much I would like to explore elsewhere. However, Frenchmans Lookout is one place I can’t wait to experience again!

The pictures on the website are just a taste of what it is like in person; in fact, they do not do it justice. The décor is soothing, crisp and clean and the wonderful wraparound porches make a special outdoor living space with lovely hammocks draped in every corner that are great for watching the beautiful sunsets and feeling the cool breezes.

Gloria’s breakfasts were the highlight of our mornings, adding a few extra pounds to our waistlines. She would have our hot breakfast of fluffy pancakes, crisp bacon (nobody cooks bacon better than Gloria), fresh fruit, French toast and bagels waiting for us each day at 8:45 a.m. sharp! There was also fresh coffee, hot tea and delicious juice to go along with it.

The kids loved the pool room. The workout room is here, too. If only I had those views at home I would be in even better shape. The pool and hot tub were a big hit and fun to relax around.

Everything was beyond our expectations. What more can you ask for than a friendly staff? All rooms are equally nice (big bonus in my book)—great bathrooms, beautiful kitchen and nice big living room and dining room. The worst part—our week flew by way too quickly! 

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The View from Wallace’s room at Frenchmans Lookout; the image is now her screensaver.