If you are looking for a Caribbean charter to an island that has a cruise ship dock unloading hundreds of passengers, fast food restaurants and t-shirt shops, television or even a structure rising higher than the mast of a sailboat, you will not find it on Peter Island. Instead, located 4 miles south of Tortola, across the Sir Frances Drake Channel, you will find a piece of paradise surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean, Caribbean Sea, Drake’s Channel, 6 breathtaking bays and 20 secluded coves. At 1,800 acres, this is the fifth largest of the approximately 60 islands, cays and exposed reefs that comprise the British Virgin Islands. Although the island is home to the super exclusive, ultra luxurious Peter Island Resort and Yacht Harbour (this means cruisers are requested to adjust their attire to suit the tone of the hotel), the rest of the island is private and largely undeveloped. A Caribbean charter to this island offers scenic walks to private beaches, dramatic views of outlying islands, great snorkeling and diving, and peaceful seclusion in some incredibly picturesque anchorages.
Little Harbour is the westernmost anchorage. It is a well-protected overnight spot with good holding ground over a sandy bottom. Even in peak season, there are usually less than a dozen yachts here. There is no restaurant ashore, so if you are on a Caribbean charter, plan your provisioning to cook on board.
Great Harbour is big, secluded and amazingly beautiful, but it is very deep. Therefore, in order to use it as an anchorage, you need to take advantage of the few mooring balls available in Buttonwood Bay on the western end of Great Harbour. Once the home of the Callaloo at the Beach restaurant owned by Prospect Reef, it has reopened as the Oceans Seven Beach Club. The food is excellent for both lunch and dinner. Every 2nd Saturday, there is a pig roast and seafood buffet with live music and dancing. There are water trampolines and kayaks to rent, or simply enjoy lounging on the beach in one of their chaises.
Sprat Bay, popular with yachtsmen from around the world (with mooring balls, ice, water, fuel and showers available) is the entrance to the Peter Island Resort facilities. You will also find a full service dive shop here. Compared to most Caribbean charters, mooring here is expensive. Expect to pay $65.00 a night as opposed to $20.00-$25.00 a night throughout the rest of the BVI. Once ashore, there are numerous walks to take, but be sure to take the short hike over to the top of the hill to the eastern side of the harbor for a great view of the Channel and Dead Chest Island.
Deadman’s Bay is the easternmost anchorage on Peter Island. Because of the surge, it is best as a beautiful day stop only. The grassy bottom of Deadman’s Bay may make it difficult to set an anchor, but it makes for good snorkeling over the sea grass beds. Watch for green sea turtles. The mile-long white crescent beach lined with sea grape trees and coconut palms has been rated as one of the world’s ten most romantic beaches. The west end of the beach is for use by hotel guests only, so stay behind the line of buoys designating the swimming area. The Deadman’s Beach Bar and Grill is located in the middle of the beach. It is a popular place with good food. BBQs are often held with dancing on the beach. A steel drum band plays every Sunday with a West Indian brunch. Monday is West Indian night with Moko Jumbee dancers on stilts.
There are two excellent anchorages on the backside (south shore) of Peter Island given the right sea and wind conditions. White Bay is named for its long, sparkling sand beach. Snorkelers will find small-mouthed grunts, a small variety of octopus and an occasional tarpon on the long shallow reef. Key Bay to the west of Key Point is a small anchorage with room for only a few boats. Since it is open to the prevailing winds, it is free from bugs. The snorkeling is excellent.
The Dive Sites
Peter Island has 30 dive sites within a 20 minute boat ride, including Black Tip Reef, the Rhone Anchor, the dive wreck Fearless, and Truck Reef (a collection of underwater cars and trucks). Some of the more spectacular sites are:
Shark Point is an advanced dive site formed by the overhang of Peter Island Bluff. Along the current-swept rocky ridges, expect to see schools of butterfly fish, horse-eyed jacks and sharks.
Dive down and check out the “underwater bar” of the old Willie T. This Baltic schooner is the original floating bar and restaurant.
Carrot Shoal consists of rocky ledges that resemble underwater train cars at a station platform. This open water formation gets its name from the fine branches of the protected black coral found here which look like lacey carrot tops.
Nearby Dead Chest Island, an uninhabited National Park, has 3 dive sites reached by taking a dinghy ride over from Deadman’s Bay:
Painted Walls: This is a shallow dive off the southern point of Dead Chest. Here divers will delight at the kaleidoscope of colors created by encrusting cup corals and neon-bright sponges on the walls of four long canyons. It is perhaps the most photogenic dive site in the BVI.
Coral Gardens: This is a great site for novice divers and snorkelers. It gets its name from the many massive heads of brain, star and sheet corals resembling an aquatic garden.
Dead Chest West: Divers will discover coral archways, caves, bowls and mazes.
If soothing offshore waters reflecting infinite shades of turquoise and miles upon miles of seductive, often secluded anchorages and beaches sound like the perfect definition of peacefulness, then a Caribbean charter to Peter Island is for you. Climb aboard and let your cares just melt away in a sea of serenity.