Norman Island, British Virgin Islands

Photo: Matt & Nayoung [CC BY 2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons
Photo: Matt & Nayoung [CC BY 2.0 (, via Wikimedia Commons
Are you ready to search for buried treasure? Yes, real buried treasure. Pirates stashed silver coins, jewelry, and who knows what else in Norman Island’s deep caves many centuries ago. Some of it was supposedly found quickly, though no one was foolish enough to broadcast their good fortune. Numerous boats wrecked attempting to find the loot. But some of it must still be there. Finders keepers, right?

Norman Island is the southernmost island in the British Virgin Islands archipelago. The uninhabited island, save for some wild goats, was named after a pirate in the early 18th century. Shipwrecks, hidden bays, and those caves surround the now privately owned island. It’s even the reputed inspiration for Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island.

Ride a ferry south from Hannah Bay on Tortola to Norman Island. Rocky cliffs surround the entrance to Bight Bay, a large, protected harbor filled with bobbing sailboats on the west coast. Dock at Pirates Bight, a beachfront restaurant that’s more like a day resort. Since the staff is just starting to open the dive shop, set up the bar, and pull out the sun loungers, you follow the trail behind the open-air restaurant. It winds up the hillside and around prickly cacti. Goats bleat in the distance. While you have a view of Benures Bay, Soldier Bay, Peter Island, the turquoise water all to yourself.


Back at Pirates Bight, rock in a hammock hung in between two droopy trees, walk along the still-quiet beach, and play Jenga with giant blocks. Order a cocktail once the Jimmy Buffett music starts playing. The Pirates Punch, the Dark and Stormy, and the Tropical Storm are each filled with dark rum. Then munch on conch fritters and tuna tartare from a couch on the sandy floored bar.

It’s starting to get hot and sticky by the time you finish lunch. Join a group heading to the caves in a dinghy. Snorkel among oddly shaped coral, squid-like cuttlefish, and a few huge barracudas. Avoid the poisonous pufferfish to your right. Follow the glow of a flashlight into the caves, which become narrower and darker the farther you go. More coral is growing along the sides of the cliffs. And keep an eye out for that treasure.

Everyone is in a great mood after exploring the caves. Head back to the Bight for a celebratory drink and a perfect spot to the watch the sun set. Instead of returning to the beach though, climb aboard the Willy-T. The 100-foot schooner was once a Baltic trading vessel. It’s now a bar anchored in the harbor. People jump off the deck and splash into the water below. Zeus, the bartender, serves Zeus Juice, another strong rum drink. Jumbo prawns, baby back ribs, and fish and chips smell delicious as they emerge from the kitchen. Loud music, this time Bob Marley tunes, has people singing and swaying their sunburnt arms. While the setting sun promises another perfect beach day tomorrow. You may not have found the buried loot, but you certainly found a treasure.

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