Matt and Britney Weidert

Matt Weidert

5 Ways to Experience Norman Island, British Virgin Islands

You can’t go on a BVI yacht charter without a stop at Norman Island in the British Virgin Islands. It’s a must for any BVI sailing itinerary.

So-called Treasure Island’s focal point, The Bight, is one of the largest and well-protected mooring fields in the British Virgin Islands. There are plenty of balls here - no need to race that other catamaran for the last one as you might be tempted to in some other BVI bays.

So what do I like to do at Norman Island? Check out these five activities for your next visit at Norman Island in the British Virgin Islands.
  • Jump off the top deck of Willy T
  • Hike the Norman Island trails for spectacular 360 views
  • Soak in an epic sunset at Benures Bay
  • Catch some mahi-mahi at the South Drop
  • Search for treasure at the famous Norman Island Caves
Willy T at anchor at its Norman Island BVI home

Jump off the top deck of Willy T

Yes, the William Thornton (Willy T) might be the most famous attraction at Norman Island, so it’s worth mentioning first. The original Willy T floating pirate ship bar was destroyed during Hurricane Irma in 2017. It now rests on the seafloor near Peter Island as an artificial reef and interesting snorkel site.

The Willy T crew found a replacement in Louisiana, outfitted her, and sailed her back to the British Virgin Islands themselves. It’s now back at anchor at it’s Norman Island home (after a short stint at Peter Island).

Jump in your dinghy and head over to Willy T for a rowdy evening (yes it can get that way!). Just read the Pirate Code that’s posted and you’ll understand why. Drinks flow and the food is actually really good.

On my last visit, my honor was at stake and I ended up beating a German professional soccer team in a pull up competition. Be prepared for anything!

And of course, make sure you join in the tradition of jumping off the top deck into the waters of the Bight. If you’re looking for something fancier, check out the Pirate’s Bight restaurant ashore and maybe go to Willy T after dinner.

A final tip: if you want some peace and quiet, grab a mooring ball on the other side of the Bight from the Willy T.
One of the beautiful bays you can access by trails on the south side of Norman Island

Hike the Norman Island trails for spectacular 360 views of the British Virgin Islands

Norman Island is actually private, but there are no issues going ashore (at least that I’ve heard). It’s owned by billionaire Henry Jarecki, who also owns the luxury eco-resort of Guana Island (another great place to anchor!). Several developments have been planned over the years, but nothing ever seems to get underway.

That’s good news for all of us that love this largely undeveloped, uninhabited island. One way to enjoy it? Check out the several miles of hiking trails. You can see them clearly on Google Maps satellite.

The easiest place to access them is behind the Pirate’s Bight restaurant. You can also dinghy ashore at Benures Bay to pick up one of the trails.

Most of the trails run along the ridge of the island, offering excellent views of the other BVI islands and the Caribbean Sea.

Keep your eye out for lost treasure that is still rumored to be buried on Norman Island.
Epic sunset from our yacht charter trip in 2018, we had the place all to ourselves

Soak in an epic sunset at Benures Bay

One of my favorite anchorages in the British Virgin Islands is at Benures Bay, on the north side of Norman Island. While there are several mooring balls here now, it’s still a great place to escape the crowds of the Bight.

Usually well-protected, it can be a bit rolly if the wind has a northerly component.

Drop the hook in the northeast corner and enjoy this bay by snorkeling, paddle boarding, or by accessing the trails ashore.

But by far the number one reason to visit Benures Bay: the sunsets over Sir Francis Drake Channel. You’ll have amazing, unobstructed view to the west as the sun sets over the Indians and St. John, US Virgin Islands. Grab a cocktail and enjoy the show.
Approaching by dinghy for an afternoon snorkel at the Norman Island Caves

Search for treasure at the famous Norman Island Caves

This is one of the best, and most popular, snorkeling sites in the British Virgin Islands. It’s comprised of four caves on the other side of Treasure Point, just outside of the Bight.

There are two main attractions here: treasure lore and fish.

It’s rumored that a fisherman in the late 1800s once found a large stash of gold booty here that was dislodged during a storm, supposedly from the Spanish galleon Nuestra Senora de Guadalupe. True? I’m not sure, but it’s fun to believe it, especially when you’re exploring the caves. This book has all the details about the true story of Norman Island and Robert Louis Stevenson's fictional tale, Treasure Island.
One of the four caves you can snorkel at Treasure Point

The marine life here also never disappoints. Expect to swim with hundreds of small fish, and the last time I visited we saw two octopus.

You can grab a National Parks Trust mooring ball here with your yacht, but I think it’s easier to grab your overnight mooring in the Bight and just dinghy over.
Hauling in a mahi mahi on the south drop, caught with a purple Iland Ilander lure

Catch some mahi-mahi at the South Drop

Just over a mile offshore from Norman Island is the South Drop, where depths fall quickly from 100 feet to thousands. This underwater structure helps support abundant marine life from the upwelling of currents, bringing nutrients to the surface.

If you like fishing, this is the most convenient location in the British Virgin Islands to target some deepwater fish. We’ve hooked up on several mahi trolling over the drop and the nearby shelf area. Wahoo are good targets in the fall as the water temperatures cool, and tuna can also be caught year round.
South drop visible just over a mile away from Norman Island | Navionics

Check out my BVI fishing tips for more advice on hooking fish on your next trip including tackle and lure recommendations.

With prevailing trade winds out of the east, I would head clockwise around Norman Island so you are sailing downwind as you fish. It will be much more comfortable for the crew.

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