Activities and attractions in the British Virgin Islands

Beautiful beaches that stretch for miles, sparkling turquoise waters and lush tropical gardens are just some of the reasons to visit the British Virgin Islands.

The perfect places to enjoy a relaxing break, the Islands promise peace and quiet, an exquisitely luxurious experience.

But although you won't have to put up with jostling crowds on these unspoilt islands, there is much to see and do if you want a change from relaxing by the beach or pool. Here's a look at some of the fascinating array of places to visit and some of the activities you could enjoy during your stay.

Callwood Rum Distillery

The Caribbean is known for its love of rum, and there are a number of distilleries which can be found in the area.

Callwood Rum Distillery on Tortola is more than four centuries old and it's claimed to be the oldest pot distillery in the whole of the Caribbean.

Originally operated as a sugar cane distillery it's still possible for visitors to buy rum, with the original boiler still in operation. Lying close to the botanical delights of Cane Garden Bay, the distillery still retains many of its authentic features, making it feel like taking a step back in time.

Rum is produced during March to August and a trip during these months is a fascinating experience. The Arundel Cane Rum produced by the distillery doesn't use molasses, but instead is made from pure cane juice, a distinction which imbues it with a very different, but delicious taste.

Aged in oak barrels, the rum can be bought directly from the shop in the compound, and being able to observe the ancient arts of rum making up close, the trip is well worth it.

The Copper Mine

First constructed in 1837, the copper mine on Virgin Gorda was worked on by 36 miners from Cornwall, England over a 24 year period with the help of 140 workers from the BVI.

The copper extracted from the shafts was exported to Wales and in return wood, coal, provisions and wages for the workers would be sent back. 

The copper mine, Virgin Gorda, British Virgin Islands

Only operational until 1862, the mine was never re-opened but many of the miners remained on the island, and their descendants still live there to this day.

The mine shafts, original stack and engine house, along with the main building can still be seen, and in the rock itself, rich veins of copper are still visible. Other semi-precious stones can also be readily found nearby, including quartz and malachite.

Fly fishing

Fishing is an integral part of life on the BVI and has been for many centuries. Visitors to the island can try their hand at catching fish, and fly fishing is a great way to start.

Excursions on board specially-designed fly-fishing boats could result in any number of game fish being caught, without the use of barbs, including tarpon and bonefish. A great way to learn about the marine environment and the creatures within, fly fishing is an activity suitable for all ages.

Virgin Islands Folk Museum

Set in a traditional wooden Caribbean house in Tortola, the Virgin Islands Folk Museum will captivate both children and adults.

The history of the BVI <INSERT LINK TO a History of the British Virgin Islands> is fascinating and full of intrigue, with Amerindians first arriving before first the Spanish, and then the British seized control. In the 16th and 17th centuries, the islands were a huge target for pirates; including the infamous Blackbeard himself who legend suggests deliberately marooned some of his crew on Dead Man's Chest.

The Virgin Islands Folk Museum, Tortola, British Virgin Islands

With exhibits including plantation items, pottery, tools, photos and artefacts from local shipwrecks, visitors will learn about the rich history of the BVI. An on-site shop sells gifts and souvenirs, as well as crafts made by local people.

Mount Healthy National Park

Originally an 18th century sugar plantation, this national park now features what remains of a thick stone-walled windmill, the only one left in the whole of the British Virgin Islands.

On the north shore of the island, the park is easily accessible and represents the history of sugar production on Tortola.

The windmill at Mount Healthy National Park - once used for grinding sugar cane

The wealthiest planner in the area once owned this plantation, and the windmill, and had slaves who harvested the cane sugar. The windmill is the only relic still relatively intact from the days when sugar was the most important commodity in the Caribbean.

The windmill worked by crushing the cane through large rollers, squeezing the precious cane juice and eliminating the hard graft required by the slaves. The rollers were operated via a central shaft which was powered by the movement of the wind on the blades.

A great place to visit during an exploration of the island, Mount Healthy provides a fascinating glimpse into the past.

Swimming with dolphins

In Prospect Reef Resort, visitors to Tortola will have the opportunity to swim with dolphins in the sea.

During the experience, guests will get up close and personal with these intelligent creatures, with the opportunity to not just touch and receive a dolphin "kiss" but also to climb into the water with them.

The dolphins will happily tow or push their visitors through the water, mimicking natural behaviour and games, and waterproof cameras are welcomed, so you can capture the experience firsthand.

North Shore Shell Museum

A great place for kids to enjoy, the North Shore Shell Museum located in Carrot Bay on Tortola has quite literally thousands of different shells on display.

The tropical and exotic shells sit alongside other exhibits which include crafts, boats and eclectic beach-combing flotsam.

The North Shore Shell Museum, Tortola, British Virgin Islands

The museum is very hands-on, with all kinds of items created from shells, and the chance to have a go on local instruments too. The museum has a very informal feel and it's rammed full of things to touch, see and feel with interaction welcomed.

The curator works with local children to create all kinds of "sea art" and there's wind chimes, jewellery and collages on display. Upstairs there's a restaurant where you can either grab a drink or get something delicious to eat.

Not a museum as many may expect, this small Caribbean house is a treasure chest of surprising delights.

Diving and watersports

There's such a vast array of watersports on offer in the BVI, it's not possible to list them all individually but particularly on Tortola, you'll find plenty of places offering both lessons and excursions.

The calm waters of the Caribbean provide the perfect conditions for divers, with great visibility and an abundance of marine life, including the much-loved giant sea turtles. Pickups can be arranged from a number of different islands and dive sites include RMS Rhone, Devil's Kitchen, Wreck Alley, Ginger Steps, Alice's Wonderland, Black Forrest, The Flintstones, Vanishing Rocks, Painted Walls, Blonde Rock, The Fearless, Spyglass, Black Forrest, Indians, Rainbow Canyons, Angelfish Reef, Ring Dove Rock, Tip of Scrub, Wall to Wall, Joe's Cave, The Chimneys, The Visibles, Bronco Bully and Dolphin Rocks.

Fishing is extremely popular in the BVI and there are many different fishing trips on offer, but there are other water activities too.

Surfers, body boarders and kite surfers will find perfect conditions on some of the beaches around the BVI, and lessons are available for novices who want to give it a go.

Other watersports available include kayaking, jet skiing, windsurfing, yachting, parasailing and waterskiing.