Historical sites in the BVI

You can’t go wrong with an archipelago of 60 islets, cays and their reefs. On the surface, the British Virgin Islands are charming, idyllic, and beyond tranquil. You can rent a catamaran and dash on day trips between Virgin Gorda and Jost Van Dyke, splash past The Dogs and have a snorkel on North Sound. But if you really want to get to know these islands, there is centuries-old history ready to tell its story through museums, art galleries and even the odd shell collection.

Start with the Saba Rock Nautical Museum. Owned by a veteran diver, this treasury is comprised of flotsam and jetsam from the sea. Brought to life on land, you can browse nifty artifacts from nearby shipwrecks including the RMS Rhone. Don’t go home empty handed: pick up a sea faring souvenir when you pass through.

On a slightly bigger scale than the Nautical museum, the VI Maritime Museum in Paraquita Bay on Tortola preserves the rich boating history of the Virgin Islands. The VI served as a trade hub, a pit stop for merchants and a centre for boat building. Out of the 18th century shipping activity, the VI developed its own unique boat design called “The Tortola Boat”. This museum also displays artifacts from popular shipwrecks in the area, and hosts educational programs to encourage future preservation.

In Road Town, Tortola, you’ll find a galleria of art from a long list of talented local creators. On Main Street, it’s simply called “The Gallery”. Water colours, handpainted silk, oil colours, lithographs and giclee prints are on sale. The Gallery, is as its name promises, the place to buy works of art inspired by life in the Virgin Islands. The pieces depict animals like geckos and cows, tropical birds, flora, people, all the sights and sounds that will warm your heart to the Virgin Islands.

For a bit of history, the 1780 Sugar Works Museum acts as a cultural centre. Originating in 1780, as its name implies, the plantation-style building was built by slaves and devoted to sugar production until cotton was added in the 1900’s. A visit will give great insight into the Caribbean’s intriguing colonial history. The museum also hosts cultural exhibitions including visual art, photography and writing in its Cosmopolitan Hall. You’ll also spy jewellery on display made from local trees and materials including the sandbox tree and whelk shell.

Old Government House Museum is another cultural treasure located in the heart of Road Town. For a bit a royalty, visitors can walk through the former residence of governors formerly appointed by the Queen of England. It features period furniture, antique furnishings and artefacts that showcase the rich history of the Virgin Islands and hand signed books by Queen Elizabeth II during her visit to the British Virgin Islands in 1966 and 1977.


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