We bump across the waves in the patch of open ocean separating Anegada from her sister islands. The ocean is a gradient of blues as we head north, the deepest ranges a dusky cobalt, lightening in brilliance until we reach Anegada’s shores, where the water lapping at the sands is so cerulean, it takes on an almost milky quality. My home island of St. John might be a laid back, no worries kind of place, but Anegada is the sweet embrace of time standing still, responsibilities and obligations fading into the background.
The island’s utter tranquility is palpable from the moment you set foot on her velvety ivory-coloured sands. Anegada is the physical embodiment of the notion that other Caribbean destinations attempt to sell. An outlier among the other British Virgin Islands, whose hills, curves, and towering peaks were formed by volcanic and seismic activity, Anegada is decidedly flat, with its highest point just about 30 feet above sea level. This attribute is obvious when approaching by water—its trees are visible before the island comes fully into sight, protruding oddly from the sea like a palm tree replica of the Manhattan skyline. The island’s geographic location is also unique among the Virgin Islands, both U.S. and British, a tight-knit archipelago whose islands lay a mere stone’s throw from one another. Anegada stands alone yet proud, about 15 miles from its closest neighbour, Virgin Gorda.
It’s this isolation that causes time to stand still on Anegada. With no regular air carrier service and fringing reefs that make the approach by water a nail-biting adventure, many travelers simply decide the trek to this island isn’t worth it, and as such, tourism-related offerings like hotels, bars, and restaurants have grown just enough to serve their minimal need. Luckily, I have a friend with a boat who isn’t afraid to navigate his way to Anegada’s shores, and the idea of disconnecting and doing absolutely nothing on an uncrowded, unspoiled island sounds positively sublime.
We tie up at the Anegada Reef Hotel dock and head to the beachfront bar where a smiling woman serves as dock fee collector, libation allocator, and erstwhile concierge. We’ve arrived with two nights booked at the Anegada Beach Club and plans for not much else, so our friendly bartender gestures across the road to where we can pick up a rental car. In less time than it takes to down our first cocktail of the vacation, we’ve piled our two families into the back of our rental pickup truck, and we take in the foreign landscape from the comfort of two parallel benches affixed in the truck’s bed. Smooth pavement gives way to sand beneath the truck’s wheels, and with not another vehicle in sight we’re free to zig zag along, avoiding puddles left behind from an earlier downpour.
With no elevation to speak of, we quickly lose sight of the ocean, finding entertainment instead in the sporadic cow sightings that happen along the way, including one formidable, stubborn male who stands firmly in the middle of our sandy thoroughfare. At just 15 square miles, you’re never far from anything in Anegada, and sure enough, not five minutes after we’ve left our initial arrival point, we see a line of sloping thatched roofs in the distance. Our home for the weekend is Anegada Beach Club’s beachfront palapas, an accommodation that perfectly marries the relax-and-do-absolutely-nothing appeal of Anegada with the slightest touches of comfort and luxury.
The room keys we’re given upon check-in are promptly set aside and forgotten about; with a population of just 250 people on the island, we feel no need to lock up our belongings. Anegada Beach Club’s beachfront palapas are like something out of a movie, and I survey the scene from our palapa’s deck in a wonderment that nearly rivals the first time I came to the Caribbean nearly 20 years ago.
The palapas themselves are so perfectly simple—a bed dressed in white linens and draped in delicate mosquito netting stands in the center of the room. A door leads to an open-air walkway to the bathroom, simple yet elegant with a rain shower head.
During a brief tour of the island, we check out the fluorescent pink flamingos who’ve long called Anegada home, the charmingly modest Theodolph Faulkner House Museum in honour of the Anegada native who led a 1949 march demanding better treatment of BVI citizens, and the sweet little S. Vanessa Faulkner Botanical Garden, where our children pluck vibrant pink fruits from a patch of Turk’s cap cactus. We stop at Cow Wreck and Loblolly Bay, which I’m told are two of the biggest tourist hot spots during high season, and we visit the Iguana Headstart Facility, where biologists raise the endangered Anegada iguana in protective cages in an attempt to boost the animal’s numbers.
Apart from our tour, we stay firmly rooted at Anegada Beach Club. We marvel at the restaurant’s ability to source and prepare delicious breakfasts, lunches, and dinners. Many dishes feature lobster and conch, whose populations thrive in the waters surrounding the island.