About Apple Bay and Tortola

Apple Bay is a small village on the Island of Tortola

The Village of Apple Bay

Apple Bay is located on the north shore of Tortola’s West End. It is a small village about 3 miles away from Soper’s Hole, the seaport located at the west end of the island. There are 2 supermarkets on the south side, car rental agencies for the ferry service and food and drink at the marina.

Sopers Hole from the other side of the marina where the Jolly Roger and then the Fish and Lime were before Irma.

The ferries run between Tortola and St Thomas and along with service to Roadtown, Jost Van Dyke and Anegada. The village of Apple Bay begins as you come over the peak of Zion Hill to the North side of the West End of the island.

Apple Bay is a small village, as you come down the hill, the elementary school is on the right with a couple of bars on the left. After the school is a local food market where the ladies of the village serve buffet style local fish and chicken dinners to go. Behind the school are the farm and grazing areas still worked to this day. The charcoal pits are next to the cemetery that is also in this area.

View of the surf break at Apple Bay with Carrot Bay in the background.

Next on you right is the great tree that covers the edge of the food market along with a couple small shacks built into the tree trunk. The tree’s trunk has many trunk branches, it is about 15 feet wide. Great place to chill in the shade.

Beach Front Apple Bay

Main street ends at the water about 1/4 mile from the base of Zion Hill. If you make a left, in about 1/8 mile the shore road starts up a hill where Apple Bay ends with Long Bay on the other side.

The triangle of land on the west side of Zion Hill to Long Bay is where the local residents live. Along the shore road are vacation rental homes on the beach and Sebastians Resort.

If you make a right at the end of Zion Hill, on your left will be the surf break called Cappoons Bay, Bomba’s, Little Apple Bay or Apple Bay. It is a reef break with a couple of take off points that holds 20 plus surfers well. Sebastians is on one side of the surf break with world famous Bombas Shack on the other. One can stop, grab a drink and watch the surf explode with surfers ripping along the walls of white. A note; Bombas is no longer, it was vaporized during Hurricane Irma.

Apple Bay’s surf break holds well up to double overhead. There is very little tide so wind it the big variable. When it blows out of the South, Apple Bay becomes magic with a clean clear blue carpet of water and giant popping swells as they approach the reef. The waves break about 50-70 yards out, so there is plenty of excitement to be seen and heard.

200 yards further down the road from Bombas is the Sugar Mill and then a rise in the road as you leave Apple Bay. Carrot Bay is right over the hill with Cane Garden Bay a 15 minute car ride.

History of Apple Bay and Tortola

Early Years of Tortola

The first known people on the island of Tortola were Arawak Indians from South America around the time of Christ. They inhabited the island for around 1,500 years when the Carib Indians took over. Arawak artifacts have been found all around the West End of Tortola and in Apple Bay proper.

The Europeans arrived with Christopher Columbus in 1493. The Pirates, the Dutch, Spanish and the English then came and went, with the Dutch West India Company emerging as a major force until the 1660s. In 1672, Tortola became a territory of the British which it has stayed to date in various levels of control.

Slavery Tortola

Tortola was an agriculture based society with fishing as the other major industry on the island until the 1970’s. Slavery was introduced to the plantations of Tortola as the island’s location made it a trading post for ships in the 1550s. In 1665, there were 67 slaves, by 1717 there were 547 and in 1756 there were 6,121 documented slaves on the island.

Slavery was abolished in 1834, but the slavery trade had been abolished in 1807. The British Navy began seizing slave ships and turning the captured slaves free on Tortola in 1808. The seeds of freedom were planted! Most of the Belongers on the island are descendants of these people.

Tourism Tortola

More self government occurred thru the 1950s while fishing and agriculture still the the main sources of income. In 1956, Laurence Rockefeller opened the territories first luxury resort, Caneel Bay on St Johns. Little Dix Bay in Virgin Gorda opened in 1964 and tourism began in the Caribbean.

In 1968, Warren McKenna arrived as the manager of the hotel Sebastians. He ran the place for a couple of years while building what is now known as the Cliff Houses. These are the homes between the two Sebastians hotels in Apple Bay today. Sebastians as we know it today was built in 1978 with the Villas at the west end of the bay completed in the early 90’s.

Locals at Apple Bay hauling in the fishing nets with the catch for the day in the spring of 2019.

Government Tortola

In the 1980’s, off shore financial services and registration began to provide for a significant source of revenue on the island. By the year 2000, there were over 400,000 corporations registered.

As Tortola grew and prospered, the government enacted a series of laws to protect the way of life and their citizens. For everything bought or sold on the island, a Belonger has first rights to be involved in the transaction. Speculators are strongly discouraged yet outsiders or Non Belongers, as we are called, are welcomed as new neighbors. Guns are banned on the island with no exceptions.

Summary of Apple Bay

The Sugar Mill and Sebastians on the Beach offers luxury ocean front vacation experiences and the area has attracted world wide interest with Bombas Surf Shack Full Moon Parties. Surfing, sailing and drinking with great food and beaches makes Apple Bay a place to visit. Remote but accessible with uncrowded beaches, many restaurants and bars, surfers and sunshine, Apple Bay is heaven.

Peaceful serene sunsets in Apple Bay with Jost Van Dyke and St Thomas to silhouette the sun.

There is not much information on the history of Tortola and even less about Apple Bay. The following links are web sites that I visited to collect some of the facts to write the post above. Lots more details, some interesting reads, hope you enjoy.

https://bvi.gov.vg/content/our-history

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_the_British_Virgin_Islands

http://www.hillmanweb.com/everitt/builders/mckenna.html

https://www.britannica.com/place/British-Virgin-Islands