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

Surfing Tortola

Surf Beaches on Tortola

Surfing in azure blue waters so clean you could drink if not for the salt.

Steve, the manager and music man of The Elm in Cane Garden running down the line at Apple Bay.

Surfing waves get to a good size here on the north shore of Tortola, maybe you could get lucky while on your vacation and see the energy exploding.

Warm clean water with the winter’s north swells makes for a surfer’s paradise.

Larry, a local from neighboring St Johns ripping of the top

Tortola features 4 good surf spots with reasonable access; Apple Bay, Josiahs Bay, Cane Garden Bay and Smugglers Cove.

The beach at Josiah’s Bay is sandy bottom for the most part, with a wave for every level of surfing experience. A great place to learn, a great place to rip. The right side of the beach offers white water rollers to take a first surf lesson on. Outside and to the left are some fun waves for when you become comfortable with the sport.

Icah at Apple Bay, is a surf instructor at Josiah’s Bay SurfSchoolBVI.

Josiah’s Bay located on the North Shore of the island towards the East End. It is a beautiful ride from the West End up and across the mountain roads taking about 40 minutes. Some great views and murals along the way

The surf break at Apple Bay is over a reef with some nasty coral, rocks and sea urchins, so it is not for beginners. That being said, the wave breaks real nice over the reef and holds up to double overhead swell. When the wind blows right, Apple Bay is magic.

Surf Break Apple Bay
Breaking waves and surf front of Bomba’s right down the road from Applesurf Villa

Cane Garden offers one of the world’s best waves when a north swell is happening. This right only wave offers a 100 yard plus ride that will explode down the line. The bottom is rocky and the wave breaks on a rocky beach so is definitely not for beginners!

Smugglers is a place to go when swells get real big. Most of the wave energy is dissipated here with a sweet right on the point at the right side of the beach. The bottom is fire coral so again, this wave is not for beginners.

Pictures taken at Apple Bay on February 16th, 2017. Swell was from that nasty northeaster that hit the New York area couple days earlier.

One of the great things about the Caribbean is that ground swells that come to Tortola are so predictable. A northeaster running up the US coast and most likely Tortola will have waves 3 days later.

Please learn the etiquette of surfing before going into the lineup to surf.

Tortola Pelicans Apple Bay

Tortola’s pelicans enjoy fishing, flying and playing along the shore line of Apple Bay on the north shore of Tortola. The birds are distinguished by their large elastic throat pouches. They live mostly on fish by catching them using their pouches as a fishing net.

The Brown Pelican, Pelecanus occidentalis, is the main species on the island.

Tortola Pelican looking for fish in front of Applesurf Villas over Apple Bay Tortola.

It is unique in that it fly’s over the waters looking for schools of small fish and then captures its food by by a spectacular dive bomb plunge from up to 65 feet up in the air.

It is amazing to watch them in the shallow waters along the shore, out in front of the villa, dive and not break their necks going after the fish. Most time they succeed, letting out up to two and a half gallons of salt water and then gobbling up their food with a little shake of their butt feathers as sign of success.

Getting Ready to Dive…
Straight down plunge into the water with dinner waiting below.

The photos for the “Pelicans at Apple Bay” slideshow displayed below were all taken at the Applesurf Villas located at the west end of Apple Bay Beach here in Tortola either off the deck of the Sea Breeze or the patio of the Ocean Mist.

The brown pelican was an endangered species from 1970 to 2009 as DDT decimated them by causing reproductive failures. Since then, they have come back strong. Pelicans raise one brood a year producing 2 to 4 eggs that incubate for 30 days. It takes a couple of months before they can fly and be independent with their parents caring and feeding them via a regurgitated, partially digested fish until that time. Pelican parents will provide an average of 150 lbs of fish per juvenile this way before they can feed themselves.

Pelicans live for 15 to 25 years with a wing span of six to eight feet. The birds are not fazed by human presence for the most part and are fascinating to watch as they interact with each other scouting, dive bombing and eating.

If you walk the shore road towards the Sugar Mill from where Bomba’s was, look up in the trees on the right starting at about 100 feet ahead . You might see pelicans looking out from their nests in the trees.

Slideshow above is of Pelicans diving for food, photos had to be cropped pretty good affecting resolution, so limited size. Gives you idea of the force they hit the water with!

Apple Bay’s Magic Sand

Apple Bay Tortola on a calm morning

Tortola’s Magic Beach at Apple Bay

Nice swell just finished up, sweet waves Tuesday into Wednesday. Notice how a good portion of the beach is gone, it is what happens when big north swells pound the shore. No worries, Apple Bay’s magic will bring the sandy beach back in a couple of days!

Head high plus North swell makes the sand disappear along Apple Bay Beach.

The video above was taken from the patio at the Sea Breeze, the upstairs suite at Applesurf Villa.

Apple Bay Beach 4/20
Apple Bay’s Magic Sand; back, soft and velvety. The wonders of nature!

Picture above is 7 days after the video was recorded.

Mother Nature’s little bumps are the sand movers at work, in front of Applesurf Villas.

How the Beach Sand comes and goes

When the ocean calms down, a peaceful serenity awaits on the front decks of Applesurf Villas. Many a soul has passed time watching Mother Nature perform her graceful, effortless rebuild of Apple Bay’s sandy beach. One can sit and see the sand moving with the currents and then being gently laid down on the beach. A true wonder of nature.

Equally amazing is to see the sandy beach disappear in hours sometimes, as powerful north swells arrive from winter storms up north. The energy level and excitement of waves arriving takes you to another completely amazing place. Up close as fat carpets of white water roll towards you and explode; the sound, action and contrasts are unique.

Beach at Apple Bay
Beach covered in soft beautiful sand in the summer months at Apple Bay Tortola

In the summer time where Apple Bay stays calm, the sand comes right up to the sea wall in front of Applesurf Villa. A wonder of nature. Please note; Picture above of the beach at Apple Bay was taken before Hurricane Irma. Beach is very much the same minus our beloved coconut trees.

Apple Bay Tortola, we have recovered from Irma better than ever. Would say that more than 80% of the island’s restaurants, bars and grills are open with most all the roads in good shape.

Ferry service from St Thomas to Road Town and the West End is back to normal with Apple Bay and Applesurf Villas just a 10 minute ride from the ferry terminal.

Apple Bay, Carrot Bay and Cane Garden Bay are happening! Come on down to sunshine and bliss, the beaches are looking good.

East View at Applesurf Villas

Sitting out back at Applesurf Villas in Apple Bay Tortola offers some of the most beautiful views you will find of the blue ocean, fishing swarming, birds flying, people enjoying the sun, wonderful sunrises and sunsets. Here are a couple from over the years.

The photos are shots looking east from Applesurf Villa. Apple Bay is to the right with Sabastians and Bombas, then the Sugar Mill just before the bend. Carrot Bay is the next village east. The second jute where the mountain line rises is Cane Garden Bay.

Notice how the sandy beach varies in the pictures. Apple Bay sand can disappear in days, but there is always a sandy beach with in walking distance. Regardless, stunning sounds and sites.

Look out at the Sea; Hear it, Feel it and See it; Up Close and Private.

The Power of Hurricane Irma

Hurricane Irma destroys boats in Trellis Bay Tortola

Hurricane Irma in Tortola

Hurricane Irma hit Tortola dead on with the eye of the hurricane passing right over Carrot Bay!  Thank God it occurred during the day light hours for the most part on September 6th, 2017.

Applesurf Villa along with most all of Apple Bay, Carrot Bay and Cane Garden Bay suffered severe flooding, 180 mph plus winds and a couple of hours of really big waves. Here is history of the storm.

Applesurf Villa flooded to the ceiling of the downstairs Ocean Mist suite with the new windows and doors exploding from the forces. Waves went over the top of the house!

Take a look at photos below. Hurricane Irma ripped the heavy Ipe wood sun deck surgically right off the house.

Applesurf Sun Deck
IPE sun deck at Applesurf Villas before Hurricane Irma in September 2017
Applesurf Villa post Irma
IPE sun deck vaporized and surgically removed from Applesurf Villas by Hurricane Irma in September 2017
Applesurf Villa Reconstruction
New concrete and tile sun deck being built during the summer of 2018.

Photos of Hurricane Irma Damages on Tortola

Other photos of the west end of Tortola in the year after Hurricane Irma. Apple Bay has been rebuilt for the most part. Soper’s Hole docks rebuilt and Harbor Market well underway. Bombas is the same, does not seem that it will be rebuilt, issue with the land owner. Otherwise, the island is back!

Apple Bay after Hurricane Irma trashed the beach with the sea wall and all sorts of debris.
Bombas post Hurricane Irma
What’s left of Bomba’s after Hurricane Irma, just a couple of concrete foundation pieces, shack vaporized by Irma.
damage at sopers hole
Soper’s Hole after Hurricane Irma with the Harbor Market in the background after Hurricane Irma.

Surfing in the Caribbean is also very popular. Experience BONNIE DOUGALL LUXURY PROPERTIES BVI – Caribbean Surfing in the BVI and the amount of excitement it offers!

Tortola Waves

Photos of Surf Session at Apple Bay, Tortola

Where the Waves Come From in Tortola

One of the really neat things about Tortola as it relates to surfing is the timing. For the most part, the memorable, heart pounding waves are created by the Nor’easters and winter storms from October to April up in United States.

The storms are predicted 3-5 days out. When the storm arrives and then moves out into the Atlantic Ocean, it creates a ground swell that radiates south. At around 30 miles per hour, it takes about 3 days for the waves to arrive at the surf breaks in Tortola.

You can time it so you literally go to sleep with a calm ocean whispering in your ear and waking up to perfect overhead waves. The swells from these storms usually last 3 or more days. You can score a perfect surf week in Tortola if you can be flexible and watch the weather.

A Nor’easter back in October 2016 brought waves to Tortola. On October 10th, as I can not surf anymore, I took some pictures to get a little remote surfing buzz. It happens when shooting surfers.  Wind was off shore, nice ground swell rolling in. Sweet magic on the island – Apple Bay Tortola.

Pictures of surfers riding waves on October 2016 at Apple Bay