Bars of the B.V.I.: Pirates Bight & Willy T’s on Norman Island

by Chris on April 28, 2010

A rundown on two BVI bars, Pirates Bight, Norman Island and Willy T’s BVI (William Thornton)

Pirates Bight, Norman Island, BVI, British Virgin Islands, Arabella

One thing I noticed about the British Virgin Islands: there are a LOT of bars.

We stopped at so many beach bars on the Arabella trip that I’m breaking them up into two posts. Today I’m posting photos and info about the bars on Norman Island, the inspiration behind Robert Louis Stevenson’s classic Treasure Island. Later in the week, I’ll post my thoughts on Jost Van Dyke, which is, without a doubt, party central for sailors.

Pirates Bight, Norman Island, BVI, British Virgin Islands, Arabella

You could always tell the most popular spots by the number of catamarans, yachts and other vessels anchored in the bays. These islands are small – way too small for large cruise ships to enter – and several of our landings were “wet” (meaning, no dock). But that just added to the Painkiller-induced fun (forget wine, the rum-based Painkiller was my drink of choice for the week).

Pirates Bight, Norman Island, BVI, British Virgin Islands, Arabella

After our day of snorkeling the Caves and the Indians, we headed into Pirates Bight, a classic beach bar with serving up ribs, chicken and BBQ fish. The restaurant also featured a great gift shop where I bought my fave T-shirt of the trip: “Pirate Girls Kick Butt.”

Pirates Bight, Norman Island, BVI, British Virgin Islands, Arabella

For some members of our group, the bar was  little dark. Good thing Gordon carried a headlamp!

Willly T's, Norman Island, BVI, British Virgin Islands, Arabella

After dinner, some of us dared to go to Willy T’s, a ramshackle-looking boat bar anchored in the bay.

Willly T's, Norman Island, BVI, British Virgin Islands, Arabella

The bar, named for the ship William Thornton, has long had a notorious rep. At one point, the bar gave out free T-shirts to women who would jump naked off the top (and the Internet proves that many took advantage o f this!) It wasn’t packed when we arrived, but there were enough people dancing and drinking shots (served on a surf board) to make things interesting.

Willly T's, Norman Island, BVI, British Virgin Islands, Arabella

A couple of crew members, Holly and Ben, came with us to make sure things didn’t get out of hand.

Willly T's, Norman Island, BVI, British Virgin Islands, Arabella

While the crowd wasn’t as wild as I’ve heard it can be, there were still shenanigans going on. At various times, women would ask the bartender to “tattoo” them, a process that involves placing stickers where the sun don’t shine.

Willly T's, Norman Island, BVI, British Virgin Islands, Arabella

In general, our shipmates were sedate. But on this night, Tedi and Krassi, a mother-daughter duo,  let loose, getting down with the locals and other tourists.

Willly T's, Norman Island, BVI, British Virgin Islands, Arabella

All in all, we had a fun time, downing our Painkillers and watching others get wacky. I can see how a night at Willy T’s can get quickly out of hand!

Willly T's, Norman Island, BVI, British Virgin Islands, Arabella

Next report: Foxy’s and the Soggy Dollar on Jost Van Dyke

Do you have a fave Caribbean beach bar?

| Chris Gray Faust is a veteran journalist, travel expert, social media butterfly - and editrix of this site. Like what you read? Check out her writing, editing and social media services.

{ 11 comments… read them below or add one }

Tomtoes April 29, 2010 at 11:42 am

Ohhhhhhhhh, Many a memorable, (OK,I have trouble remembering) night have been spent either at the “Bight” or aboard the “Willie T” !!!
Thanks for the Pics Chris!

On to Foxy’s and the Soggy Dollar….. More memories, I think!

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Patrice April 30, 2010 at 11:44 pm

I can’t wait to read the rest. I’ll be chartering a boat for a day out of St. John next weekend and plan on going to some of the places you mentioned.

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Chris May 2, 2010 at 7:47 pm

Patrice – Wow, have fun! You’ll love it….

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Patrice May 3, 2010 at 3:25 pm

I’m not so sure now about Soggy Dollar after reading your latest post. My husband decided he didn’t want to go when he found out they had a gift shop. I still want to check it out though. Which beach bars did you like the best?

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Chris May 3, 2010 at 3:37 pm

A lot of the beach bars in the U.S. Virgin Islands and BVI have gift shops, I found. All around the Caribbean, I’ve seen sailors with hats and T-shirts from the different bars. Foxy’s, Soggy Dollar and Pirates Bight all had them, as did several on St. John.

Honestly….I liked Willy T’s the best. But it’s not for everyone. It can get rowdy, as I noted!

There were a few other beach bars on Jost van Dyke that didn’t seem as crowded. Ivan’s was very cool, with the seashell decor. And One Love right down the beach from Soggy Dollar also had a good vibe.

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Patrice May 15, 2010 at 10:37 pm

Hi Chris! So we just got back from our trip. I totally agree with you about Soggy Dollar Bar. Way too frat party and for us. We really liked Pirates, Pussers and Smugglers Cove. I’m sure White Bay is beautiful, but it was hard to tell with all the boats and people. We stopped at Willy T’s, but I only lasted about 3 minutes before deciding it was rocking too much for me (I get sea sick easily, but am ok with medicine if the boat is moving).

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Chris May 16, 2010 at 8:38 am

Patrice – Oh good, I’m glad I’m not the only one who doesn’t care for Soggy Dollar. We didn’t make it to Virgin Gorda or Tortola so I haven’t been to Pussers. Oh well, good reason to go back, right?

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Tracy June 3, 2010 at 6:04 pm

Chris, you definitely must check out Virgin Gorda and Tortola. On VG rent yourself a little Suzuki Sidekick, and do some exploring, especially The Baths and Savannah Bay Beach. There is also a bar/grill,(with a freshwater pool!) on one of the highest points of the island,overlooking the sea towards Tortola and some of the smaller islands, that is a great place to have lunch or stop for a cold drink. It’s near a place called Mad Dog’s.

On Tortola, it’s all about Cane Garden Bay, Bomba’s Shack,Full Moon Party, Pusser’s and Smuggler’s Cove. Cane Garden Bay has breathtaking views of the US Virgins,white sand crescent shaped beach, and a variety of small bar/restaurants dotted along the beach to choose from-all very casual,open from breakfast to late into the evening. Not overly touristy here-no big resorts on the beach. I’ve rented a few different flat’s, condo’s and houses here-all across from the beach, or on the hillside, and very reasonably priced and well furnished.

Regarding the Full Moon parties-most everyone should try this, at least once. Partake in the the special “magic mushroom tea”. The party is held outdoors for the most part, due to what seemed like thousands of people spilling out into the street. It’s more a younger to 40 something age group. I heard about Bomba’s Shack on the “E” channel years ago, and planned one of my trips there around the full moon just to enjoy the festivities! It was wild.

Lastly, and on a personal note, I ran into your website today by chance, and I have to say I am so jealous! When I graduated from the Travel Sales and Marketing program at a local Tech College, I dreamed of one day making a living as a travel writer and/or photographer. I have been fortunate to have worked for one of the world leaders in the travel industry, but this is where it’s at!

Maybe someday…

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Chris January 31, 2011 at 12:35 am

@Tracy, this is a great list of other islands I’d love to visit. Now that I’m in Seattle, the Caribbean seems so far away! But I really loved BVI and would definitely brave the long flight from the West Coast to get back there someday.

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Hannah Sentenac August 25, 2010 at 3:55 pm

LOVE this post! Had an amazing time in the BVIs last year – dying to go back. Pirate’s Bight was one of our faves, and I can say with certainty, they make the BEST bushwhacker’s EVER! Did you have a chance to try one? I’m sure their painkillers had to be fabulous, too.
Also – did you make it to Gertrude’s on Jost Van Dyke? Pour your own drinks made it one of our faves, too. :)

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Chris August 26, 2010 at 10:40 am

Hannah – I stuck with Painkillers as I was afraid that too much mixing of drinks might lead to a bad situation later! :) And no, I didn’t go to Gertrudes….so many BVI bars, so little time. It’s such a relaxing area to take a vacation, though, that I know I’ll be back someday….

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