The History of Norman Island—a Real Pirate Island in the BVI

Norman Island from above

Circumnavigating the uninhabited paradise of Norman Island, you would never guess from its brilliant beauty and inviting amenities that the island also holds a grin-worthy’s amount of rich documented pirate history. But we’re about to journey back in time to 250 years ago when Norman Island, located at the southern tip of the British Virgin Islands archipelago, acted as a prime hiding spot for pirate’s booty.

The Tale of “Treasure Island”

Treasure Island book and BVI map

The year was 1750 and it was no secret that pirate vessels used the Virgin Islands as a place to hide and recuperate after their unruly activities at sea. One such notorious tale follows a crewmember aboard a Spanish treasure galleon. Following the mutiny of the ship’s crew, the seaman and a band of dubious crewmates escaped by the sea with half the vessel’s valuable cargo. And thus started the trek to find where the group could offload their newly attained plunder…

Norman Island enters the story — the perfect covert destination to stow a secret pirate fortune. Unfortunately for these swashbuckling buccaneers, their “hiding spot” wouldn’t remain a secret for long as news broke on Tortola that just across the Sir Francis Drake channel sat a wealth of buried treasure for whoever was willing to grab a shovel and dig their heart out. 

The documented portion of this pirate chronicle concludes when much of the loot was indeed recovered from the island. This labor was executed by a group of prominent Tortolian planters at the time. But in the end, the ultimate success landed in the hands of a Lieutenant-General of the Leeward Islands, who dispatched a warship to descend upon the island’s planters and retrieve the goods they worked so hard for.

Among playful rumors of BVI locals, tales still circulate of treasure discovered on Norman Island since the 18th century and story has it that there are still riches to be discovered. Many even believe that Norman Island and the tales of its treasures inspired Robert Louis Stevenson to write the famed novel Treasure Island.

Top Things to Do

Treasure-hunting aside, there is no doubt that Norman Island is an “X”-marks-the-spot destination worth exploring during a British Virgin Islands sailing holiday. And here are some of our favorite things to experience at this historic BVI hot-spot:

  • Follow your adventure compass to the Pirate’s Bight for some laid-back island vibes and Caribbean rum libations.

Pirate's Bight of Norman Island

  • ‘The Caves,’ a bountiful snorkel site located on the western edge of the well-sheltered anchorage, are cherished by visitors for the spectacular corals and sponges that cover the cave walls. Those who yearn for slightly deeper depths will find their wishes met by just a short dingy-ride to world-class SCUBA diving.

Norman Island caves

  • The Indians, a dive site teeming with colorful marine life, delight all with frequent sightings of the Caribbean’s most treasured resident—sea turtles.
  • Experience the buzz of legendary bucket list floating bar, Willy T’s, anchored in the corner of the harbor. Partake in peg-leg-themed “shotskis” with your crewmate and for those who dare, capture an Instagram-worthy pic while jumping off the side of this old pillaging vessel (clothing optional! Haha!)

Pirate's Bight of Norman Island

  • In the evening, follow the island aromas to the head of the bay and dine ashore at one of the delectable restaurants serving up authentic Caribbean dishes. 

The British Virgin Islands’ sailing paradise awaits you, where Sunsail offers BVI bareboat and flotilla charters for one or two weeks. So, play by your own pirate rules and start planning your next salty crew adventure today!

Author Name: 
Ryan Smith