Oct. 3, 2004 It wasn't long ago that Diamond Cay was an uninhabited dot of land, that hiking a dirt path was the only way to walk from Great Harbour to White Bay and that the Sandcastle was the only place to stay on White Bay. Times are changing on the British Virgin Island of Jost Van Dyke, but the island still maintains that delightful laid-back feel.
On Labor Day Weekend, we took Inter-Island Boat Services from Red Hook, St. Thomas, to St. John, Tortola where we cleared customs in West End, and finally to Great Harbour in Jost Van Dyke. We had pre-arranged for Dorsey Chinnery, who previously owned Club Paradise in Great Harbour and now operates Jost Van Dyke Safari Services, to give us an island tour. This was great because we were able to visit all four of the island's major anchorages in the course of a five-hour day trip. In-the-know Dorsey also knew or was related to nearly everyone we met.
From our embarkation point in Great Harbor, we hopped in Dorsey's bright red safari bus and headed to Little Harbor. The road between the two destinations is smoothly paved, lined with greenery interrupted by only one or two houses, and follows the wild shoreline at an elevation of about 100 foot above sea level.
We pulled into Little Harbor about ten minutes after leaving Great Harbor. The anchorage was quite except for one powerboat that pulled up to the dock at Sydney's Peace & Love. Sydney Hendricks was out on the dock to meet the craft, which was arriving with a cargo of fresh lobster for his restaurant. In addition to open-air dining, where he serves lobster along with barbecued ribs and chicken, conch stew and fresh fish, Hendricks has added an air-conditioned dining room that will seat up to about 60 people.
New Taboo at Diamond Cay
Next, we drove east to Diamond Cay where Foxy Callwood opened his Foxy's Taboo restaurant in the summer of 2003. The road was paved up to the point of an extremely sharp hairpin turn, then turned to dirt as we bumped along out the marshy flats to the restaurant.
Sitting solitary, albeit with a dock in front where visiting cruisers can tie up and get fuel, ice and water, Foxy's Taboo boasts a red roof, coral pink walls with green trim, and an open-air dining room. Open daily except Mondays, the cuisine here is upscale and so are the prices. For example, the $12 Taboo Burger comes with mango chutney and pepper jack cheese on ciabata bread. Casual pizzas go for $13 with gourmet toppings such as sundried tomatoes, prosciutto ham and kalamata olives available for $2 per choice. There's also a wine list. Still, the ambiance here is relaxed. Like Foxy's Tamarind Bar in Great Harbour, it's a place to hang out and chat the day away.
The neat thing about Taboo's opening is that it makes this northeast side of the island, which sits a stone's throw away from Little Jost, more accessible. That meant it was the first time we were able to visit the Bubbly Pool. This natural Jacuzzi, formed from rock outcroppings and the Atlantic Ocean's surf, is about a half-mile away from Taboo. The trail is easy to follow and winds through waist-high wild sage. The pool is spectacular. I could have spent the day, and the next day, here.
Onward, we drove back through Great Harbour over the now paved road to White Bay. Ivan's Stress Free Bar & Campground was our first stop. The first thing we noticed is all the shell art. Getting married here is popular, and owner Ivan Chinnery encourages happy couples to glue shells onto small driftwood boards in the shapes of their names to preserve their union for posterity. Ivan was relaxing at his Stress Free Bar – so named because it's a help yourself bar with payment on the honor system – when we arrived. He showed us the 15 pastel-painted cottages he has available for rent that are basic, yet idyllic when you consider you're sleeping steps away from an beach of your dreams. Local and visiting musicians, collectively dubbed by Ivan as the "Ever-Changing International All-Star Band," get together for jam sessions on sporadic weeknights and almost every weekend.
Down the beach is a string of bars and restaurants that now almost rivals Great Harbour in terms of their number and colorful ambiance. There's the Soggy Dollar bar at the Sandcastle hotel, home of the potent Painkiller, a coconut-flavored, nutmeg-topped rum drink. Nearby, Jewel's Snack Shack is the only place on Jost you can buy a hot dog. The White Bay Superette sits next door with basic snacks and staples. Gertrude's is a lively restaurant that offers burgers as well as roti and lobster salad for lunch. For dinner, the menu goes a bit heartier with pea soup, barbecued chicken, lobster, and lime and garlic shrimp. Down the beach further, at the One Love Bar, Bushwhackers are the house drink. Ask owner Seddy Callwood, one of Foxy's son's, to show you his card and coin tricks. This place is hard to miss since its décor of flotsam and jetsam resembles that of the Bomba Shack on Tortola.
For those with children, or who might get bored warming a barstool all day, Frank Mahoney has opened Jost Van Dyke Water Sports at the far end of White Bay beach. Mahoney rents jet boats, paddleboats, kayaks, Sunfish and water bikes. He also rents all-terrain vehicles that are perfect for driving up the steep road behind White Bay to Majohnny Hill, the highest point on the island at an elevation of 1054 feet.
Great Harbor was our last stop. Island movers-and-shakers, among them Ivy Chinnery who owns the Sea Crest Inn, have revived Carnival. That meant that the sandy "Main Street" of Great Harbour was lined with multicolor pennants and food booths this Labor Day Weekend. A big sound stage was being set up for what was likely a wild dusk-to-dawn party.
Corsair's is the newest kid on this beach-bar block. If you can't spot it by its bright pink façade, you'll recognize it by the vintage jeep that sits just outside. The menu here is advertised as Mexican, but it's more Mexican-Italian-Continental-West Indian. How else would you describe menu offerings that include seafood quesadillas, pasta primavera, homemade French fries and jerk chicken wings? Lunch entrees range from $9 to $12, while dinner entrees can run twice this amount.
There are a few other newer additions in Great Harbour. Wendell's World Water Sports offers Internet service as well as kayak and inflatable dinghy rentals. Next door, the Jost Van Dyke Ice Cream Parlor serves coconut ice cream and mango sherbet among its many flavors.
Foxy's Tamarind Bar sits at the far east end of Great Harbor. Sand floors, T-shirts and business cards in the ceiling beams, Foxy himself singing Calypso ditties: While some things have changed on Jost, others remain the same.
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