18 May 2011
Wexas MD, Steve Allen, uncovers the beauty and appeal of Peter Island, a wonderful retreat in the British Virgin Islands, after a recent anniversary escape.
"If you wish, sir" said the ever-attentive villa manager, Andre, "the airspace over the island can be closed for additional privacy." Now that’s going the extra mile! Unfortunately, we weren’t staying in one of the luxury villas on Peter Island, and nor did our worldly status warrant such a service, but it’s nice to know that it’s available, should you need just a little more peace and quiet on this hideaway Caribbean island.
Sarah and I left our shores for a special escape to mark our wedding anniversary, without the children (as one surely should). We chose Peter Island, following a holiday on nearby Virgin Gorda some years ago, when we fell in love with the British Virgin Islands. Peter Island came highly recommended and so the decision was not too hard to make, even if the credit card was due some unexpected exercise.
The resort has 55 suites - 20 by the gorgeous Deadman’s Beach, where we stayed, and 32 ocean view suites close to the bar, main restaurant and the marina - plus 3 private villas. We stayed in a beachfront suite, perfectly located and with a spacious bathroom. The villas sleep up to 8, 10 or 12 and come with meals and dedicated staff. My favourite was the largest of the three, Falcon’s Nest, which is perched on a hill with the most spectacular views across the sea towards Norman Island, aka Treasure Island, and beyond. Watching the sun set from the terrace by the infinity pool is a memory that will last forever.
A Norwegian shipping magnate, Torolf Smedwig, created Peter Island Resort and Spa in the late 1960’s, having bought the island from a British aviator, Sir Alan Cobham. They agreed the deal over a picnic on the beach (as you do in the Caribbean, I suspect). The resort covers much of the 1, 800-acre island, and comes with its own marina where we saw some fabulous craft drop anchor, both yachts and motorboats. The BVIs are a boating paradise, with some 50 islands to explore.
There’s a spa located half a mile or so from the main resort within its own grounds, with a private area overlooking the ocean. The combination of a massage and the sound of the sea were rather hypnotic, and I attempted my first ever yoga session in the grounds. This proved to be both rewarding and somewhat challenging, as I attempted to mirror the positions that our very calm and capable Indian teacher demonstrated. A number of weddings have been held in these grounds, and it’s possible to book the whole resort for that special occasion.
The pirates that sailed these seas in the 16th and 17th centuries would have had plenty of wind in their sails, which for the contemporary visitor is a blessing. Legend has it that Blackbeard marooned 15 mutinous sailors and a cask of rum on the neighbouring Dead Chest Island, with fairly predictable results. As we looked out from Deadman’s Beach Bar, slowly sipping our Red Stripe and Corona, across the white sand beach to the Hobie Cats skimming the water, I couldn’t help but compare the two ages - the pirates abandoned all those years ago desperate to escape from their island, and the travellers’ of today, so keen to escape their busy worlds for such a sanctuary.
Of course, in order to find island escapes with a touch of luxury, one has to travel a little further. In our case, we flew with BA to Antigua - always a civilised way to begin one’s travels - and then hopped on a Liat Airlines flight to Beef Island with a brief stop at Nevis. Beef Island is joined to Tortola by a causeway. An excellent private car transfer took us to Road Town’s Peter Island ferry, for the four-mile crossing of Sir Francis Drake’s Channel. This made for a fairly long day, but the magic that is the ‘Caribbean way’ soon meant that we were slowing down, easing into a few books, and our very comfortable beach loungers.
The Tradewinds restaurant was our home for breakfasts and most evening meals. The variety and quality of the food was good and it served a mixture of Caribbean, European and American influences, which meant that we could always try a different dish. Most of the fish was caught locally, and the selection of wines proved to be more than fine (in fact we could have used a few more weeks to do the selection justice!). The service always came with a smile and a bit of a chat, and we soon felt part of the family.
Later on, the sea breezes ensured that we had a clear view of the night sky and the myriad stars, while we lay in the hammock swinging from a palm tree by our suite. We were treated to an ever-expanding moon that lit up the island and the yachts gently swaying at their moorings. Certainly the most wonderful full moon experience I’ve ever had.
Pure luxury it is not, and therein lays its appeal. Peter Island is a place where the experience is everything. It creeps up on you, and slows you down. You truly unwind, such that you don’t miss the TV, which is wonderfully absent from the suites, and you don’t mind the occasional slow delivery of that glass of chilled Sauvignon, or the legacy the next day, of one rum-based cocktail too many!
We both loved the ambience and our time away on this island retreat. And we would love to take the family there one day too, especially as the resort does feature special offers for the villas the suites at varying times across the year - do ask your Wexas specialist! Now back to the real world, albeit soothed by a rather stunning screensaver image...