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History Of Smugglers Cove

Smugglers Cove, Tortola, British Virgin Islands
Smugglers Cove
Tortola, British Virgin Islands

Smugglers Cove on the north shore of Tortola is one of the shining gems of the British Virgin Islands. Tucked away near the West End, with a half moon white sand beach and surrounded by swaying palm trees offering excellent snorkeling, especially out at the eastern tip of the cove. For those snorkelers, beginning or advanced, the reef to the western side of the cove is very nice diving also. Either snorkel site you adventure to, easy access is right off the white sand beach. Swimming or just floating around in the crystal clear warm water is magnificent!

There is quite a history story about Smugglers Cove that dates back to 1961, when the Clerk family acquired Smugglers Cove from the Romney family, and proceeded to cut in the road to Smugglers Cove from the Western side of the North shore and started building the main pavilion. By late 1963, the Clerk family opened Smugglers Cove for business. The Clerk family sold the property in 1968 due to an illness in the family.

Smugglers Cove Bar, Tortola
Smugglers Cove Bar - Tortola, BVI
Smugglers Cove was then purchased by Bob and Nell Denniston who gave up their life in the U.S., traded running several lumberyards in Iowa, to come to Smugglers Cove. Unfortunately, a couple of hurricanes took off the roofs of the original buildings built by the Clerk family, and that was just about it for the hotel business, never to be rebuilt, or finished to the thirty room hotel envisioned by the Clerk family.

One structure remains, that has withstood all of the storms that have passed over Tortola since the buildings were completed. Set in the middle of the beach, is the main building of the hotel where "Uncle Bob", would open up his "honour bar," a fridge in the backroom filled with all types of beverages, take what you want and leave the cash in a hat on the bar. Bob could be found at the bar late in the afternoon telling great stories about Smugglers Cove and the BVI in the early days.

Smugglers Cove Beach, Tortola
Smugglers Cove Beach - Tortola, BVI

Unfortunately Bob passed away in 2002 of natural causes, but the day before he passed, he completed one thing he had been working on for years - to get his vintage 1928 Rolls Royce running, which he did, drove it home, and passed away that night. His wife, Nell, had passed on in 2000. All that had the pleasure to meet them, and catch-up on British Virgin Islands history sorely miss them.

Another attribute that Bob brought to the BVI was the first Ham Radio Station that he set up in Smugglers Cove. Bob would communicate radio messages all over the world to other operators, who would make contact with people that needed to be reached by British Virgin Islanders. Bob also did much communication work for the government of the British Virgin Islands.

In 1976, Queen Elizabeth came to Tortola for her Silver Jubilee. At that time, Bob owned the newest automobile on the island and was asked if it could be used in the Queens motorcade in Road Town, the capital of Tortola. He agreed, and later in the day, Bob and Nell met the Queen at a reception party. The Queen told Bob she understood it was his automobile that she had been riding in. Nell chimed in, "Yes, we spent the whole of last night cleaning out the empty beer cans left in the back seat by our kids." The Queen leaned in and said, "My children do the same thing!" The old Lincoln is still on the beach, but is in dire condition.

Bob's Lincoln
Queen Elizabeth rode in Bob's Lincoln
during her visit in 1976.
Another bit of history for you classic film buffs out there, was the remake of parts of the movie, Hemingways, "Old man and the Sea," in 1990, starring Anthony Quinn, at Smugglers Cove.

This past year, Smugglers Cove remains the same with the remains of the old hotel still standing and the palm trees swaying in the breeze. No one knows what the future holds for Smugglers Cove, but both tourists and locals hope that nothing will change at Tortola's number one beach where "Natures Little Secret", is kept at it's natural beauty.

All in all when you come to Tortola, be sure to put a day at Smugglers Cove at the very top of things to do in the BVI.  Once you've been to Smugglers Cove, it's guaranteed that you'll be back on your next vacation to the Islands.
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