The William Thornton Floating Bar & Restaurant, affectionately known as Willy T’s, is a legendary Caribbean bar that rides afloat a rather convincing pirate ship – loaded with grog and grub. Revellers wishing to eat, drink and be merry can find it bobbing in The Bight anchorage at Norman Island in the British Virgin Islands. Here’s everything you need to know before you go…
Get the best out of the British Virgin Islands by booking our British Virgin Islands sailing trip.
A brief history of Willy T’s
Since 1989, Willie T’s has brought swashbuckling fun to BVI waters with its unique floating bar, where sailors of the high seas can drop anchor to drink up on a decommissioned tanker. Named after an architect-inventor who was born on nearby Jost Van Dyke Island (involved in designing the United States Capitol), the original Willy Thornton was destroyed in September 2017 by hurricanes Irma and Maria… but its story doesn’t end there.
For land-lubbers, the owners had a new ship built, but in May 2018 it was announced they would have to anchor in Great Harbour on Peter Island instead. Only in 2019 was Willie T’s bar able to return back to its original spot at The Bight on Norman Island, where the ship and crew are now happy to be home.
What food should you order?
For a true taste of the Caribbean sea, try the Anegada Conch Fritters, served with a tangy mayo sauce. Never tried conch meat? It tastes like a combination of crayfish, escargot and scallops. Another local dish aboard the Willy T restaurant is the chicken roti or, for something light and familiar, you can opt for a simple Caesar salad, choosing to add chicken or mahi for a tropical ocean twist.
If in doubt, it’s worth checking the daily specials, which feature fresh local fish and the occasional cut of steak. Whatever you order, be sure to save space for a refreshing slice of Key lime pie.
What drinks should you order?
Pirates are known to have a taste for rum and with the Treasure Island lore of the BVIs (Norman Island is the inspiration for Robert Louis Stevenson’s lauded novel), the Willy T could hardly be the exception.
In fact, the bar even has its very own brand. You can even buy a bottle to take home or as a dockside takeaway or sample it in many popular drinks on board, including the infamous Painkiller (orange, pineapple, coconut and nutmeg); and dark and stormy (bitters, ginger beer and lime). Frozen margaritas always go down a treat in the island sun and there are always ice-cold Red Stripes to hand for beer-lovers, too.
When is the best time to visit?
If you’re going for food, Willy T’s serves lunch between 12-3pm and dinner from 6pm onwards. For families, it’s worth being aware of the party reputation of the ship as the evening draws in. In fact, the boat doesn’t have an official closing time – it stays open for as long as you keep the spirit alive.
“We are famous for our temporary tattoos and jumping off the top of the boat – essentials for the full Willy T’s experience,” says Ella Crone, staff member at Willy T’s.
How to get to Willy T’s
While you can catch a ferry from Tortola to Norman Island, it may be tricky to reach Willy T’s even from The Bight – it’s too far to swim (especially after one too many rum cocktails). Really the best way to reach it is by your own vessel, like the pirates and sailors of old. If pirating is not an option, book our British Virgin Islands sailing trip.
KEEN TO EXPLORE THE WORLD?
Connect with like-minded people on our premium trips curated by local insiders and with care for the world
Since you are here, we would like to share our vision for the future of travel - and the direction Culture Trip is moving in.
Culture Trip launched in 2011 with a simple yet passionate mission: to inspire people to go beyond their boundaries and experience what makes a place, its people and its culture special and meaningful — and this is still in our DNA today. We are proud that, for more than a decade, millions like you have trusted our award-winning recommendations by people who deeply understand what makes certain places and communities so special.
Increasingly we believe the world needs more meaningful, real-life connections between curious travellers keen to explore the world in a more responsible way. That is why we have intensively curated a collection of premium small-group trips as an invitation to meet and connect with new, like-minded people for once-in-a-lifetime experiences in three categories: Culture Trips, Rail Trips and Private Trips. Our Trips are suitable for both solo travelers, couples and friends who want to explore the world together.
Culture Trips are deeply immersive 5 to 16 days itineraries, that combine authentic local experiences, exciting activities and 4-5* accommodation to look forward to at the end of each day. Our Rail Trips are our most planet-friendly itineraries that invite you to take the scenic route, relax whilst getting under the skin of a destination. Our Private Trips are fully tailored itineraries, curated by our Travel Experts specifically for you, your friends or your family.
We know that many of you worry about the environmental impact of travel and are looking for ways of expanding horizons in ways that do minimal harm - and may even bring benefits. We are committed to go as far as possible in curating our trips with care for the planet. That is why all of our trips are flightless in destination, fully carbon offset - and we have ambitious plans to be net zero in the very near future.