For an afternoon spent exploring one of the best preserved plantation ruins on the island, find your way to Annaberg Sugar Plantation. Annaberg Plantation was a leading producer of sugar, molasses, and rum back in the 1800’s. When you visit Annaberg, go and see the ruins but stay for the views. The views are nothing short of breathtaking at the Plantation. Check out this video to see for yourself!
The Windmill at Annaberg is the main focal point at the ruins and the largest windmill in the Virgin Islands. Built between 1810 and 1830, the windmill could produce between 300 and 500 gallons of juice within an hour. Slaves were used at the plantation to pass the sugarcane through rollers which then made the juice that was caught below and stored until ready for processing. When there was no wind, a horse mill was used to continue making the sugar. These remains can still be seen at the plantation today. There were 16 slave cabins found which have since deteriorated. Today there are informative plaques describing their location.
Looking out from Annaberg, you can see Leinster Bay, the Sir Frances Drake Channel and a few of the British Virgin Islands. The plantation is also within walking distance of Waterlemon Cay which is a perfect spot for snorkeling.
Travel Tip created by Leslie and Peter in association with Vacation Soup
The Francis Bay trail is an excellent short hike (about 30 minutes round trip) that starts from the parking area before you start down the road to Francis Beach. The trail starts right behind a scenic old stone building. It wanders about half a mile, through the forest, past some ruins, around a salt pond, then leads to Francis Bay beach. Watch this video to experience the diverse flora and fauna along this beautiful trail.
The trail is built and maintained by Friends of Virgin Islands National Park, a non-profit organization dedicated to supporting our National Park. A large portion of this trail is ADA and eco friendly. Almost half of the trail is built as a raised platform to protect the ecosystem of the local salt pond. Here you’ll find many native species of birds and ducks. It is also common to see lots of land crabs, hermit crabs, iguanas, deer, mongoose and, of course, donkeys. The pond is of the best bird watching spots on the island. Expect to see lots of Maho trees and Mangroves towards the pond.
Right after you start the trail there are some interesting ruins.
Cinnamon Bay is one of our favorite beaches on St. John. If you haven’t been for awhile, watch this video of our recent visit to see for yourself what an amazing beach it is!
Cinnamon Bay, at about 1 mile, is the National Park’s longest beach. There is good snorkeling around Cinnamon Bay Cay, a short swim from shore. The clear waters will tempt you to spend your time swimming and snorkeling, while the beautiful turquoise water and sugar white sand will call you to spread your beach blanket and relax. Don’t forget to check out the hiking trail through the Cinnamon Bay Plantation ruins just across from the beach parking area (see a previous blog post)
Hawksnest Beach is a favorite beach for both St. John locals and visitors alike, and a preferred beach for families with children. The reason for this is that Hawksnest is not only one of the most beautiful beaches on St. John, it is also the most convenient. It’s the closest beach you can drive to from Cruz Bay and the parking lot is close to the beach. Here’s a video of what it’s like to walk along Hawksnest Beach.
Hawksnest Beach also offers the closest reef to shore, coming right up to the sand. The snorkeling is easy and there is some great elk horn coral here. You do need to pay attention to how close you get the reef with your body and fins because the water gets pretty shallow in spots. It is best to snorkel Hawksnest when the bay is calm and there are no north shore swells.
There’s certainly no shortage of ruins on St John, and most of our favorite hikes include a ruin or two. One of our favorite ruins can be found by hiking the America Hill spur of the Cinnamon Bay trail. Not only are the ruins attractive, the views of the north shore of St John are stunning. Watch this video to see what you will experience on the great St. John hike.
The trail starts 100 yards past Cinnamon Bay’s entrance on North Shore Road. The trailhead is marked by a sign for “Cinnamon Bay Trail” (there’s another sign along the way for the America Hill spur). It’s adjacent to the Cinnamon Bay Ruins and there is a place for one or two cars to park or you can just park at the Cinnamon Bay beach lot. This is a great hike to take before heading to the beach at Cinnamon Bay.
The hike up is steep at first, and fairly exposed, but as you cross the gut it levels out a bit and becomes shadier & cooler. Once you reach the America Hill Spur, which is not very far up Cinnamon Bay Trail, it’s only about five more minutes to the ruins. The walls of the house are mostly intact, and you can see where the remains of the front steps were.
The ruins were once home to sugar cane plantations and bay rum distilleries, the most prosperous on island. Today, the remnants of the old rum factory are still prominent, and when you reach the top of your hike, you’ll be able to see the ruins and enjoy the stunning views over to Maho Bay, Francis Bay and Tortola. These unforgettable views, with the ruins and forests all around, make this hike one of our favorites and certainly worth the effort.
What’s more romantic than spending your day in paradise at a beach called Honeymoon? Honeymoon contains the magnificent qualities common to all of St. John’s north shore beaches, sugar white sand and clear, turquoise water. Here’s a video of Honeymoon Bay on St. John taken on a recent early morning visit. Enjoy the solitude!
While Honeymoon’s prime location gives you views of the islands and cays in Pillsbury Sound, its remote access keeps the beach more tranquil and private than many of the other North Shore beaches. You can’t drive directly to Honeymoon, but that’s part of its allure. There are currently three ways to get to Honeymoon: hike the Lind Point Trail, arrive by boat, or take the golf cart shuttle at the entrance to Caneel Bay resort.
St John’s Caneel Hill Trail begins in Cruz Bay about twenty yards past the Mongoose Junction parking lot and rises to the summit of Caneel Hill. It’s a great hike that can easily be done starting right from St. John Escape, but it is by no means an easy hike. When you reach the viewing platform at the top of Caneel Hill you will be able to see spectacular views all the way out to St. Croix and Puerto Rico. It is definitely worth the effort.
Check out this video to see what it’s like to go on this excellent hike.
The total distance is 2.4 miles. The trail to the peak of Caneel Hill is a steep and steady incline, gaining 719 feet of elevation in less than one mile. We would recommend wearing proper footwear as this is definitely not a flip flop hike. You probably want to wear sneakers or Keens and bring along a bottle or two of water. So while it is not an easy hike, it is definitely doable.
You will be amply rewarded for your efforts with spectacular views. So if you like a nice little hike with stellar views, add the Caneel Hill trail to your list on your next visit.
According to our favorite book about St John activities, St. John Off The Beaten Track, “If you only have enough time to hike one trail, then the Cinnamon Bay Self-Guiding Trail is the trail for you. Also, because the trail is relatively short, flat and shady, it’s a perfect choice for those who would like to experience a taste of the St. John interior, but who might be put off by the prospect of a long hike on the often hilly and rugged terrain characteristic of the St. John forest.”
Here’s a video we made of what it’s like to visit this magical and mysterious place. Meander through the ruins of the historic Cinnamon Bay Sugar Plantation. Smell the scent of the leaves from the bay rum trees, which were once used to make the famous St John Bay Rum Cologne. The boardwalk and nature loop are located across the road from the entrance to the Cinnamon Bay Campground. The nature loop is an easy 0.5 mile hike.
Represented on the Trail are three important stages of the economy and life on St. John in days gone by, the sugar industry, the emergence of bay rum and the subsistence economy that existed from the end of slavery to the beginning of the present day tourism economy.
The old sugar works are in good condition and you can see the remains of the horsemill where the sugar cane was ground up and juiced and the factory where the juice was boiled down and evaporated to produce the crude sugar and molasses that were stored in the building that once existed where the stone columns are alongside the road.
You can pick up the half-mile trail that leads through the forest crosses the gut and heads back to the ruins. Here you’ll pass through a stand of bay rum trees planted in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries and walk by an old Danish cemetery.
A common question we hear from people who are considering a vacation to St. John is, “How is the island doing and is it ok to visit?” As they say a picture, or in this case a video, is worth a thousand words. So with this in mind we have prepared this video of our recent trip to St. John so you can see for yourself.
As you will see, St. John is still full of amazing beauty, life, and is definitely ready for visitors. St. John is a special island that’s hard to describe until you actually go for yourself. It’s beautiful in photos, but once you visit is when you truly feel the spirit of the island. If you’ve ever been to St. John, then you understand that it has this magnetic pull on you that’s like nothing else that keeps people coming back year after year.
St. John has changed a bit since Hurricane Irma and Maria so we thought a video update was in order. While the beaches might look a little bit different now with fewer shade trees, the water and sand are just as amazing as ever. The island is still pure heaven if you’re looking for a destination where you can relax and truly get away from it all. Whether you’ve loved St. John for years or you’ve not yet been, it is absolutely, without question worth the trip. Even more, St. John needs the tourism to continue to rebuild.
So sit back, relax and watch the video to see what it’s like to visit St. John now as we travel to the beautiful beaches, and hike along the amazing the trails!
Here’s a video of our just completed visit to St. John. Tag along as we visit Salomon, Honeymoon, Hawksnest, Maho, Francis, Gibney, Peace Hill and Haulover. There’s also a little detour to Jost for Sunday fun day. It was a 10 day visit and gives you an idea of the many sights you can see. Our next visit soon will cover different parts of the island. St. John continues its amazing recovery and is waiting for your visit!!