A Visit to St. John’s Gibney Beach

A Visit to St. John’s Gibney Beach

Sometimes called St. John’s “secret beach,” Gibney is a little secluded beach that can be hard to plan a day around because there is only parking for a handful of cars. If you’re lucky enough to get a parking spot, enjoy a quiet day on a picturesque beach with gorgeous views across the bay to Hawksnest and Caneel. Watch this video to see the beauty of Gibney beach for yourself!

Gibney Beach takes its name from the Gibney family that established a home in the 1950s on the land behind the beach at the southern side of Hawksnest Bay.

Located about a 1/4 mi east of Hawksnest Bay’s parking area. Visitors can access this beach via the Oppenheimer Beach iron gate. Parking is very limited – and you should not block the gate-access! From here you’ll walk down to Oppenheimer Beach and follow the shoreline to your left as you face the water. Take care not to disturb the privacy of the Gibney family or their guests. About 100 yards down the beach you’ll find a wonderful white sand beach.

Gibney Beach St John USVI

Like many of St John’s beaches, entry is shallow with moderate waves! Sandy bottom extends out 20 – 30 yards! Due to the September, 2017 hurricanes, Irma and Maria, many of the majestic coconut palms that once lined this beach are gone. But the survivors are making a comeback – and it won’t be long before the iconic shadow of a palm tree extends across this beach again!

The Battery in Cruz Bay

The Battery in Cruz Bay

The Battery is a short walk from St John Escape at Grande Bay. Once a fort that protected Cruz Bay since the late eighteenth century, the building now serves as government offices. However, the building itself is protected as a National Historic Site, and has a small museum inside. The grounds of the Battery offer great views of Cruz Bay and the harbor.

To reach the Battery you walk out of the Grande Bay garage and head onto the beach. You walk towards the ferry dock along Cruz Bay beach which is always an interesting experience, no matter what time of day.

Once you reach the ferry terminal you continue on the small beach until you reach the Battery grounds entrance. To get some great photos just walk along the perimeter, close to the rocky shore. You’re reward will be some great views!

Walk to Salomon Beach

Walk to Salomon Beach

Walking to Salomon Beach is one of our favorite activities while on St. John. It’s a beautiful, relatively short hike on one of the most flat trails on St. John. We love to start our day with a power walk to Salomon just to get some exercise. The beauty is you just walk out the door of St. John Escape and head on out, no need for a car.

Watch the video to see what it’s like to do the walk to Salomon. We start out looking at the trail from the terrace of St. John Escape. Walking out of the garage at Grande Bay, we immediately get on the beach and begin. We walk through town and arrive at the National Park Visitor center where the Lind Point trail begins. Walking along the trail we see nice views of Cruz Bay and the many Cays in the distance. In less than a half hour we reach the solitude of Salomon Beach.

Hiking the Ram Head Trail

Hiking the Ram Head Trail

Another must do while on St. John is the Ram Head Trail. It is a beautiful hike which starts at the very remote East End of St. John at Salt Pond Beach. The views from the top are some of the best on the entire island. Watch this video to see what the hike is like and why we consider it our favorite hike on St. John.

It’s the perfect spot to watch the sun dip below the horizon in the West by St. Thomas, Virgin Islands and the full moon rise to the East above Norman Island, British Virgin Islands.

 We start off hiking along Salt Pond Bay and then head inland, walking across Blue Cobblestone beach, past amazing cactus fields, before reaching the summit of Ram Head.  The reward for getting to the top is the amazing panoramic view.  On the way up we will pass the actual Salt Pond that the beach is named after., before we get to Drunk Bay and see the rock statues.  This is an amazing hike and one of our favorites.  Enjoy the views!!

Panoramic View Ram Head St. John USVI

On our most recent visit, we hiked the trail out around 5:30 pm, getting to Ram’s head just in time for the St. John sunset. We love to hike this trail on the full moon, as it’s a magnificent spot to see the moon on the ocean and take in the beautiful scenery .  If you do this, make sure you’re comfortable hiking and perhaps bring a flashlight or even better, a headlamp!

Rainbow at Sunset on Ram Head St. John

The trail is 1 mile long each way and leads to a beautiful crest that is 200 feet high and has an absolutely stunning view. One mile does not sound hard, but bear in mind it is hot and the trail is occasionally steep. Still, with proper shoes it can easily be done, also for kids and fit seniors. It takes about an hour. Don’t forget water and sunscreen.

Sunset on Ram Head St. John USVI

Hiking the Leinster Bay Trail

Hiking the Leinster Bay Trail

The Leinster Bay Trail is a flat 0.8-mile trail that follows the shoreline of Leinster Bay from the end of the paved road beyond the Annaberg Sugar Mill parking lot Leinster Bay Road to the beach at Waterlemon Bay.

Watch this video to see first hand what it’s like to hike this scenic trail that leads to our favorite view on St. John!

The Leinster Bay Trail runs right along the water’s edge with splendid, unobstructed views of Leinster Bay, the Narrows, Sir Francis Drake Channel, and West End, Tortola. Moreover, it provides land access to one of St. John’s best snorkeling locations, Waterlemon Cay, the small island that lies just offshore of the beautiful little beach at Waterlemon Cay.

Trail to Waterlemon Cay
Access to Waterlemon cay

The Johnny Horn Trail begins just behind the beach and continues on to Coral Bay. But if you hike only a short stretch you will be rewarded with some great ruins and spectacular views.

Right near the beginning of the Johnny Horn Trail, there is a short spur trail that follows the shoreline of Waterlemon Bay. By walking along this trail, you can get to a point on the shore that is half the distance to Waterlemon Cay than it would bestarting from the beach. This way you can save your energy for the really good snorkeling around the cay.

Leinster bay access to Waterlemon Cay

Further up the trail there is a spur trail that takes you to ruins of an old Danish guard house. This small fortification was built on this strategic location, called Leinster Point, because it overlooked two critical passages, the Fungi Passage, between Whistling Cay and Mary Point, and the Narrows, which separate Great Thatch and St. John. The guardhouse was equipped with cannons and manned by 16 soldiers.

Danish Guard House

As you proceed up the hill, you will come to several areas that provide excellent views of Leinster Bay and the Sir Francis Drake Channel.

Near the top of the hill, the trail forks. The trail to the left is a spur that leads to the ruins of the James Murphy Estate house. The view from up here is our favorite on St. John.

View from the Murphy House
Waterlemon Cay

Images of St. John 2018

Images of St. John 2018

As the year comes to an end we wanted to share some of the beautiful scenery we had the pleasure of seeing during our visits to St. John in 2018.  In this video you will see scenes from both all the North Shore beaches, as well as the terrific views from the terrace of St. John Escape.  We have an upcoming visit to St. John in a couple of weeks.  Be on the lookout for our updates as to what is happening on the island as 2019 begins.

Snorkeling on St. John – Does It Get Any Better

Snorkeling on St. John – Does It Get Any Better

Anyone that’s been to St. John, knows that snorkeling on St. John offers more great shore snorkel spots than probably any other Caribbean island. From beginners to seasoned snorkelers alike, there is something for everyone. View gorgeous underwater gardens of coral and visit with the residents; turtles, rays, octopuses, moray eels and an abundance of fish large and small.

If you know where to go, you can find a variety of healthy fish populations.. You can also find healthy soft and hard corals, including a great deal of Elkhorn Coral around the island and colorful sea fans around the island.  St John also has areas with interesting underwater topography that have cool areas to explore, like caves, big boulders and walls.

 

While there are many boat tour options on St. John that can be lots of fun, you can access nearly all the best locations for free from shore. And if you are interested in renting a kayak or a dinghy, there are a couple of great areas easily paddled to that are in fairly protected water. And no matter what the wind direction, you can always find some place calm to snorkel.

St John snorkel
We have snorkeled just about all of the spots, including those right from the beach, as well as the off shore locations. We will share our favorite spots and how to get the most out of them in future posts. If you know where to go, you can find a variety of fish species and coral. We hope to help you better understand why St. John is such a snorkeling paradise.

A Little Bit Of History on St. John – Annaberg Plantation

A Little Bit Of History on St. John – Annaberg Plantation

For an afternoon spent exploring one of the best preserved plantation ruins on the island, find your way to Annaberg Sugar Plantation.  Named after Salomon Zeeger’s wife Anna, Annaberg Plantation was a leading producer of sugar, molasses, and rum back in the 1800’s.  Today, Annaberg Sugar Plantation is protected by the Virgin Islands National Park.

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.

When you visit Annaberg Plantation, go and see the ruins but stay for the views. The views are nothing short of breathtaking at the Plantation.  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.

Annaberg Plantation St. John

 Annaberg Ruins St. John

Annaberg Ruins St. John

 

 

 

 

 

Day 5 of Your Perfect Week on St. John

Day 5 of Your Perfect Week on St. John

On the fifth day of your perfect week we would suggest you head on over to see the Annaberg ruins and then take the Leinster Bay trail to Waterlemon Cay.  Begin by taking a taxi or park your car near the historical Annaberg sugar plantation ruins where you will see breathtaking views of Mary Point, Leinster Bay, and the BVIs.  By following the signs, you will learn about the island’s sugar cane plantation era while touring through the sugar factory ruins.

Annaberg ruins st john

A short walk down the hill from the Annaberg site, you will find the Leinster Bay trail which follows the old Danish road along the shore.  The trail leads to one of the best snorkel sites on the island, Waterlemon Cay.  Here you will have the best odds for seeing the greatest variety of underwater species, including sea turtles, starfish, spotted eagle rays, all of the colorful reef fish and maybe even a harmless nurse shark.

If you still have some energy left you can head from Watermelon to the Johnny Horn Trail, a hike that leads all the way to Coral Bay.

Here’s a video of some folks taking the Leinster Bay trail to Waterlemon.  When you do snorkel, just don’t touch the sea creatures like they do.

Francis Beach Update

Francis Beach Update

Francis Bay is a laid back beach that  really makes you want to stay and chill out at for a while.  The bay is on the north shore and since it faces west it tends to be calmer than other north shore beaches.  This makes it especially good for stand up paddle boarding, and it is another great spot to snorkel with the  turtles.

francis bay st john

Irma has taken away many of the shade trees, so it you want shade you may want to bring an umbrella for the time being.  The beach is still beautiful and also wider, so I would definitely check it out on your next visit. We noticed that many of the branches of the seagrape and maho trees are growing back nicely.   Some people have been creative and have created little sun shelters out of the driftwood.

Here’s a short video to show you that Francis is #stillbeautiful