Shipwrecks of St John

Shipwrecks of St John, US Virgin IslandsThroughout its history St John’s many harbors and reefs have served to protect countless ships as well as shipwreck some 28 ships passing through its waters. Many of these wrecks are not recorded or have been reduced to ballast stones by time and erosion. But some have endured. The HMS Santa Monica is one such ship.

The Santa Monica was a 28 gun frigate commanded by Don Miguel de Nunes. But on September 14, 1779, just off the Azores, she came under attack by the HMS Pearl. The HMS Pearl being larger, faster and more heavily armed quickly brought the Santa Monica to the point of surrender. The ship was repaired by the British Royal Navy and was put into service defending British holdings in the Caribbean. She was 145 ft long with 36 guns and a crew of 202.

Just a few short years later on April 1, 1782 the HMS Santa Monica struck a rock, now called Santa Monica Rock, south of Norman Island. Captain John Linzee put 5 pumps and 40 buckets to the task of keeping her afloat; but was forced to run the vessel ashore at the nearest harbor. The closest bay was “Crawl Bay” or Coral Bay on St John.

It is now known that the HMS Santa Monica went down in Round Bay just 100 yards off shore in about 40 feet of water. By the 1970s an archeological project recovered a host of artifacts including ceramics and glass as well as iron and copper objects. What remains is largely “cemented” together by sea and time. Yet the wreck remains a treasure trove of information on late 18th century warship construction and may, in coming years, provide greater insight into the history of the West Indies.

St John Villa Rentals!

St John villa rentals

Visitors to St John have some wonderful choices when it comes to accommodations. In addition to our luxury resorts – St John has a wide variety of privately owned villas for rent. Whether you need a romantic Caribbean cottage for 2 or a luxury villa with pool and spa for 6, 7, 8 or more people – there is a perfect rental for you.

How do I find a St John rental villa? Here again the options are diverse. Many of the popular short term rentals are under property management companies. A search for St John Villas will return a slew of on-island resources. As well, web sites like VRBO, Flipkey and Homeaway provide searchable databases of available villas along with pictures, information and reviews to help you select just the right villa rental for your needs.

St John Villa Rentals

When choosing a vacation rental villa you’ll want to be close to your favorite destinations and activities. Visitors looking for a variety of restaurants, bars and shopping might prefer being on the western side of the island and close to Cruz Bay. Cruz Bay is also convenient to many of the most popular north shore beaches.

Looking for a quieter vacation? Coral Bay is the destination for those seeking a more relaxed stay. Located on the eastern side of St John, Coral Bay is known on-island as the “country” while Cruz Bay is the “city”. A search for villas in Coral Bay, Bordeaux Mountain, the East End, Mamey Peak and Ajax Peak produce a large assortment of rentals that sleep 1 to 14 people.

Spotlight on Annaberg Plantation Ruins

Annaberg Sugar Mill plantation ruins

Located within the boundaries of the Virgin Islands National Park on St John are the ruins of the Annaberg Plantation. With a commanding view of Leinster Bay and Sir Francis Drake Channel – Annaberg was once the largest plantation on island and now is the best Annaberg Plantation Ruins on St John, USVIpreserved of St John’s historic sugar and rum industries.

While the boundaries and ownership changed over the years – it is a Dutchman named Solomon Zeeger that gave the plantation it’s name. Having acquired the land in 1758, Zeegler named the property Annaberg or “Anna’s Hill” after his wife Anna deWindt. Between 1779 and 1870 the plantation thrived and adjacent properties where added to the plantation. By 1808 it comprised nearly 1,300 acres and covered Mary’s Point, Betty’s Hope, Munsbury, Leinster Bay and Brown Bay. But by 1871 the plantation went into decline and was eventually abandoned.

While all of the wooden structures are long since gone – those structures made of local stone and coral such as storage buildings, windmill, rum production and sugarcane processing have survived.

The VI National Park volunteer staff provide guided tours and offer insight into the details of life on the plantation and its history. You’ll also find handouts that lead you through the ruins and outline the history of many of the larger structures on the property. A recommended destination for it’s history, beauty and insight into St John’s past and present!

Getting there:
Take North Shore Road out of Cruz Bay. Follow the winding road past Maho Bay. Approximately 1.5 mi. from “split” you’ll come to a “Y” intersection. Left brings you to Francis Bay ..and right takes you to Leinster/Waterlemon Cay and the Annaberg Plantation Ruins. Parking is in the lower lot and there’s a wooden walkway that takes you to the foot of the ruins.

A Guide to Hansen Bay / Vie’s Beach

Vie's Beach one of St Johns East End beaches
Panoramic image of Hansen Bay. Mouse over scroll – left and right.

Vie’s Beach at Hansen Bay

After 38 years, Vie has decide to CLOSE her popular beach access/parking and Snack Shack. We’d like to thank her for some wonderful food, Sugar Apple generosity and many wonderful days on Hansen Bay!


The East End of St John has several great destinations. Hansen Bay beach, also known as Vie’s Beach ( she owns the property between this beach and the road), is one of the top spots on St John for its beautiful beach, fantastic snorkeling and off-the-beaten-path location. Comprised of several beaches –  “Vie’s beach” is located directly across the road from Vie’s Snack Shack. She chargse $2.50 pp. – which includes parking, a shady spot to enjoy some of her island cooking and access to the beach and beach chairs.

Looking for a little adventure?
Vie has several kayaks to rent. Inquire at the Snack Shack for pricing and availability.

This is one of my personal favorites. The crescent-shaped beach is soft white sand with a couple of places to find some shade among the sea grapes or a coconut palm. Entry to the water is shallow with a sand and pebble bottom. Just off the beach the sand transitions to sea grass beds. Hansen Bay faces south and is protected from large waves – making for some of the nicest swimming on St John. And when you need a break from the sun and fun – grab a bite at Vie’s Snack Shack. Enjoy home-cooking and a cold non-alcoholic drink in the shade of 2 very old and very large boxwood trees. She’s famous for her Garlic Chicken; but I like her conch fritters or Johnny Cakes  dipped in honey.Vie's conch fritters

Keep an eye out for Angel’s Rest – St John’s only floating bar!

Voted a Top Snorkeling Spot on St John: Hansen Bay offers a wonderful mix of sea grass and rocky patch reefs. Snorkeling to your right is the easiest – offering some interesting structure with lots of fish, corals, sea fans. Much of the reef is shallow – between 2″ and 8′ – sloping off to 10′ to 16′ as you head further out. Keep your eyes peeled for the endangered Staghorn coral. This threatened species of hard coral seems to like this spot. Snorkeling to the left …across the small bay brings you to a larger patch reef nicknamed Pelican Rock. Again, lots of underwater structure with plenty of corals and fish. Hansen Bay is a great place to spot turtles, rays and some larger Jacks and Pompano that come in to feed on bait fish. For the experienced and physically fit – snorkel west around the point and you’ll come to Limetree Cove. It’s a nice little sandy beach that’s only accessible from the water. Remember: no beach is private in the USVI. You are allowed to use the beach up to the high water line ( or where the plants/foliage begin).

Getting there:
From Cruz Bay – take Rte 20 ( North Shore Road) or Centerline towards Coral Bay. Continue on through Coral Bay, past the Moravian Church,  Donkey Diner and Skinny Legs. You’ll drive a winding and sometimes hilly road out to the East End. You’ll come upon a large Tamarind tree that splits the center of the road  …on your left ….under the shade of an ancient Boxwood tree is Vie’s Snack Shack.

Go ahead and share!

Snorkeling 101 & protecting our coral reefs

Snorkeling Basics

Turtles Nest Snorkel gear rentals, ecotours and gift shop
Snorkeling Guide

Snorkeling is one of the top activities on St John. Each year thousands of visitors step into our waters to discover the amazing variety and beauty of the reefs and marine eco systems that surround our island. And that’s where the trouble starts. With so much “traffic” it is imperative that each and every one of us tries to mitigate our impact on these sometimes fragile environments.

Snorkeling 101 mask and finsThat’s where you come in.
Learning and teaching some snorkeling basics can go a long way toward protecting the corals and sea creatures of St John.

Numer onePROPER FIT OF MASK, FINS and SNORKEL. Struggling with ill-fitting gear probably causes more people to stand on or damage coral than any other factor. Not sure how it should fit? Ask for assistance at one of the many retail outlets on island or consider a snorkeling excursion where the boats guide will give you invaluable info on choosing and using snorkeling gear.

number 2 destination St JohnDO NOT TOUCH – as tempting as it may be there are lots of coral and marine life that can sting! And if that’s not reason enough to look-not-touch then consider the life of that creature. The coral reefs are teaming with bacteria and many creatures have developed a complex mucus that covers their skin for protection. When you touch them – you remove this layer of protection and could cause disease.

Voted number 3 St John destinationDO NOT STAND ON CORAL HEADS – sounds obvious but I’ve seen too many people stand on coral to adjust their mask or take a break from swimming! The damage this causes takes years to rebuild. If you’re an inexperienced snorkeler or poor swimmer – consider using some sort of floatation device so that you can enjoy the view safely. If you must stand – find a sandy spot and adjust equipment or rest.

number-fourDO NOT STIR UP SEDIMENT/SAND – it can settle on corals and sponges and literally suffocate and starve them to death. Always maintain a good distance between you and the bottom and remember – those fins extend well beyond your foot! Consider using the short fins – they’re easier to walk in and there’s less chance they’ll strike coral as you explore the shallow reefs.

Corals take years to grow under optimal conditions. With the world’s oceans warming and pollution and human activities putting pressure on our coral reef systems – it’s more important than ever to take a few basic steps to reduce our impact on St John’s coral reefs and marine life so that they may be enjoyed for generations to come!


Check out St John’s TOP BEACHES!

How do you get to St John …

Ferry dock in Cruz Bay on St John

When people hear that you live on St John they invariably ask, with an almost timid embarrassment, “Where is St John?” “Isn’t it an island somewhere?”. And they’re right, it’s the smallest of the US Virgin Islands. A speck, really, when compared to big places. All are forgiven for not knowing where our tiny island is located. After all, how many of us can point on a map to Malawi, a country of over 15M people! Not many …I’m sure.

So, St John is in the US Virgin Islands, no doubt that begs the question “Where are the Virgin Islands?”. The U.S. Virgin Islands consist of the Caribbean islands of Saint Croix, Saint John, and Saint Thomas [ capital: Charlotte Amalie]. They are located approximately 40 mi east of Puerto Rico in the heart of the Caribbean Sea.

Google Map of St Thomas and St John [mobile-friendly]

View Where is St John in a larger map

Now that you know where St John is located – getting to St John should be a lot easier. In fact each year nearly 2.5M visitors discover the US Virgin Islands by sea and by air. Most arrive on the dozens of cruise ships that call on the popular port of Charlotte Amalie on St Thomas. Since St John doesn’t have an airport – everybody comes to St John via an inter-island ferry system. Visitors wanting to see St John can leave from Charlotte Amalie or take a taxi to Red Hook. From there you’ll board the St Thomas to St John ferry. It takes approximately 45 minutes from Charlotte Amalie and 20 minutes from Red Hook to Cruz Bay.

NOTE: Like many things on the islands – the ferry schedule can and does change depending on season, demand, weather and repairs. If you are planning your itinerary – allow for delays and call to confirm departure and arrival times when you are close to your dates.

Discover St John

St John travel video

Discover St John as you’ve never seen her before …in HD! This video captures what no single static image could convey and that is the rugged beauty and awesome tranquility of the island of St John. From stunning time lapse of clouds to the crashing of waves, the trickle of water across a shallow pool and the grace with which nature unfolds every day …as only it can in a place like this!

Special thanks to Jacob Schwarz for posting this wonderful “trip” around and across the island of St John.

St John – Top Island Choice in the Caribbean

St John, USVI

2013 Tripadvisor Choice Award winner

Tripadvisor®, arguably the leading travel site on the web, just announced its 2013 TRAVELER’S CHOICE® winners.

No surprise, the little island of St John in the US Virgin Islands ranked #1 destination in the Caribbean for travel.

The 2013 Top 10 Caribbean List highlighted the many beautiful beaches, food and eco tourism that have made this tiny island world famous. And they’re right! With Trunk Bay beach ranked among the top 10 beaches in the world – you’ve got to consider St John. And with a history for eco tourism that predates today’s eco tourism boom – you’ve got to consider St John. Add to that the preservation of so much of the natural resources of the island and reefs within the Virgin Islands National Park – and you’ve got a #1 Destination in the Caribbean!

So what makes St John special?
Beaches: Top among every visitors list of things to do and see are the sheer number of beautiful beaches on St John. With the highest concentration along the North Shore – beaches like Trunk Bay, Cinnamon Bay, Maho Bay and the beach at Caneel Bay Resort, consistently rank among the top beaches on the island.

Snorkeling: St John is a top pick for snorkeling because so many of the reefs enjoy easy shallow water access from the beach. Combine that with the protection that is afforded within the Virgin Islands National Park – a it is a snorkeler’s paradise.

Rental Villas and Top Resorts: St John is a haven for Caribbean travelers. Whether you enjoy the amenities of top resorts like The Westin or Cannel Bay Resort or the privacy of a luxury rental villa – St John has you covered.

Need help selecting a rental villa?: Check out the many sites related to the rental market – to see availability and selection. Sites like Tripadvisor® are a great place to see villa reviews and first-person feedback on specific St John Villa rentals.

Top snorkeling spots – Haulover Bay St John

St John top snorkeling spot - Haulover North

Panoramic view of Haulover. Mouse over to scroll left and right!

Snorkeling Guide to Haulover North [Google map below]Snorkeling 101 mask and fins

Once the over-looked sister beach of the more popular Haulover South, Haulover North is now “on the map”, literally and figuratively, with avid snorkelers. And for good reason. With its off-the-beaten-path location and stunning underwater structure it should be on any snorkeler’s short list of top St John destinations. The beach at Haulover North is pebble and coral rubble with some flotsam and jetsam. Entry is easiest at the apex of the beach where the sandy bottom comes nearest the shoreline. Depending on wind and waves – this can be an easy snorkel or a bit of a challenge; but rest assured, well worth the effort.

Elkhorn and brain coral stand amid forests of seafans …and beautiful Caribbean fish!

What To Expect
Haulover North St John Virgin IslandsPark along East End Road, just after you see signs that you’re leaving the Virgin Islands National Park. Follow a narrow path through the woods heading north-east. The beach is about 125 yards from the road. There you’ll emerge onto a cobblestone and coral beach. Rising above you to your right is the Dreekets Bay Development. To your left is the remote coastline of the VI National Park. Looking out beyond the bay and across Sir Francis Drake Channel you’ll see Tortola’s south-western shoreline. But I digress, you’re here to snorkel!

Swimming west ( to your left as you face the water) is the best snorkeling. As you’ll see the underwater structure and currents form an interesting reef system that extends all the way from the shoreline into deeper water! Huge coral heads covered in Elkhorn and Fire Coral stand amid forests of seafans that are home to a myriad of colorful Caribbean fish species. Schools of tangs and wrasses mingle with parrotfish and French Grunts. And yes, there is the occasional barracuda and nurse shark! But to truly see and enjoy this destination you’ll need to dive down among the coral canyons. Here you’ll find an amazing variety of corals, tunicates, sponges, gorgonians, marine algae and hard and soft corals.

~ Click for a Complete List
of St John’s Top Snorkeling Spots ~

Looking for a little beach time?
All you have to do is look to Haulover South. Located just across the street – on the south side of East End Road – you’ll find the visitor-favorite Haulover South. Convenient access,  decent snorkeling and a short stretch of sandy beach make this a great choice for soaking up some St John sun with sand between your toes! And keep an eye out for St John’s only floating bar, Angel’s Rest. Enjoy a unique part of St John and get rid of some of those soggy dollars while you quench your thirst with a cold beer or island drink!

Snorkeling Guide to Haulover North

Snorkeling is best along the western side of the bay where corals and sea fans grow in abundance – almost to the waters edge! Much of the nicest corals are in 5′ to 20 feet of water with many large rock and coral outcroppings to explore. You’ll see lots of fish including Queen and Stoplight parrot fish, Red Hind, wrasses, a variety of Damsel fish, Trumpet fish, puffers, reef squid and more! You’ll also see lots of hard and soft corals and sea fans. There are several large well-established brain corals, Elkhorn, firecoral, colorful sponges and tunicates as well as sea anemones.

NOTE: Because of the surf at Haulover, I don’t recommend exploring the shallow parts of the reef along the shoreline. Three feet of water can quickly become less than a foot leaving you on the jagged coral covered bottom!

Getting there:
From Cruz Bay – take Rte 20 ( North Shore Road) or Centerline toward Coral Bay. Continue past Coral Bay, Skinny Legs heading east. As you descend a steep hill you’ll see signs indicating you are leaving the Virgin Islands National Park. At the bottom of the hill is parking on your left or further up on your right. On the left side of the road is a narrow path leading to Haulover North. Haulover South is on your right – visible from the road. Total driving distance is approximately 8 miles.

CAUTION! – Depending on the weather, tides and moon phase – there can be a strong current if you swim past the western point. Use common sense and never exceed your abilities and always snorkel with someone.

Spotlight on – The Music of Inner Visions

Inner Visions reggae band - St JohnLegendary St John reggae band, Inner Visions, is a must see when you visit St John. This band is pure enjoyment from originals to covers – the sound is so mighty that your feet can’t resist the call to move about!

Their music has garnered them fans the world over and has helped to close the gap between racial, religious and economic divisions by leaning on the one thing we all possess and should exercise. That one thing is love! – Inner Visions

Band members: Phillip “Grasshopper” Pickering- Guitars, Percussions, Lead Vocals/ Alvin “Jupiter” Pickering-Bass, Background Vocals, Akiba “Mr. Snooze” Pickering- Keyboards Lead and Background Vocals/ Aswad “Hollywood” a.k.a. “Black Lion” Pickering-Drums

Inner Visions CDs and merchandise – see any member of the Band and our Management team,
or contact Phillip Pickering –

Connect with the band on Facebook

St John Island

Getting to know St John island is half the fun. Discover the best St John resorts, top St John snorkeling beaches, beach bars and restaurants and more!. Our pages are the #1 Virgin Islands resource for visitors - providing maps, guides, bar and restaurant reviews, St John villa rentals and news announcements.


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