Exploring the island

The last few days of our stay in St John we had access to a car! The reason why i got so excited about this is simply because the campsite is quite isolated – located on the top of a hill and at the end of a pretty bad road, we need to rely on a (sometimes quite unreliable) shuttle or on the island taxis who hate coming all the way out here so are generally quite expensive. The island is tiny (about 50 sq.km. in total!) but it is very hilly and walking around can be quite exhausting in this heat. Having a car (and especially an old, beaten up, sturdy 4WD) definitely makes exploring much, much easier…
First, we drove up to the Catherineberg ruins – it’s the very well preserved and restored ruins of an old sugar mill:

The place has an amazing history: in 1733, when a rebellion allowed the slaves to take over the island for 6 months, this place was used as their headquarters (side info: at the end of that period, a fleet of french ships carrying troops to help suppress the insurrection was sent over from Europe – stories say that slaves preferred to commit group suicides rather than allow themselves to get caught and once again enslaved). In the present day it’s used as a venue for drum circles and full moon celebrations (it is also apparently occasionally used as a venue for other activities – we ran into a not-very-artistic nudie photoshoot when we drove by!! judging by the speed at which they packed up, and by the fact that you’re not even allowed to sunbathe topless on the island, i’m guessing they didn’t have permission for it….).

Since the theme of the day was endless aimless driving around (and since our car of the camel trophy kind!):


we decided to take the small rocky, muddy road heading up into Bordeaux mountain right next to a place called Chateau Bordeaux (NOT what you’d expect it to look like – quite the funky shack actually):



The road winds up to the top of the mountain and leads to one of the most amazing (and least well known) viewpoints on this island:

Some more aimless driving took us to another viewpoint overlooking one of the south side beaches (wilder and more dramatic), Fish bay:


Since this was only a couple of days after the big storm, surf was up (a very rare occurrence!), so all of the island’s surfers had come down to enjoy it. We found a small trail leading down to this amazing, kind of wild beach (it’s not accessible by car) and had lots of fun walking around, watching the surfers and playing with the waves.  

Chris fell in love with this house:

(Half moon house, on the right!)

Turns out it’s for sale! anybody got a few million to spare?

After another long(-ish) drive, we checked out Jumbie bay (jumbie means ghost in west indian! apparently, slaves killed a plantation owner and his family here and stuffed them down a well, so the beach is supposed to be haunted. Didn’t see any jumbies, but the beach is very pretty and quite secluded):

We ended the day at Trunk bay, which is famous for its marked underwater snorkeling trail (not particularly interesting for experienced snorkelers..). As this is probably the most popular beach on the island, it’s always best to go there after 4.30 pm, when the national park facilities close, access is free and the beach is practically deserted (except for a weird dude that walks around naked).

I was amazed by how much there is to see on such a tiny little place! I’m looking forward to doing some more exploring on my last few days… i’ll let you know we discover.


  1. Vicky,

    I’ve read through a number of your pages and have enjoyed the photos and commentary. One thing it would be interesting to read about is the costs associated with ecotourism. $1 beer doesn’t particullary get me excited, but some of the costs to stay in the places you write about and the food prices would be nice to see posted.

    Keep enjoying your journey!


    • Hey Jim! Thank you for stopping by. You are right – the costs of some of these places are pretty crazy. We got lucky in Kenya: we volunteered and helped in exchange for part of our stay, and then won a few nights’ stay in other places out of the blue, which was pretty exciting. We would never have been able to afford these places. For some of them, like most of the Kenyan lodges, the prices are insane indeed. Others, like Maho Bay Camps (sadly closed now) and Concordia, in the US Virgin Islands, are really reasonably priced. As for the food, in Kenya it was always included in the price, and in the USVI it was also fairly affordable. It really varies. It is true that creating and running a proper eco-friendly destination has significant costs, which explains why many of these places tend to be on the expensive side… (though knowing that does not necessarily make things easier for our pocket!)

Tell us what you think!