ST John – An All You Can Eat (And Do, While Waiting To Eat Again) Guide
Updated: Aug 16, 2020
The island of St John is an interesting one. Located just 4 miles (6 kilometres) east of St Thomas and with 60 per cent of its land protected as National Parkland, it is more “virgin” than the bustling (I know, I know, just go with it) St Thomas, so much so that each time I have seen a deer in the Virgin Islands, it has been on St John. I love that!
My favourite part of going to St John is probably the ferry ride. It’s such a novel experience for me! You buy a ticket like any normal bus or train terminus and if you can pull off saying the word “local” in the local accent, you get your ticket for 2USD cheaper than the tourists. The ferry ride is about 20 minutes long and runs every hour until about 3 am. It comes with the option of sitting on the deck (highly recommend) where you can take in the breeze, views and find people that are more willing to engage in conversation, or you can sit inside where they have aircon and even cushioned seats in the newer boats. You could also take the car ferry which allows you to transport your car so you’re more mobile on St John. This one also comes with deck/inside seating options.
Of course, the best way to go to St John is to jump onto your (friend's) boat and cruise over there at a higher speed and in a generally more Instagrammable manner. We did this on New Years Day after about 5 hours of sleep from our NYE shenanigans and took a quick breakfast boat ride over there because that’s just what island life is about.
Speaking of breakfast, I have had the pleasure of enjoying it on St John a few times but the place that stood out for me is High Tide. Maybe it was the fact that we had to wade through the water for a few feet after docking to get there (something this landlocked girl was all about), or the fact that it’s so accessible whether by ferry or private boat or maybe it’s the beach/sea views or simply that the food is great. Our party of five was served well and fast and I’d definitely recommend it as the first stop when in St John.
Because no one ever takes their fitness seriously when they’re on an extended holiday in the Caribbean, we decided to be more intentional about our exercise so when we got an invite to go hiking, I jumped at the chance to explore one of the famous hiking trails on St John – Caneel Trail. It was a fairly easy hike that totalled just under 1 kilometre and about 30 minutes each way. If you don’t manage to finish your High Tide breakfast, ask for it to be packed, there’s a lovely picnic spot with amazing views right at the end of the hike where you’ll be glad to stop and refresh.
The hike continues for 2 miles going all the way to Caneel Bay beach but it’s also okay to just give up after a nice picnic and make the trek back. We had other breakfast plans on this day so once we got to the top, we took the obligatory pics, sighed in the obligatory wonder of the views, made small talk with other hikers and made our way back down.
Now that we had gotten fitness out of the way, we gave ourselves permission to go in search of the nearest watering hole for some food, drink and shopping. Sam and Jacks Deli in The Marketplace shopping centre is a great place to buy a sandwich or pizza in an un-fussy local place. The shopping centre also has a quaint little book store with a really good supply, and they serve coffee too so certain beach snobs who aren’t readers have something to do while they wait.
At this point, I would be doing a disservice to anyone reading this if I didn’t go over some cool bars to check out. I never really developed a taste for alcohol but I still appreciate the ambience and the sugary mocktails.
Longboards – Really really popular, so much so that there was a long line of people waiting to be served on NYE.
The Lime Inn – The entrance is hidden enough to make it seem like a gem just waiting to be discovered.
Art Bar and Rum Room – Pretty cool, they have local art pieces and rums to taste. Also serves local VI food in addition to their normal menu.
Beach Bar – The most imaginative name EVER (because it’s a bar…..at a beach.) This place was newly renovated as at January 2020 so it smelled like construction. Loved that they’re right at the beach.
This brings us to the beach scene on St John. All the beaches on this island are beautiful and you can expect stunning white sand, aqua blue waters which can be crystal clear in the lower-tide months, coconut palms along the beach and shallow water snorkeling – an activity I am yet to try. I have visited Trunk Bay, Cinnamon Bay and Hawksnest Bay Beaches and each of them has something “unique” to offer, from the best views to the kinds of people you’d meet at each one.
I’m writing this post with one of my (5) sisters in mind and she is such a big foodie that she would literally make me re-write this and add a dinner place, so I figured I might as well do it now. All the places I’ve listed above serve dinner but for some reason, I have only ever been to XO for dinner on St John. It’s been said that the fine dining scene is much better on St John (and St Croix) than on St Thomas and I have to agree. It’s wise to call ahead and make reservations at XO unless it’s a “sit at the bar” kind of night. The atmosphere is a good combination of upscale and relaxed and reminds me of the Joburg food scene.
There we have it, with this write-up, you should be able to plan a morning, full-day, afternoon, evening or night on St John with relative ease. You’re welcome. I accept payment in comments, shares, shout-outs and return visits to the blog.