St. John island is world-famous because of its crystalline beaches, rocky terrains, and lush tropical forests. It is the perfect destination for anyone who loves the outdoors. Divers can enjoy world-class diving spots, and for those who prefer land activities, there are forest walking trails and plantation ruins to be explored.
St. John is not your ordinary tropical island as it contains many significant historical sites. On St. John, you can find historical plantation ruins, old buildings, and petroglyph trails echoing distant memories of the past.
If you are one of those who prefer to stay on dry land, you can explore the famous historical sites in St. John, USVI, and witness how the ancient remains have been preserved and defied the test of time.
There’s more to St. John Island than its gorgeous white sand beaches and verdant hills. At the heart of the island lie historical sites that echo the rich culture of St. John’s past.
If you are ready for another type of Caribbean journey, here are some of the well-known historical sites in St. John, USVI:
When the first Danish community settled on the island, their primary sources of income were sugar cane, tobacco, and cotton. They developed hundreds of plantations, the ruins of which are dotted across the island today.
Overall, there are 25 sugar factories once operational on St. John; one of them is the Annaberg Sugar Mill Ruins. Annaberg, which directly translates to Anna’s hill, was named after the daughter of the owner, William Gottschalks.
Annaberg Plantation is among the historical sites in St. John, USVI, protected by the Virgin Islands National Park. The 518 acres of Annaberg were divided into smaller farms when slavery was abolished. Today, visitors will discover windmills, slave quarters, factory ruins, animal mills, boiling houses, and other remains through a trail on the North Shore Road of St. John.
The Catherineberg Sugar Mill Ruins is one of the best-preserved and stunningly beautiful historical sites in St. John, USVI. In its hay day, the plantation was known to produce some of the best sugar, rum, and molasses on the island.
Catherineberg Plantation is located just east of Cruz Bay. It is one of the 17 St. John’s historical sites listed on the US National Register of Historic Places in 1981.
One of the focal points of Catherineberg is its unusual round-shaped mill, known to generate energy and store water during the 18th century. Just north of John Head Road from the Centerline Road also lay impressive windmill towers and horse mills made up of iron rollers once used to squeeze sugar cane extracts.
One of the most significant reminders of St. John’s plantation era is the Sugar Factory Ruins dotting Cinnamon Bay. It is one of St. John’s historical sites protected and preserved by the United States National Park Service.
The historic district of Cinnamon Bay is a collection of former plantation houses, factory buildings, and servant quarters situated around North Shore Road. The plantation is one of St. John’s historical sites that offer several parking spaces, picnic areas, and public toilet facilities for tourists and visitors.
The best time to visit this antiquated district is in the early morning, when the sun rises behind the sugar mills, sweeping a beautiful orange light across the whole plantation.
The former site of the Christ of the Caribbean Statue, Peace Hill, is one of the many wonders of St. John, USVI, historical sites. Carved on its name, Peace Hill offers a perfect mix of vibrant historical wonder and secluded tranquility.
Peace Hill is a beautiful lush knoll nestled between Hawksnest and Denis Bay. The hike to this incredible place is recommended for beginners as it’s just a short minute walk from the parking lot. Once you reach the top, you will see sugar mill ruins scattered around the area, giving a peek at St. John’s rich culture and history.
What’s unique about Peace Hill among St. John, USVI, historical sites is its overlooking of the magnificent Trunk Bay. There’s also a small trail that leads down to the beach for those tempted by the view and who want to swim and refresh themselves in the clear, warm waters.
The most important proof of a lost culture, the petroglyphs trail, rests on the basalt boulders surrounding Reef Bay. It is one of the historical sites in St. John, USVI, that the modern generation is grateful for as it represents a history that one may not believe if not preserved.
The Reef Bay petroglyphs are man-made etchings said to have been carved by the Taino people, who once inhabited the islands of Puerto Rico, Florida, Cuba, and Jamaica. While the oldest petroglyph dates all the way back to 500 CE, the majority of these etchings are most likely from the era between 1000 and 1490 CE.
Tourists and history enthusiasts can find these historic markings within the interiors of Reef Bay valley, which is now one of St. John, USVI, historical sites known to be a great place for spiritual significance.
If you’re looking to escape the heat and explore more of St. John historical sites, the Elaine Ione Sprauve Library & Museum features extensive record and reference collections of the sugar mill ruins and pre-Colombian era; all focused on the vibrant history of the Caribbean.
This thriving public library, located on the old Enighed Estates, was once a plantation before being restored to its now glorious facility. Just below, a small museum showcases Indian pottery and ancient artifacts, including other historical displays.
Before you head out to other St. John historical sites, you can learn a brief background of these remarkable landmarks when visiting Elaine Ione Sprauve Library & Museum.
The history of St. John is diverse and chaotic. Learn more about the lives of early settlers and how the area eventually became part of the National Park in 1957 at the Archeological Museum at Cinnamon Bay.
Some of the other attractions in St. John that could be of interest include the St. John Animal Center, Bordeaux Mountain Overlook, and the Elaine Ione Sprauve Library and Museum.
Reef Bay Trail is the perfect way for you to discover the secrets of St. John’s ancient petroglyphs, sugar mill ruins, and tropical forests. This two-mile-long St. John hiking trail features a steep rocky path and lets you explore the inner depths of the island. Near its end is a freshwater pond.
If you want a relaxing experience, hiking on St. John, USVI, Annaberg Hiking Trail is the one to tackle. It’s more of a walk than a hike, so it’s excellent for first-time hikers and beginners. This trail contains paved paths that wander around the ruins of historical buildings. At the top of the trail, a stunning ocean view awaits you.
Hire a personal water taxi ride to and from your destination. A relaxing and comfortable way to go.
A comprehensive list of the major cruise ships and their schedules, arrival and departure times.
One thing to remember is that here people drive on the left side of the road. You may wonder if it is better to rent a vehicle in St. Thomas or St. John. Get the opinion of a local. There are several car rental companies to choose from.
60% of St. John is a national park. This means that the island enjoys untouched beauty and splendor, preserved for many years, and will continue to be so for future generations to enjoy.
With its history as rich as its landscape, you can visit and explore the many plantation ruins and archaic buildings still existing in St. John.
This short St. John hiking trail is perfect for all ages. It’s the best trail for families looking to experience a great bonding experience while surrounded by nature. At the trail’s end, breathtaking Salomon Beach awaits. Should you decide to walk for another half a mile, you will witness the clear blue waters of enchanting Honeymoon Beach.
St. John island has the best beaches in the Caribbean. Along the famous North Shore of St. John visitors will find several miles of award-winning national park beaches, each one more enticing than the next. Be sure to view our comprehensive Beach Guide.
You can extend your exploration by visiting one of the British Virgin Islands near St. John.
St. John offers many ways to pamper and boost your spirit. Book an appointment with one of the salons, spas, and massage therapists in the area and feel rejuvenated like a whole new person.
There are multiple shopping centers in St. John where you can shop till you drop and enjoy a search for that truly unique curio find.
With many local shops on Cinnamon Bay and Trunk Bay offering rental equipment for snorkeling and diving, you will have no problem finding the right equipment for your aquatic adventures.
You can go scuba diving and experience the amazing aquatic world beneath the surface of the Caribbean Sea.
St. John has dozens of well-maintained trails where you can go strolling, running, or hiking while enjoying the tropical breeze and stunning views of the island.
Featuring a steep climb and narrow path, Petroglyph Spur Trail offers a bit of a challenge. However, the reward is indeed worth all the sweat and exhaustion. Aside from a freshwater pond, this trail offers viewings of petroglyphs from as early as 300 A.D. You might even see newly discovered ones.
Francis Bay Walking Trail is among the easiest of St. John hiking trails to traverse, and it’s also wheelchair-accessible. While the vegetation is a little brushy in some spots, the views are undeniably picturesque. It also features the Salt Pond and a dry tropical forest for you to explore
Cinnamon Bay is the longest stretch of white sandy beach on St. John Island. Private ceremonies can be held on the beach with a tranquil, relaxing and intimate atmosphere. There are no fees for entering or using the beach.Cinnamon Bay is the longest stretch of white sandy beach on St. John Island. Private ceremonies can be held on the beach with a tranquil, relaxing and intimate atmosphere. There are no fees for entering or using the beach.
In 1969, NASA along with the US Navy and the Department of Interior (DOI) launched a study at Lameshur Bay to evaluate what would happen when people live and work underwater. The first structure that was built for this experiment was called Tektite, and the Tektite Trail follows the original quarter mile road used to deliver supplies to the aquanauts. Unmarked and barely visible, the entrance to the Tektite Trail starts at the bottom of the concrete paved road that leads to both Great and Little Lameshur bays.
The first Tektite experiment was a success and a second experiment, deemed Tektite II, was launched later that year that included the world’s first all-female team of scientists to live underwater. Tektite and Tektite II were each built of two cylindrical tubes about 12 feet wide and 18 feet high that sat 50 feet underwater throughout the mission.
Today the structure is gone, but the underlying foundation underwater remains, as does the trail to the entrance. The original base camp is now the Virgin Islands Environmental Resource Station (VIERS), located between Great and Little Lameshur Bays and run by Clean Islands International on behalf of the University of the Virgin Islands. Visit the Tektite Museum at VIERS for some cool artifacts from that crazy time in 1969.
Trunk Bay is the most popular beach and considered one of the top beaches in the world. There is a $4.00 charge per person daily from 7:30am – 4:30pm. Trunk Bay is a picturesque location for weddings any time of the day. It is most noted for sunset weddings.
Hawksnest Beach is a beautiful stretch of white sand. It is an unforgettable place for a wedding. It offers restrooms and a place to change clothes for the Bridal couple and their guests. Hawksnest Beach is best for morning weddings because the lighting is absolutely phenomenal for photographs. There are no fees to enter or to use this beach and there is plenty of parking. Ceremonies of St. John offers canopy and chair rentals.
Annaberg Plantation Ruins was once a Danish sugar mill and plantation back in 1780. It was named after William Gottschalk’s daughter. Annaberg translates to Anna’s Hill. There are many charming settings for a wedding ceremony to be held within this elegant historical plantation with breathtaking views.
The ruins are open to the public and protected by the Virgin Islands National Park. If you are interested in having your wedding here you would want to schedule it in the early morning or late afternoon to avoid the heat. Since the plantation is open to the public, it can get very crowded during mid day.
Clearly marked and accessible from North Shore Road (Rt. 20), the Peace Hill Trail offers far more than the obvious. A small parking lot allows for only about eight cars and is rarely full. Follow a wide path straight up from the parking lot to a flat knoll where lies an old sugar mill ruin. Great 300 degree view of the North Shore of St. John and across to the British Virgin Islands, those who only go this far are missing the best part.
From the parking lot on the way up to Peace Hill is an unmarked entrance to a half mile trail that takes you directly to Denis Bay beach. The trail and the west area of Denis Bay are park land, while the land to the east with a residential dwelling is privately owned. The west side of Denis Bay is the most interesting, with large black volcanic rocks, warmed sitting pools, and a small rocky island just off the shoreline with excellent snorkeling all around. Denis Bay also offers interesting sights and sounds. Boats cruise along the North Shore of St. John (Windward Passage and The Narrows) heading through Sir Francis Drake Channel to the British Virgin Islands, which can be seen from Denis Bay beach in the distance. Water crafts range from small motored dinghies to multi-hulled sailing vessels, and there’s never a shortage of things to watch. Visitors to Denis Bay beach are guaranteed an active view and a classic tropical beach environment.
Heading down the Bordeaux Mountain trail is a breeze, and puts hikers at Little Lameshur Bay for a refreshing dip in the clear Caribbean Sea. Heading up, you’ll wish you had made other plans!
Bordeaux Mountain trail is accessible at the top of Bordeaux Mountain Road, from an often unmarked trail head, and descends steeply a little more than a mile to the bay below. Head west to the Lameshur Bay trail to get to Reef Bay, or head east down the road to Great Lameshur Bay. Remember, only the latter will have any jeep traffic, so if you’re tired and looking to hitch, don’t head to Reef Bay!
Along the Lameshur Bay trail is a spur trail to Europa Bay, about a half mile in. When the Lameshur Bay trail reaches the Reef Bay trail, make a right up the Reef Bay trail just 50 yards to the Petroglyph spur trail, or make a left down the Reef Bay trail about a mile to the Reef Bay Sugar Mill ruins, Reef Bay beach and greater Genti Bay.
Surprisingly named for a disease called Yaws, Yawzi Point marks the location where natives who were stricken years ago were isolated. Accessible from the Lameshur Bay beach road (between Great Lameshur Bay and Little Lameshur Bay), the Yawzi Point trail is just over a quarter mile and offers hikers a great sampling of local vegetation and breathtaking waterfront overlooks.
Almost two miles from Lameshur Bay to Reef Bay, the Lameshur Bay trail offers many points of interests to hikers. Accessible from the end of Rt. 107 (Lameshur Bay road), the trail is wide and wanders through deep forest for the first half mile, then follows a ridge called the White Cliffs for the second half, ending about a mile up from the water at the Reef Bay trail. Hikers will find massive hollow trees still standing, wild deer and mongoose, and dozens of different birds enjoying the day overhead. Hiking along the White Cliffs of Lameshur Bay trail will bring you into bright sun, so remember the sunblock when you pack that extra water.
One of the trails that are open year-round is Cinnamon Bay Trail. Dogs are allowed, but they must be on a leash. With its shaded loop, this trail is beautiful and pleasant to visit anytime. This trail offers a close-up look at the old sugar factories, echoing the island’s history.
You won’t find this trail on the national park hiking maps for St. John Island, but L’Esperance is one of the most interesting. Catch the entrance to L’Esperance trail on the south side of Centerline Rd. (Route 10) about a quarter mile past the Virgin Islands National Park sign at Catherineberg. Round trip, the L’Esperance trail is almost six miles, so bring plenty of water and start your hike early in the day to ensure you will return before dark. L’Esperance trail follows the Fish Bay Gut, with at least four different ruins sites not seen by many visitors. The trail veers east about halfway down and crosses over the Mollendal gut along the Sieben Ridge and down to Genti Bay, the greater area of water of which Reef Bay beach lies just to the east. You’ve hiked this far, might as well walk on over to the Reef Bay Sugar Mill ruins, just beyond the forest line at the beach, and down the Reef Bay trail about a mile to the Petroglyphs spur trail.
Untouched and unspoiled are two of the best descriptions for the Brown Bay Trail. While it’s among the list of St. John, USVI, hiking trails that are not very well-maintained, it has its own charm and beauty. It leads to a private shallow cove that offers a peaceful escape. You will see starfish, conch, and loads of fish there.
Considered a moderately challenging route, Johnny Horny Trail takes about two hours to complete. It features a clear path, thanks to the foraging feral donkeys and goats in the area. This trail is steep and exposed to the sun, so you might want to bring plenty of water and snacks to keep you energized. It leads to historical sites and amazing views.
With the rugged natural setting of Turtle Point Trail, you are sure to experience refreshing tropical breezes and witness impressive views. It follows Hawksnest Point’s rocky shoreline and passes through a dry forest and coastal terrain. Along the path, there are strategically placed benches where you can sit and relax.
If you’ve opted to head out to Salt Pond, one of the national park beaches along the south shore of St. John Island, and you’re looking for a nice surprise, hike the short Drunk Bay spur trail, which starts at the far east end of Salt Pond bay and follows the Salt Pond along the north side for a half mile to Drunk Bay. A flat, and sometimes hot, walk from Salt Pond, Drunk Bay offers visitors who make the trek a fun surprise.
While the rocky, rough shores of Drunk Bay are not conducive to swimming, the famous bay clearly supports, and some say prompts, creative expression. While you may not see them at first, look closely to discover dozens, then hundreds, of coral statues along the rocky beach. Using the various formations of coral along the shoreline, inspired visitors for decades have created a bevy of “coral people” using the stones to create heads, torsos, arms and legs. Partially shredded coconut for hair, sargassum weed for clothes, and crooked pieces of drift wood allow for unlimited artistic opportunities. Add your creative two cents and build your beauty at Drunk Bay.
If visiting Salt Pond, take an easy, quarter-mile flat hike over to Drunk Bay. Drunk Bay shore is rocky with rough waves, but also has a surprise awaiting all who visit. It takes only some coral with a little flotsam and jetsam thrown in to make the island’s most creative outlet. Hike the short distance over to Drunk Bay to find out for yourself what everyone is talking about!
Being one of the most unique and visually stimulating St. John, USVI, hiking trails, there’s no way you should miss Ram Head Trail. This one takes you on a rocky path that leads to a blue cobble beach, the hillside, and then finally, an overlook that’s 200 feet above the Caribbean Sea.
There are a number of boat rental places in St. John that offer various cruising options, including sightseeing tours, island hopping tours, and snorkeling and diving tours. Come and enjoy the dazzling blue waters of the Caribbean while observing the splendid views and relaxing in the refreshing sea breeze.