Loc: Columbus, OH
First off, I will apologize in advance for the length of this trip report, but wanted to put all of this in here in the hopes that there are those that it may help or those that enjoy reading about others' experiences. If you just want the highlights, skip to the bottom. I also have to say that St. John is my favorite place in the world. My wife and I have been there before and hope to continue going back. We did a lot and saw a lot, but never felt rushed. The pace was very relaxing. We finally packed the right amount - the last time we thought we did OK, but it ended up being too much. Had a total of three carry-ons between us (plus a video camera bag). My wife loves clothes just as much as any other woman, but was still able to pack in two carry-ons (besides, when you spend most of the day in a bathing suit, how much do you really need to take?) Also, before starting, some background information on us - we're from Columbus, OH. I'm 34 and my wife, Holly, is 27.
Our trip began Thu May 24, arriving on STT. We went to Virgin Gorda until Sun May 27 and those details can be found on the BVI forum. So, that being said, we arrived on STJ about 5 PM on the 27th, cleared customs and then had to get to Gallows Point, which we would call home for the next 8 days. They have a shuttle, but they didn't know when we were arriving because we hadn't decided until late which ferry we would take. (By the way, the VG - STJ direct ferry with Smiths was very handy ) Anyway, we just decided to grab a taxi. Here's where I made a mistake. We got a taxi by the ferry dock that the BVI ferries use and made the very short drive to Gallows Point. However, it didn't occur to me to ask what the fare was beforehand, especially since it's literally a 2 minute drive. It cost me $11!! Needless to say I'm not thrilled with taxi drivers (also was price gouged on STT - see BVI trip report). We chose Gallows Point because it looked very nice, had received good reviews from a lot of people and since they are raising their prices next year (Boo!) , we wanted to experience it before that happened. Check-in was very smooth. The staff at Gallows Point Resort is very friendly and helpful. We were in an upper oceanview - 7C, right above the steps that go down to the small, rocky beach. Did a bit of snorkeling there before dark and then we went to dinner at Cafe Roma. Excellent as always, although that night it was kind of crowded.
Mon May 28 - picked up our jeep from Cool Breeze Jeep Rental. We had reserved it through the Gallows Point Concierge/Gift Shop. This little store is very handy. It has a variety of munchies and beverages, some souvenirs, videos or snorkel equipment to rent, and can set up a day trip or jeep rental. We visited there quite a few times.
We went to Hawksnest in the morning and had a few passing showers, but nothing lasting more than 10 minutes. Other than at night, this was the only rain we saw until we were getting ready to go the airport the last day. This is still our favorite beach on St. John - reefs close to shore and a real nice beach. Lunch was back at Gallows Point - leftovers from dinner the night before. The afternoon was shopping in Cruz Bay, some drinks at J.J's Texas Coast Cafe and a swim in the pool. Dinner was at Morgan's Mango.
Tues May 29 - Went to Salt Pond Bay in the morning. Snorkeling was kind of disappointing because the water was cloudy. Also took the short walk over to Drunk Bay. It's amazing the difference between the two - Drunk Bay with some good size waves crashing on the beach and all the rocks and broken coral and Salt Pond Bay with no waves to speak of. Lunch was at Skinny Legs We stopped at Starfish Market on the way back. It has quite a variety of stuff since the last time we were there, 3 years ago. The rest of the afternoon was again spent in the pool. Dinner was at Ellington's to celebrate our one year wedding anniversary. If you're looking for a little more upscale restaurant with a great view and good food, but don't want to spend a fortune, this is a good choice! Later we went to the Banana Deck for some dessert.
Wed May 30 - Made the long trek to Waterlemon Cay, which was my first time snorkeling there. Saw some starfish, which was also a first for me. Also saw some rays. It's definitely some good snorkeling, but it takes some effort to get there. Lunch was again at Skinny Legs. Then we went over to Maho Bay in the afternoon where I saw an octopus for the first time. Definitely a good snorkeling day! In the evening we went to Duffy's Love Shack for dinner and drinks.
Thu May 31 - Took a daytrip with Cruz Bay Watersports to Jost Van Dyke. I have detailed this in my report on the BVI forum, but let me just say that White Bay is fabulous!! One note - a month or so ago someone asked whether you can walk from the Westin into Cruz Bay. Well, we did it. The others on our daytrip were getting off at the Westin, so we said that was fine - we'd look around there and then find a way back to Gallows Point. Well, after our previous experience with taxis, we decided just to walk. It can be done, but I don't recommend it. That hill is steep!! There are also places where it is exceedingly difficult to tell if a vehicle is coming (especially at the very top). Sidewalks have been added to parts of it, but it's still not a great idea. After all that, we were quite hungry so dinner was at Cafe Roma (once just isn't enough )
Fri June 1 - The morning activity was going to Francis Bay. Saw some rays there, but the real highlight was about a 5 foot long sea turtle. I had been searching for a turtle all week because I had never seen one while snorkeling. Very cool!! Lunch was back at Gallows Point for leftover pizza from Cafe Roma (they always give you so much, you can't eat it in one meal) We spent the afternoon shopping and enjoying the pool and then went to Duffy's for drinks and the Lime Inn for dinner.
Sat June 2 - We tried a little different routine. We went to breakfast at Chilly Billy's. I definitely recommend the Monkeybread French Toast. Yum! Spent some time in Cruz Bay and then went to Cinnamon Bay for a little while. Saw a couple of large fish out by the cay - a 5 foot barracuda and about a 6 foot fish that I had no idea what it was. We went to the Annaberg Ruins then and on the way back to Cruz Bay, stopped at the refreshment stand at the intersection of the Centerline and North Shore roads for some smoothies. After a refreshing dip in the pool, it was off to Shipwreck Landing for dinner. When we got back, there were steel drum bands set up along the street by the park, so we went to listen to them for awhile and then went to the Lime Inn for dessert. The maitre 'd there is very nice - he remembered us from the previous night (By the way, can anyone tell me his name?)
Sun June 3 - Hiked the Reef Bay Trail in the morning. Nice hike down, not so great going back up. It took us about an hour and ten minutes going down, which included the side trail to the petroglyphs and about an hour going back up. The last mile and a half or so is a steady uphill and it can be quite hot. Two things I highly recommend are bringing water along and wearing a decent pair of sneakers. (You don't really need hiking boots). A hike like that makes you very hungry, so what should you do? Have a burger at Skinny Legs, of course! Which is exactly what we did! We spent some time in the afternoon at Hawksnest and then took a walk down the beach at Trunk Bay about 5:00 after most people were gone. At Hawksnest I saw some interesting little flower-like things on the side of a brain coral, but if I got too close they would suck themselves into the little tube they were in that was growing on the brain coral. I don't know what they are, but they're one of those little things that can be easily missed. (If anyone knows what they are, let me know) Dinner on our last night was at Morgan's Mango again. Always a good choice!
Mon June 4 - Breakfast at Chilly Billy's again, then dropped off the jeep at Cool Breeze and went and did our last minute shopping before checking out of Gallows Point. Took the shuttle to the ferry and got on the 11:15 ferry to downtown Charlotte Amalie. Got there about noon and a taxi driver offered to store our bags for us and meet us back at the ferry dock at 2:30 to take us to the airport for our 3:50 US Airways flight. We weren't sure if we wanted to do it, but he said it would be $20 for storing our luggage and taking us to the airport, which was only $3 more than it cost us just to take a taxi from the airport to the BVI ferry dock, so we, along with two other couples, said OK. We hoped we would see our luggage again! Looked around CA for about two hours, which was more time than I needed. Boy, is it worlds apart from STJ! Too many people, too much traffic, too much noise and too many people trying to get you to buy stuff. No thanks - I'll pass. We got some lunch at Bumpa's, a little sandwich shop along the Waterfront, which was very good and then waited for our taxi ride. There was off and on rain in the afternoon and then thankfully, as promised, our taxi driver showed up (a little early even!) Finally, a good taxi experience! Got to the airport and check-in and customs was a breeze! Literally no line - walked up to the ticket counter and then walked through customs and then to the gate - all in about 5 minutes - 10 at the most!!
Before I get to the highlights, I'll get the lowlights out of the way:
- In addition to our taxi experience, a couple of things that are in progress on the island 1) development at Peter Bay. Some of the hillside above the road is being cleared for some very, very expensive villas. Especially noticeable from the Sir Francis Drake Channel. It's sad to see the pristine environment being changed like this. 2) a very large building is being constructed in Coral Bay on the road toward Salt Pond, close to PePe's. In a conversation I had with a local resident there, she told me that it is going to be a French restaurant. Well, anyone who has spent time in Coral Bay will realize how out of place this thing looks. She told me it was a wealthy couple who decided to move to St. John and open a large, expensive French restaurant (supposedly it's already cost around a million dollars). Seems better suited for St. Bart's, St. Martin or Anguilla.
OK, enough of that. On to the highlights - those worthy of two thumbs up:
Beaches: Hawksnest is our personal favorite. Francis Bay and Maho Bay are both very good.
Restaurants: No complaints about any place we ate, but special mention to Skinny Legs, Cafe Roma, Morgan's Mango, the Lime Inn and Shipwreck Landing. Also, breakfast at Chilly Billy's and good drinks at Duffy's Love Shack, Morgan's Mango and J.J's Texas Coast Cafe.
Snorkeling: Hawksnest, Waterlemon Cay, Maho, Francis
Shopping: We especially liked the shops at Skinny Legs for some reasonably priced merchandise.
Gallows Point - the front desk staff was great, as was the concierge/gift shop; the location is a good one and the grounds and views are fabulous!, our unit did not have A/C, which I know is a well-debated topic. My $0.02 on the subject is that the fans in the loft bedroom provided enough comfort to sleep and during the day, if we were there, we would open our shutters to let in the breeze in the lower level and we were fine. I find it easier to adjust to the climate if I don't have to rely on A/C. I think going from A/C to outside makes it feel hotter and more humid than just having fans and the tradewinds to provide some cooling. Also, various people have asked about the noise factor. Even with an oceanview suite, we could sometimes hear the ferries and occasionally, music from town, but neither was bothersome and wasn't loud enough to keep us awake. We didn't wear our watches, but usually knew what time it was when we would see or hear a ferry since we knew the schedule of boats to STT.
Well, that's it (finally!) If anyone has any questions, just post them to this thread or send me a personal message and I'll do my best to help out!