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What was your first impression of St. John?

Travel discussion for St. John

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What was your first impression of St. John?

Postby Littlecheeze » Mon Feb 06, 2017 2:42 pm

Hey everyone!

On March 24th I'll be going on yet another spring break to St. John. This spring break will be a bit different from other spring breaks though, because this year I'm a senior and I'm bringing my friend Morgan. I've been going to St. John since I was 2 years old, so I guess I can't really say I had a first impression of St. John. St. John has always been a part of me for as long as I remember. What was your first impression of St. John? Was it love at first sight, or did it take some getting used to? I'm just curious to see what others thought at first, since I've never really had that perspective. :D

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Re: What was your first impression of St. John?

Postby RickG » Mon Feb 06, 2017 3:52 pm

I had spent a lot of time on Puerto Rico for work, vacationed in the Yucatan/Quintana Roo and spent time on St. Thomas before I first saw St. John. My first impression was of green hills and power sugar sand beaches with no hotels; each bay was close together and it felt like there was another one over every hill - the classic National Park visitor's experience. Wow. Compared to every other island experience, St. John's variety still impress me.

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Re: What was your first impression of St. John?

Postby Chris @ Work » Mon Feb 06, 2017 6:32 pm

It has always been the only place I can truly let down, relax and recharge the soul. Much has changed since our first trip (long before you were a thought in ones mind) but the beauty and peace of the island is difficult to match.
Our first trip was based on a National Geographic book on US Parks. The chapter on St John had a photo of Caneel Bay Point and we read of the resort. Our travel agent (I did mentioned how long ago this was) knew little of STJ and less of Caneel so we were going somewhat blind and made reservations without specifying any rooms in particular.
We were stunned by the blue water and rich green hills as the ferry brought us into Caneel, but after checking in and being dropped of at our room we looked around and realized there was something familiar about the place. We opened the NG book and our 'room' was one of those in the picture on the point.
That was our first impression...it was meant to be.
Our son Jon would agree

Enjoy your return visit. We return this June ourselves
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Re: What was your first impression of St. John?

Postby sasky » Mon Feb 06, 2017 9:54 pm

We arrived at night having only a little knowledge of the island. So other than the ferry dock, my first impression came from a dark and scary car ride up Jacob's Ladder. Yikes!

Waking up with the sun the next morning, able to see and smell and hear the island in the gorgeous light of a blue sky day... I had not even had my coffee yet and I knew it was true love.

Exploring the island that week and several return visits since have only cemented my love. But I'll never forget the feeling of seeing everything for the first time.

And Jacob's Ladder still makes my hands sweat!


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Re: What was your first impression of St. John?

Postby David 12 » Tue Feb 07, 2017 12:41 am

1994 - got to the airport on St. Thomas, went to the Caneel Bay check in area and got on the Caneel ferry to head over to St. John. I remember the ride over as if it was yesterday, the uncertainty about the island and resort; being in our mid twenties we were really just in awe.

I felt like St. John was a little slice of heaven and knew instantly that it was special. We were married on that trip and later brought our son when he was ten which was also a special feeling.

I only wish we had enough money back then to buy some land!!

Let us know how your friend likes the island

Ps. Chris, have a great time in June! We stayed in room 82 on Scott Beach the first time we went to Caneel (no ac back then or kids under 16).

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Re: What was your first impression of St. John?

Postby PA Girl » Tue Feb 07, 2017 10:46 am

My experience was similar to David's -

Me - early 20s, hubby - late 20s, honeymoon at Caneel. This was before people did their research on line. In fact, I called and requested a brochure (!) from Rock Resorts (at the time) and we made our decision based on that.

While we both had a lot to travel under our belts, this was a very different trip for us. It was more "grown up" and unknown. All we knew is we wanted to be on the beach and didn't want a Cancun-type of experience, which was my only point of reference.

We had enough time for lunch in STT before the Caneel ferry and we were smitten within about 3 minutes after boarding. We still talk about being in awe of the island topography, the views from the boat and the feeling of anticipation as the boat approached the dock.

If memory serves me correctly, we paid under $400 per night for a room on Scott Beach and that was all meals, all taxes, transfers and more excursions than we could partake.

In my wallet, I still carry the little plastic card I received upon check it. It was the first item showing my married name.

Like you, Littlecheese, my son (11yo) started visiting Caneel before he remembers. We are contemplating allowing him to bring a friend next trip.

So now a question for you - any advice about bringing a friend?

David 12 - I still have a real estate listing book from that first trip and the prices make me weep for lost opportunity!
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Re: What was your first impression of St. John?

Postby jimg20 » Tue Feb 07, 2017 12:23 pm

I was going to PR for business in the mid 90s. My wife came with me on a few trips. We spent a couple of days on our own looking for things to do. When we felt like we had done everything we wanted to do, I called our travel agent (there is that archaic profession again) and she suggested STT. I can still remember her saying to me, "If you are going to St Thomas, you have to take the ferry over to St John at least once."

The quiet beauty if the island was overwhelming. We made many trips to STT and included at least one day trip over to STJ every time. The beaches, the people, the climate and the vibe made me call in "Quit" to work many times.

Several years later we discovered this forum. We suddenly realized that we could stay on STJ for the same money we would have to spend on STT. We switched to STJ and have only visited STT for very brief visits since.

Little Cheese, I understand that you have been going to STJ since before you can remember. Believe me when I tell you there are many adults on this forum who don't remember parts or even whole trips they've made to STJ. What I would like to hear from you is what are your earliest memories - or first impressions - of STJ.

Thanks for starting this thread.

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Man it's like some dream we live down here....

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Re: What was your first impression of St. John?

Postby watergirl » Tue Feb 07, 2017 1:26 pm

First Impression of St. John: 1982: I had never been to the VI or anywhere in the Caribbean other than Puerto Rico. Met a guy at a party in NYC who suggested we join him and some friends on a sailing trip in the VI.
On a whim, my friend and I agreed. (yes we were very young and very stupid!) We Flew in to STT, got on the sailboat and off we went! First stop ST.John. Got there after dark. Swam ashore, holding clothes in plastic bags over our heads, went to Duffy's Love Shack, drank too much and swam back to the boat. The next morning, I realized I had landed in paradise. We spent 2 days hiking and hitching all over the island.I was in LOVE & decided that when I finished school I would return to live in this beautiful place. over the years, I've been to St. John since many times, brought my friends, family & children. All have fallen in love with its magic. I've also seen it change over the years from a little backwater hippie place, to a major tourist destination. Sad, but it still is magic to me. And after 34 years, and lots of drama, I'm finally close to realizing my dream of moving here.
BTW, in 1982 the Captain of the boat felt that St. John had passed it's heyday - too crowded and touristy, He said you should have been here in the "70's!.
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Re: What was your first impression of St. John?

Postby Exit Zero » Tue Feb 07, 2017 11:51 pm

@watergirl
BTW, in 1982 the Captain of the boat felt that St. John had passed it's heyday - too crowded and touristy, He said you should have been here in the "70's!.

My 1st visit was in 1975 just after I moved to STT - it was a backwater hippie haven adorned with dusty ragged jeeps, deserted beaches,hard working fishermen, amazing but struggling artists, and laid back and friendly locals living a realistic lifestyle ---- and the last ferry back to STT was at 6pm. That was when the real 'Happy Hour' started!
Coral Bay was a microcosm of a home for the Wanted and the unwanted benignly surrounded by an agricultural and pastoral community. Heineken was $1.00, Sputnik was the place to be, Redbeards was just starting, Rum was the word of the day and the music scene over at The Kite and the camping area below [Peter Bay] was a warm Northern California replica. My Mother even came to visit in those early days and HITCHHIKED around STJ, laughing the whole time when we would jump into the back of a well patina-ted, sun drenched Jeep to get to a North Shore beach.
A bit later on in the early 80's we would take our daughter and a friend to stay at Maho Bay very often for the weekend, often enough that she thought we had our own tent.
I was a STT daysail Captain back then on only classic wooden vessels and sailed upwind to somewhere on STJ every day - long before the moorings were put down and I probably have snorkeled every corner from Newfound bay to Salt Pond -really ! there was only one house in Rendezvous Bay then.
ST John --- It was just a spectacular and unspoiled Caribbean Queen. No pretensions and no attitude!

Quite different from the Martha Vineyard wannabe vibe that has evolved and exists today -- multi Million $$$ villas,Glamping at Cinnamon bay,packed multiple car ferries, cartloads of luggage rolling off the Cruz bay dock, Jimmy Choo sandals and brand new Topsiders stepping off the ferry and blenders humming madly in the bars, STJ has now changed since then from that bucolic Virgin into a Botox housewife, and sadly I rarely even use my USVI senior citizen $1.50 ferry rate these days unless I am visiting an old friend there.[ Not even counting the Red Hook Parking disaster.]
As the surfers world says " You should have been here yesterday"
Last edited by Exit Zero on Wed Feb 08, 2017 3:10 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: What was your first impression of St. John?

Postby Bigcheeze » Wed Feb 08, 2017 7:46 am

Yes Lil Cheese...what are your earliest memories and why is STJ your fav place?

Anyways, we were on a 7 day cruise and one of the options was to be ferried into STJ or stay with the ship to STT...guess which one we took? The year was about 1990 something and we were quickly taken back with the beauty and the quant Cruz Bay area. Never one to sign up for the excursions offered by the cruise ships, we found a local Jeep rental and were soon on our way. Not sure why, but we took the south shore route and stopped at the local party store for some Rum and coke travelers. Following the map of sorts we come across the left hand turn to go up Gifft Hill and never did I ever think we would make it up the hill in the 4 cyl, standard transmission Sidekick. But, we did and after a stunning 20 min drive stopping to see the ruins along Centerline and the pull-off to view Jost, we found ourselves at the Boudreaux Mnt overlook and bar. Kelly(RIP) the infamous barkeep gave us the lay of the land. Even chided me and called me cowboy when I made a whimpy Rum and coke...as this was a FREE pour bar...she slammed the bottle down and said start pouring and make yourself a Real drink. I learned that day that I liked drinking rum and coke the color of Ginger ale...lol.

So after she assured us that drinking and driving were ok...but must have seat belts on...we kinda had a sense that the vibe of the island had begun to overtake our inner being...off to the North Shore beaches...Francis, Maho, Trunk and finally Hawksnest...not nearly enough time at each but enough to cement that memory in our feeble brains trying to process all that we had experienced already in that day.

Time of the essence, less we miss the ferry back to the ship, we drop the rental back off and stop at Pussers (where the Beach Bar is now) for a few Painkiller #3's and back to semi reality and glancing back as the ferry left the dock and saying to each other we have found paradise and we will be back.

So, that's my 1st memory and impressions of the ROCK. 25 trips later, 10+ families and friends have been introduced to Love City, videos for Villa Owners have been produced, a travel consulting agency focused on STJ travel has been started( VacationPlannningCenter.com), many friends have been made on the island that live there and also are from Michigan too.

There's a certain grin I only get when driving on the island and my wife recognizes it and says you have your St John grin going on...and I nod my head feeling blessed to have been able to experience it and to share it with people I care about.

Thanks for the Thread Lil Cheese and I know you will carry the torch once I'm gone 40 years from now...

Dave/Bigcheeze

Enjoy the Journey
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Re: What was your first impression of St. John?

Postby Suziekue » Wed Feb 08, 2017 8:53 am

Hi Lil Cheese, first let me say, your parents seem awesome. I see you're from Michigan, me too! 8)

So on my first trip I was young, recently divorced and testing out traveling to see the islands, I started out with cruising to see many places in one trip. Thought I fell in love with STT until that first trip with my Dad to STJ in the mid 90's on a Windstar sail ship. We took a Safari truck tour of the island and got to see all the high points, we spent the afternoon having cocktails at the little bar in the center of Mongoose. It was then I knew I'd be back and sure enough a couple years later I rented my first villa way out on the east end, it was at the end of a road that made us wonder every time we left if we would make it back again. I learned quickly to drive on the island. Since then I've been back every 1-2 years with my sister and friends. On her first trip my sister said that she thought she must have died because this sure looks like heaven. I'll be back in November this year with my sister, have everything but airfare booked and watching my ticker just counting the days till I'm back to my idea of paradise. :D
Soarin' with the eagles all week long, and this is all that we've learned about living - VACATION!

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Re: What was your first impression of St. John?

Postby watergirl » Wed Feb 08, 2017 1:06 pm

Exit Zero,
Wow! Actually that was my first impression of STJ - Hippie haven; Woodstock South; lots of booze readily available as well as other stuff... And super friendly people.
During my second trip 2 years later, my friend got sick on a hike and in trying to help her I left my camera by the side of the road. Someone actually tracked me down 2 hours later to return it. He had noticed me "in town" with it and thought it might be mine. Who does that any more!

Wonder if you knew the boat Captain from back then. He sailed an old beautiful wooden ketch. (said wood was the only way to go) and hailed originally from Montreal. English was not that good and would get port and starboard confused. So he would say "this way" & "that way".
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Re: What was your first impression of St. John?

Postby hoosierdaddy » Wed Feb 08, 2017 4:32 pm

It has been a treat reading everyone's story. Little Cheese could probably be a destination expert for St. John with all of your experience.

My wife and I traveled to STT in 2004 based on recommendation of a travel agent. She told us we needed to visit St. John while we were on island because it was where she stayed. Looking back I wonder why she just didn't have us stay in STJ. During our stay we took the car barge over and that was an adventure in its self. After rolling off the car barge we drove to Hawksnest. It was stunning. we were the only ones on the beach. It was unbelievable to be at a beach so beautiful and not have any one else around. We next drove to Trunk and again could not believe how beautiful it was. We stayed there for a while and then drove to Shipwrecks Landing for lunch. By that time We were hooked. We drove back to our Hotel after lunch and then took the people ferry over that evening for dinner and ate at Morgan's Mango. The next evening we had one of the most romantic evenings of our marriage. We took the people ferry over and took an open air cab to Chateaux Bordeau. It was just us and another couple in the restaurant. We felt like we were on another planet.

We took a few trips elsewhere for a few years but never found anything else as lovely or peaceful so in 2009 we made our first stay on STJ. We have been back every other year since then Sometimes with kids and other times not. We will be returning in 45 days
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Re: What was your first impression of St. John?

Postby StJohnbum » Thu Feb 09, 2017 9:25 pm

Little Cheeze, Best thread on the forum for some time, thanks for kicking it off!

1986, we arrived mid-day. The old ferry dock was still in place and it was very quaint. You felt like you had come upon the most isolated place on earth. We stayed at Gallows Point and rented a jeep. The first time we pulled over at the overlook that looks down upon those beautiful white sand beaches with that beautiful blue water I knew we were someplace special and STJ would become a part of our life.

We've been back 16 times and this forum and and this particular thread really brings back great memories. Like Big Cheeze we've shared STJ with family and friends over the years. It is a joyful place you want to share with those you love.

I hope STJ remains your happy place for many years to come.
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Re: What was your first impression of St. John?

Postby RicksFormula » Sat Feb 11, 2017 11:22 am

My wife and I made our first trip to St. John in 1989. We travelled to St. Thomas with 2 other couples and stayed at Frenchman's Reef. We took the ferry across to St. John the first day and rented a Datsun truck with two side benches in the back. I drove from Cruz Bay up the centerline road to get to the highest spots for the views and then looped back along the north shore road stopping at some of the north shore beaches as we drove. We all knew at that point we had found something very special, almost like a hidden place that most people, for what ever reason, had not stumbled onto. To see that kind of raw, incredible beauty and to have the beaches almost to ourselves was like heaven. The next day we rented a boat at Red Hook and we headed back over to St. John in it and ended up island hopping and snorkeling all day. I remember stopping at one small island that seemed like the only inhabitants were donkeys, and another place we anchored to snorkel that I believe was right in between Congo and Lovango Cay. We have since traveled to a number of places in the Caribbean and the Hawaiian islands but our first love is St. John. We are coming back with friends in April and August this year and we still get the same feeling every time we come, such a very special place!
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