Good Morning All and a happy Monday to you! Last week, Teddy finally convinced me it was time for some dinghy driving practice. So, I bargained with him for Cinnamon Bay as the destination so that I could get out there to say hello and see the new updates for myself. All in all, it was a glorious day (I didn’t wreck the dinghy :)), but our time at cinnamon was the highlight. The changes, the energy, the staff at the newly re-opened campground really blew my socks off! It felt SO good to be out there again and see the place alive and thriving. Finally, nearly five years after Hurricane Irma ravaged the only campground in the VI National Park, the doors are open and the place has rebounded in a big way.
As we walked down the beach to see people in line at the now operable bathrooms, my heart skipped a beat. This was the first beach I went to after Irma hit in 2017. In October of 2017, I remember looking out at the water with my back to the tangled trees, windswept water sports gear and broken restroom facilities that I had just two months prior used for a weekend getaway in an eco tent with my mom.
I remember looking out at the sea with the destruction behind me and out of view and thinking, “Well, at least this feels a bit normal.” But, I had to turn around eventually, and the damage was still there. My favorite beach. My beloved campground. Destroyed. We eventually came to find out that the current management company would leave it that way. So, a little cleanup happened, but it pretty much stayed broken and boarded up for several years to come.
Until, in 2019, when Bloomberg News co-founder and St. John philanthropist and resident, Tom Secunda stepped in and purchased it under the name CinnOpCo. And now, after many bumps and some serious roadblocks on the two plus year path to re-opening, Cinnamon Bay Beach and Campground is once again inviting overnight guests to stay, dine and enjoy the beautiful, yet simple, waterfront accommodations and services. And, I’m confident when I say to you that Cinnamon Bay Campground is now back and better than ever.
First, I want to say that in just looking at the names on the management roster, I can’t say that I’m surprised with the energy and excitement we were greeted with! On our walk from the beach to the restaurant, we paused for some pictures of the watersports rental facility and food truck. Both of which were closed by the time we arrived at 4:30.
But we were greeted enthusiastically by Ernest Matthias, a native St. Johnian and former deputy fire chief. Ernest, water sports manager, was pleased to see us there taking pictures and was ready with the sharing of information about the water sports rental shop (open 10AM-4PM daily), the food truck (Open for lunch from 10AM-3PM daily) and the campground facilities.
He shared the pricing sheet with me for the 31 bare sites and 55 eco tent rentals, before we exchanged goodbyes and congratulations and made our way slowly up the freshly paved sidewalk towards the gift shop and restaurant.
Ernest mentioned to me that CiCi was working in the shop and I was so excited to meet her. She and I have been emailing for quite some time and she is the source of the updates I’ve been giving all of you. You can’t always gauge a person via email, but she was very helpful and friendly in her correspondence. Her real life presence is absolutely magical! She is a ball of positivity and energy and she is SO excited about bringing a REAL campground experience back to St. John. And, she and her husband, managing director Adrian Davis, should know best how to do just that. He ran the Maho Bay Camps up until they closed their doors in 2013 and Concordia up until Irma destroyed it in 2017. So, if ANYONE knows how to combine all of the best outdoor overnight environments on St. John into one colossal camping package, it’s this dream team!
CiCi excitedly walked through the store with me, rattling off the names and stories behind each of the products on the shelves, most of which tote a small business backstory and/or sustainability qualifier. They have rash guards and hats that are made from recycled plastic, the Mavuno Harvest fruit snacks lining the grocery shelves are sourced from family farms in Africa that help build self-sustainability in small villages, aluminum bottles of water are from a woman owned business, they try to work with local artisans and businesses as much as possible.
There are some seriously unique products in this seemingly normal “gift shop!” And, they have everything you will need on the grocery department to prepare a simple meal at your campsite.
As CiCi and I walked from the gift store towards the restaurant, she excitedly told me about the murals and artwork around the property. They hope to incorporate more artistic surprises around the venue such as this lifelike iguana painted by local artist Bryan McKinney.
And, the team at Cinnamon is dedicated to creating a big kid summer camp type of experience for their guests. They offer star gazing on Wednesday evenings and intend to add some fun art activities and storytelling events in the evenings. I am SO excited to see what they have planned for both their guests, off-site visitors and residents who are looking for an out-of-the-box activity during evenings on St. John.
As we waited for Executive Chef, TJ Hindes to join us in the dining room for a quick hello, the campground’s General Manager, Adonis Morton came from behind the front desk to greet us. You may recognize this St. Johnian’s name if you have ever attended one of the New Year’s Eve parties at Dr!nk St. John or the Light up the Night fundraiser for the St. John Cancer Fund. The exuberant and multi-talented DJ Adonis is running the show in the campground with an incredible level of energy excitement for his new endeavor with CinnOpCo.
The Rain Tree Café coincides with the camping experience under the watchful eye of TJ who was the first Executive Chef at Cruz Bay Landing. He developed the original menu at the popular Cruz Bay eatery and that alone should tell you how fantastic you can expect your dining experience to be at the on site restaurant at Cinnamon. Seven nights a week, they offer a choice of meat, seafood or vegetarian entrée with a rotating option of side dishes and dessert. Easy, simple and eloquently executed.
Breakfast is also served seven days a week with a different menu each day from 7:30AM-9:30AM.
Visitors and residents who are not staying at the property are welcome to come out and dine! But, if you are on the hunt for a margarita or martini at the bar, you won’t find it here. In keeping with a super family friendly environment, the property only serves beer, wine and hard seltzers as adult beverage options.
Oh, and speaking of the overnight options. The campsites are amazing! Teddy and I wandered down the freshly paved sidewalk that a few local deer had left their permanent signature on…Teddy exclaimed, “This is just AWESOME!” about every 45 seconds 🙂
The standard eco-tents are outfitted to sleep two in a queen sized bed and the “family” tents sleep up to four in a queen bed and bunk beds. A divider wall can be set up for some privacy between the beds and each of the tents has a ceiling fan, lighting, charging outlets, a locking storage box, cooking equipment and beautiful Adirondack chairs constructed by New Day Workshop, a local non-profit training residents in St. John centric skills.
The tent sites are covered with an awning to keep out these early morning rays and afternoon showers and the platform underneath ensures a good night’s sleep without the occasional uninvited probe from a rock or root.
The “cottages” are set to open in April and I will be sure to update you all on those expansions when they are finished and photo ready!
Reservations can be made on the Cinnamon Bay Beach and Campground’s website for the tents and bare site accommodations.
I’d say about eight out of every ten guests who come sailing with us ask me what my favorite beach is as we sail by and I speak enthusiastically about one stretch of sand and then the next, telling stories and giving tips and pointers for perfect beach days. For a long time, my answer would have been Cinnamon. I spent countless weekends playing volleyball there in my early years on St. John. It was like our playground. I knew the zig zagging trails like the back of my hand, which water refill station to use, which bathroom to divert to when there was a line, etc. So, seeing this place come back to life with such energy, community incorporation, a focus on the on-site guests with plenty of fun to be had….It is absolutely moving. It’s like our big kid summer camp has returned with hints of nostalgia, fine tuned and polished for the next generations to enjoy. And, I, for one, am SO excited to see how they grow this place.