Guest Contributor: Thank You, St. John

Guest Contributor: Thank You, St. John

Good Morning! St. John is undeniably a special place, with aspects that are so captivating, they resonate with the entire community, locals and tourists alike. There are also incredible memories that are unique and have special meaning to individuals, families, and friends. We encourage you to take a moment, step away from the noise of every day life, and read a story submitted from a guest contributor while you reflect on the time you’ve spent on St. John over the years.

For 17 years, our family has vacationed on the small but mighty island of St. John. Little did we know that our first trip in 2006 would begin the start of a tradition and enduring affection for Love City. 

St. John has given so much to us. More than a vacation destination, your island is our home away from home and is as comfortable as a well-worn flip-flop. It provides an oasis of indescribable beauty for our family to connect with each other and disconnect from the chaos. It’s difficult to pinpoint a single remarkable experience or story that fully encompasses why we return year after year, as it is a collection of experiences and memories that reflect why we treasure the island. 

Thank you, St. John, for your magnificent beaches, like Gibney, Trunk, and Maho—the perfect intersection of tranquility and natural splendor where our family has spent early quiet mornings floating in the calm water, listening to the water gently hit the shore, watching the boats sail by, and the pelicans soar.  

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Thank you to the captains, especially the OG John Brandi (may he rest in peace), that keep us safe on our day charters, taking us snorkeling and swimming, sharing your knowledge of the island’s rich history, entertaining us with the latest island news, taking us to our favorite lunch spots and introducing us to new ones, and of course, taking us to Jost. 

Thank you for Coral Bay and the East End, where my husband and I have discovered hidden gems like Vie’s Snack Shack (now closed) and frequented Skinny Legs. We have hiked to the top of Rams Head twice, overwhelmed by the peace and quiet, only broken up by waves crashing against the rock, pebbles cracking under our footsteps, and the wind in our ears. 

Thank you for the villas we have rented with pools. They are our afternoon gathering spot for reading, napping, laughter, conversation, and listening to playlists full of Jimmy Buffet, Kenney Chesney, Christopher Cross, and other favorite artists.

Thank you for the network of hiking trails that lead us to serene beaches, stunning views, and ancient ruins, reminding us of the culture and history upon which St. John is built and allowing us to immerse ourselves in your natural wonders, like Reef Bay with the Petroglyphs, Waterlemon Cay and the Murphy Great House, to name a few.

Thank you for a dynamic and growing culinary scene, offering many restaurants and sunset-worthy bars that delight our senses with rich flavors.

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Thank you for a rich and captivating creative arts scene that has allowed me and my mother-in-law to take photography classes from Steve Simonsen. I’ll always remember the year we were on the island for Carnival, snapping as many photos as possible, attempting to put our newly discovered skills to work to capture the beauty and celebration unfolding downtown. And to the local painters and artisans that have allowed us the opportunity to bring your art into our homes. 

And thank you for rebuilding after Hurricanes Irma and Maria. Like many others, our hearts broke from afar, watching the devastation and destruction, fearing for lost lives, and wondering if the island could recover. Given all the island has given us, we did our best to help those in need through donations. As soon as you were ready, we immediately returned. 

Our memories are intertwined with the changes to the island – like touchpoints in the island’s modern history. We’ve seen restaurants come and go, move locations, and change menus and owners. We remember Jake’s, Waterfront Bistro, The Balcony, Chilly Billy’s, Donkey Diner, Morgan’s Mango (before and after the fire), Fish Trap, and more. Amid these changes, certain aspects steadfastly remain the same and represent the beating heart of St. John—the beautiful white soft sand that glistens like diamonds in the sun, the majestic sea turtles rising to the surface of the water, stunning panoramic views from overlooks and trail tops that make you smile and take a deep breath, roosters crowing at all hours of the day living in harmony with the iguanas and elusive mongoose; donkeys and goats walking and grazing along the road and hillsides, rainbows after an island rain and stunning sunsets that fill my camera. 

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Even when we return to reality on the mainland, St. John remains woven into our lives. From the symbolic hook bracelet on my wrist reminding me of island tales, to the ornaments we collect for our Christmas tree representing each year we’ve been on the island and the numerous meals I’ve cooked with spices from St. John Spice, these are some of the tangible reminders of our home away from home, sprinkled into our daily lives.

Each year, as we return to St. John and when we leave, we are reminded of the power of this rock in paradise to create lifelong memories and foster a sense of home. Thank you, St. John, for the permanent footprints on our hearts, a sea of memories with new discoveries, and for welcoming us with open arms all these years. Until we see you again.

About The Author

Callie Turner is a freelance non-fiction writer.  She lives with her husband, five dogs and two horses on a small farm in Ohio and has vacationed on St. John for the last 17 years, making lasting family memories. 

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If you would like to submit a story for publication to News of St. John, please email your concept to [email protected]. We are currently seeking additional content on the history and culture of St. John, the art and music scene of St. John, and wildlife and marine life of St. John. 

13 thoughts on “Guest Contributor: Thank You, St. John”

  1. Wonderful sentiments shared by many of us. Thank you for such a beautifully written tribute to our beloved happy place.

  2. So well written. My family also fell in love with the island and people over 20 years ago. We’ve returned with friends , family, and now our children. I love creating memories year after year. Such a great read thank you for capturing the “magic” of the island.

  3. Beautifully written and as my husband and I have so experienced the same in our many years of vacationing on St. John.
    St. John is forever strong and that keeps us coming back to embrace it with each visit.

  4. “St. John” – these two words say it all!
    Our family has been traveling/visiting STJ since 1972 (I was 22, now 73.) We built & owned a home above Mongoose Junction.
    I miss the St. John of yesteryear- undiscovered & uncrowded, yet its’ beauty & tranquility still persist.
    Thank you for your comments…. I’m still smiling!!

  5. Thank you; this is so beautifully written and captures so many of my husband’s and my wonderful and cherished thoughts and memories. Our first visit to St. John was in Feb / March 1998 and we stayed in a small cottage owned by Mary and Harlow Ellis, right nearby Elaine Estern’s art studio. A few treasured memories of mine that I’d like to add: walking down to Frank Bay and snorkeling there, taking guided snorkel tours with Cathy Packo (who was also a waitress at Fishtrap), a snorkel tour with Fred and Renee on their boat “Pepper,” and the incredibly fun dance nights at Fred’s where they had a live band on Tuesday and Fridays. Fun times!! Although circumstances prevent us from visiting St.John each year, we look forward to our next visit.

  6. Good Morning,
    Beautiful article. My wife and I have been going to STJ since 2000.
    I remember all the places you mentioned. I even got one of my pictures printed in the St John Magazine. My brother-in-law even helped build Remmingtons. I also remember the Tourist Trap.
    Wish i was on the rock now. Can’t wait to return. Once again lovely words in your article.
    Thank You

  7. Beautifully written. Like many others, this too is our story & love for St John. Covid/after Covid also altered STJ somewhat as new people came ashore who treat it a little differently than those long-time souls who seek the beauty & solace this island has to offer. Thank you for putting in to words what so many of us feel & love about this paradise-of-a-rock.

  8. Beautiful article! My husband bought our one week timeshare at Sunset Ridge Villas (sight unseen) right after 911. I had mentioned to him that if we could have a timeshare in the Caribbean, I’d Love it to be St.John after we’d taken our daughters to St.Thomas and took a day trip to St.J just to see it was Carnival! Wow, what a treat!! We’ve been each Nov. since ~(except 2018 due to hurricanes Irma & Maria and our villa being refurbished). We purchased a 2nd week so we can enjoy more time on The Island We Love!!!

  9. Made my first trip to St John in 1980, have lost count on how many trips since then. It has since become the favorite destination for my granddaughter and grandson. I too remember when it still had many unpaved roads and less traffic but it still hasn’t lost any of it’s charm. I’ve seen places come and go, like the Kite near on the Northshore road near Cinnamon Bay, the restaurant called the Upper Deck, Chilly Billy’s, The Backyard, and the fun nights at Fred’s with the bands and dancing. I remember when Rich at the Lime Inn in it’s early days had live music too. So many good memories made there, hope to be back again soon!

  10. Wonderful article – full of warmth and fond memories. My wife and I will be going to St. John for the first time next March (2024), and Callie’s loving tale of the island’s specialness has added to our already excited anticipation! Can’t wait to be there an explore every inch of what sounds like a truly unique tropical gem.

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