Good Morning, Good Morning! (That’s from Part 1! :)) Over the past little bit, I’ve been working through a list of common misnomers and stumbles that first time visitors to St. John may not understand. And, many times, that misunderstanding simply comes from a lack of information. I (probably naively) believe that all people are inherently good. And, sometimes, a lack of information is the root of discourse and frustration. So, with that being said, let’s dig in deep on some tips and pointer for the “Rules of the Road” on St. John!
The first rule of the steep grades and sharp curves of Love City is simply to stay on the left side of the road. It sounds simple and when you are consciously telling yourself to do so, it is! But, in a moment of distraction or after a few drinks, you may find yourself wandering across that line or second guessing yourself about whether or not you are on the correct side of the road. After nine years here, I STILL do it! Both here and when I am back in the states visiting family…Reverting to keeping right is difficult! But, in the past few years, there have been several accidents or near collisions on island based on someone’s tires teetering across that yellow line in a moment of distraction, confusion or taking those treacherous turns a bit too quickly. So, when you’re on the roads on St. John, especially if it is your first time driving here, take it slow and keep a focus on the left side of the road. Eventually, it will be second nature so you can kick back and relax again during your sightseeing adventures!
That last part brings me to my next point. The speed limit on St. John does not exceed 25 MPH. Even on the straightaways where it is tempting to punch the gas and hit that 35 MPH mark 🙂 As most of you know, the hills are steep and windy and those sharp turns can creep up on you if you aren’t super familiar with the roads, especially after dark or if there is an unexpected obstacle on the road, such as a construction crew or a donkey (or another car teetering over that centerline!). So, take it slow and enjoy the drive on Island Time 🙂
While we are on the subject of obstacles in the road…Pretty much just always be expecting them! Do you remember that First Generation Nintendo video game, Paper Boy? Well, if you do, I often equate driving around St. John to that. Ha! In town there are consistently people in the road, cars turning around in odd places, random traffic backups…Oh, and don’t get me started on driving past the people ferry during pick up time! Outside of town, it is more than likely that you will have at least one run in with one of our furry friends on the road ways.
In my years on island, I’ve experienced the roadside attractions of a donkey (or several), a herd of goats blocking the road for more than a few moments, deer running down the middle of North Shore Road, baby pigs scurrying around the road side, a cow literally standing in the middle of Centerline, baby chicks running in circles in parking lots and cute little pups scampering around like the road is their front yard. All of this might seem like a giant hold up or inconvenience…But, hey! It’s all a part of the charm of St. John. So, take it slow and keep an eye out for obstacles that turn into a fond memory instead of an accident.
Another less than pleasant hold up is road construction! There is A LOT of it on island right now. From WAPA’s underground power project to pothole patching or repairs to the storm water runoff project in front of the Marketplace, there are a ton of improvements happening on island right now! And progress is great, but it doesn’t come without some inconveniences. Be patient and keep an eye out for the hardworking guys and gals who are slaving away in that Caribbean heat and working to make St. John better.
Another MAJOR issue with driving on St. John is the parking! Here is a fun little factoid for you. Tonia Lovejoy, Executive Director of Friends of Virgin Islands National Park told me last week that between all of the North Shore Beaches there are ONLY 200 legitimate parking spots! That’s CRAZY right? I’ve advised this before and I’ll say it again now. If you have your heart set on a certain beach on a certain day, it might be best to take a taxi from the gravel lot or the Lumberyard parking lot in town.
Especially during the busy times. If you are okay with cruising that beautiful stretch of road until you find a beach with an available parking spot…Then, by all means, drive on! But, take a look at the beach parking rules and regulations as follows:
- Do not park on the side of the road in a place where you are blocking traffic or your tires are over the white line. NPS DOES issue tickets for this and…Well, what a way to wreck a beautiful beach day! A $200 ticket is much more expensive and more difficult to deal with than a parking lot and taxi fee 🙂 Also, just an FYI, parking on the side of the road is NOT recommended and is hazardous to traffic, pedestrians and to your rental vehicle.
- If you do find a spot where you think your vehicle will fit on the side of the road , make sure that you are not running over any vegetation. At many of the North Shore Beaches, Friends VINP has been working with local horticulturist Eleanor Gibney and VINPS to transplant native plant nurseries in the sand in an effort to restore some of the vegetation lost to the 2017 storms. Last season, some of these plants were run over via off road parking at Maho Bay. Please be aware of the vegetation when utilizing the side of the road for parking in the Park.
- The best rule of thumb for parking at the beach is to be patient and utilize the parking lots. Either drive until you find a parking lot with some vacancies OR hang in the car in the parking lot until a spot opens up. Yes, it might not be at the beach that you have in mind and it might cut into a bit of your beach day. But, I promise, no matter what beach you end up on, or for what length of time, you will have a gloriously beautiful day 🙂
One more thing…If you are following that “take it slow” recommendation above and someone behind you seems to be in a bit of a rush, simply take a moment for a photo op! If someone is tailgating you on one of the scenic roads on St. John, pull over at one of our beautiful overlooks and take in the view 🙂 Always try to be a kind and courteous driver…We can only control our own actions. On the road or otherwise. So, keep calm and drive on!
So, these are the general rules of the road on St. John. I hope that you all find these informative posts useful. I did receive a comment from someone after the Beach Etiquette post stating, ” you wouldn’t even be able to live there if it weren’t for the tourists.” I hate to ever bring negative correspondence into an article but, I want it to be known that this Love City 101 series is NOT a jab at any of our visitors!
We are all extremely grateful that YOU help to keep us all afloat here on island with your annual visits. And, I assure you, your smiling faces filled with vacation happiness bring all of us an immense amount of joy…and income! We are not ungrateful. I’ll also say that many of the points I mention are overlooked by locals and residents as well as visitors. Especially when it comes to the beach and driving rules and recommendations. So, with all of that being said, I hope that the majority of you find this series more helpful than hateful. As that is its main intention. There was a lot of discourse and frustration on island at the end of last season. I’m simply attempting to educate on some of those touchy subjects, mentioned many times by locals, residents and repeat visitors online, that may just need a brief mention to overcome the misinformation.
Oh, and if anyone has questions, comments or additions in regards to this series, please feel free to email me! I always appreciate the feedback and take it to heart 100%. The CDC/COVID article published earlier this week was prompted by a suggestion from a faithful reader (Thanks Kevin!). Have a great weekend everyone!