Love City 101, Part 3:  Rules of the Road

Love City 101, Part 3: Rules of the Road

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!

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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!

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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 🙂

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The straightaways can tempt us to pick up the pace. But keep it under 25MPH and enjoy the view!


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.

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You never know who could be lurking around the sharp turn!

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.

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Image courtesy of Laura Henderson

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.

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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.

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Taxis are a fun and less-stress way to enjoy the beach!

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.
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If you must park on the roadside (last resort!), please make sure you are not damaging vegetation 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 🙂
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A full parking lot at the time doesn’t mean it is full forever.  Take a moment to unload your things and leave someone in the car to await an open spot!

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!

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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!

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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.

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Love City 🙂

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!      

9 thoughts on “Love City 101, Part 3: Rules of the Road”

  1. Hillary,
    I live in Coral Bay and there is not enough parking at Skinny’s so the tourists have begun to park literally in the road across from Skinny’s! They don’t even try to get off the road. Some days they are lined 10+! Every day it gets worse!

  2. I wholeheartedly agree with all the above, but especially the bit about expecting obstacles in the road! On our tenth trip to STJ last Christmas, we were driving along Centerline road near mile marker 5 and encountered another Jeep driving on the incorrect side of the road. Both drivers hit the brakes, but given the short amount of response time both drivers had due to the curve in the road, we bumped bumpers (hard enough to leave impressions in the plastic bumper guards). The other driver had also been to STJ before and driven the roads, but in this particular incident he was lost and had done a three-point turn, resulting in him being on the incorrect side of the road once he turned around.

  3. Your posts on island etiquette are very much appreciated. I reflect back on my 1st trip to St.John with my husband, and we were completely ignorant to a few of the “rules” you have published. It seems silly now that things like sunscreen that’s safe for the coral and ocean critters is obvious! I’m embarrassed and sad to say…It didn’t occur to us! I shake my head now. We have always been respectful, as per our knowledge. We have so much more understanding to the ways of the island now and are ever grateful for the beauty, the kind people, and the treasured experience of being on St. John. As several of our friends have travelled to the Virgin Islands since our first visit, we always share with them the “obvious” etiquettes that we now know.
    Thank you so much for the reminders and education you give in your posts. It’s a pleasure for me to read each morning with my coffee.
    Be Well!

  4. My wife and I were just there in November, as we were leaving Chocolate Hole two young ladies driving a jeep were on the wrong side of the road coming straight at us. Luckily we all avoided the head on collision. It’s easy to be mesmerized by by the sites of STJ and slip back into the engrained pattern of driving, the girls were “newbies” to STJ., my wife and I have come every year since 2000. Be patient, slow down and co-pilot just keep saying, “stay on the left”.

  5. Thanks so much for taking the time to educate visiting drivers. Lots of good advice.
    While reading I missed any mention of the practice of a horn toot on switchbacks, we did that years ago and on every visit…is that not a practice any longer? Just curious, as it was a nice way for drivers to be aware of oncoming cars they could not see.
    Have a Good Day!

  6. My experience has been that locals are the most egregious offenders. Not that tourists don’t have their share of the blame, but some locals seem to drive with a real death wish.

  7. When exiting someplace or a T intersection you want to look Right, Left, Right. Opposite of what we do at home. This is usually when people end up on the wrong side of the road too. It pays to take extra care when entering the roadway.

  8. We have been coming to STJ for many many years. The speed limit is 25 between Cruz bay and Coral Bay. We have always commented on how for everything else moving on island time many of the locals drive so fast. No island time when it comes to driving! We have NEVER seen speed limit enforced. Locals should be leading by example. IMHO

  9. Wonder if St. John govt could buy create some public parking dt Cruz Bay even if it entails a walk lot of folks are probably deterred from hanging out there because of the parking.

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