St. John’s Seaplane Ramp

boat ramp (1)
The seaplane ramp was located at the now boat ramp in Cruz Bay. It is accessed behind the Visitor’s Center near the Lind Point trail.

Oftentimes we get asked if there is an airport here on St. John. The answer, as most if you know, is no. (Sometimes people are very adamant there is, but that just means they bought a flight to St. John’s, Antigua by mistake, rather than St. John, US Virgin Islands. Sorry, I’ve digressed…) But did you know that you use to be able to visit St. John by plane? It’s true! Years back, you used to be able to arrive in Cruz Bay via seaplane. How neat is that??!!

Between 1967 and 1995, you could fly via seaplane from Cruz Bay to St. Thomas, St. Croix, Puerto Rico and San Juan, according to Gerald Singer’s Off the Beaten Track book. (This is a great book for first time visitors. You can buy it here.) “What is now used as the Virgin Islands National Park boat launch once housed the ramp, rustic offices and ground facilities for Antilles Airboats, a seaplane company that lost its planes to Hurricane Hugo in 1989”, Gerald wrote.

Different companies took over until they too lost all of their planes during Hurricane Marilyn in 1995, Singer said. “After that, the National Park announced that it would no longer lease the seaplane ramp and that wonderful scheduled seaplane service, that at one time enabled visitors to change planes in San Juan and fly directly to Cruz Bay, is no more.”

Check out these two pics we found over on On-StJohn.com:

old seaplane
Image credit: on-stjohn.com
seaplane water
Image credit: on-stjohn.com

And that’s all the “news” we have for you today folks! If anyone has more photos of this, we’d love to see them. Happy Tuesday everyone!

16 thoughts on “St. John’s Seaplane Ramp”

  1. The last time we hiked to the boat ramp a NPS Ranger came and asked what our business was being there. We said, we’re just enjoying the area. He said we were to leave immediately, no loitering. We also know they’ve chased the neighborhood kids from there. All they were doing is playing with little toy boats.

  2. What St. John really needs is a helipad area or two or three. Would be great for people who need to get back to STT quickly for medical reasons (this is legit) but mostly for people who would like to get to the airport in STT without having to deal with taxis and ferries and taxis. 🙂 Plus, there could be helicopter tours! How fun.

  3. Antilles Airboats was run by a famous pilot retired General Charlie Blair. He had several flying firsts in his career. When he was running the “street car line of the Virgin Islands” he married actress Maureen O’Hara and they lived in STX. He was killed in a plane crash between STX and STT in 1978 along with three passengers. Seven passengers survived the crash. She continued to run the company for a time after his death.

    • I was being tongue in cheek with that comment about helicopter tours. I hate that noise and it would be horrible to be sitting on a quiet beach and have a damn helicopter swoop over and ruin the moment.

  4. Back in the 1980’s I took the Virgin Islands Seaplane Shuttle to several islands. The absolute best route was their turbine-powered Grumman Mallards that took off from the runway in San Juan and landed at Cruz Bay. These were true seaplanes, in that the fuselage was in the water, as opposed to standing on floats. Much of the small fleet was destroyed in a hurricane…..a sad ending for a family of beautiful airplanes and a fitting and most romantic way to arrive at your destination.

  5. In ’68 I was teaching Peace Corps volunteers in the St Croix camp how to lay concrete block for their stint as homebuilders in the Ivory Coast. My wife taught female volunteers how to change a baby using our 6 month son as the model baby. Yes, he managed to pee upward on quite a few volunteers as the used cloth diapers n safety pins. My 6 n 8 year old sons scampered around the camp. Time to leave n we booked the Goose out of Christainsted harbor. We sat in the dock bar coke n rum coke. Came time to take off n a handsome tanned guy not over 20 announced the Goose would take off in 10 minutes from the dock n anyone in the bar should head out. He then took the final swing from his beer n stood up. The 4 of us plus wife carrying baby followed. We were the only passengers. Six year old was the copilot for takeoff, 8 year old took the controls halfway to StJ for the landing. The Goose had sophisticated landing gear: a porthole in the fuselage that revealed if the wheels were up for sea takeoff n landig! Upon touch down in StJ as we neared shore the pilot hand pumped the hydraulics that lowered the wheels n allowed the Goose to waddle up the ramp. A lovely way to travel to StJ! We bought land on Majestic Mile few years later n built Casa Don Juan, a funky house built around the stage set from Shaw’s Don. Juan as produced at Arena Stage in DC. The boys never forgot flying 200 feet above the water from StC to StJ. So began our nearly 40 years in the
    Land of fun n sun!

  6. I used to take that seaplane occasionally (early 90’s) to St. Croix for business. I believe it was owned at that time by the couple who owned the St. John Guidebook. Aarne and Anne Jacobsen I believe. While very convenient, it was a little scary. The first time I boarded I noticed a smell of superglue and some of the instrumentation was labeled with one of those label makers. Har.

    Landing was very intersting, no pontoons it seemed more like we were crashing as opposed to “landing”. Interesting experience nonetheless and grateful not to have to travel to St. Thomas to fly to St. Croix.

  7. Our only visit to Saint John, we arrived by the true seaplane with no pontoons flying out of San Juan. It was valentines weekend 1989 and we had no hotel reservations.
    I was a flight attendant with TWA and newly married, we just took a chance. The island was full up except for one room someone directed us to try to get. We had a magical time.
    Landing in the water was very unnatural to the type of flying i was trained for! But Pusser’s Rum was perfection!
    Must go back one day!
    Hello from California!

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