Favorite US Virgin Islands Anchorages- Helpful Info, Tips, and Pics
*PICTURE GALLERY OF VIRGIN ISLAND ANCHORAGES- CLICK HERE
Counting Stars has stayed in anchorages around St. Thomas and St. John and here are some of our favorites along with a few tips.
We personally love St. John. The anchorages are pristine. The mooring balls provided by the park service are in excellent condition. Cost is $26 a night and there are pay stations located in the anchorages. Some pay stations are on land and some are floating pay stations. Depending on what you are in the mood for, St. John can be an idyllic trip. If you have a large group and your idea of a vacation involves spending time at beach bars and restaurants off the boat, then St. John is not for you. Most nights are spent cooking aboard due to lack of facilities in the anchorages located in the national park. However, with just the two of us quite often on the boat, provisioning and cooking aboard is easy! Ideally, if you have time on your charter, split the time between St. John and the BVIs, and you get the best of both worlds!
Christmas Cove on Great St. James Island- This is great anchorage to spend your first or last night. It takes about 45 minutes to get there from the CYOA base and it has decent snorkeling and of course the famous Pizza Pi! On our last snorkeling outing near the center of the bay (properly named Fish Cay), we saw a spotted manta ray, French angelfish, sea turtles and a large variety of hard corals. Pizza Pi is open till 6:00 p.m. and makes a wide variety of pizzas that you can pick up with an easy dinghy ride. Given the position of the anchorage, it is entertaining to see the boats go by. Watching the sunset while having pizza and a great bottle of wine only adds to the ambiance.
Tips: There are some free mooring balls in this anchorage but they are not serviced or inspected regularly. Every ball seems to be a bit different with regards to the type of painter and setup. It is very important if you take a ball that you dive and inspect its equipment. Mooring balls in this anchorage have been known to be unsafe and not reliable so this is a necessity. If anchoring, most boats anchor on the outer edge of the mooring field in deeper water.
Caneel Bay Area- If needing to stop in Cruz Bay for any supplies, a late afternoon lunch or customs on the return from the BVIs, there are several mooring Balls in the Caneel Bay area. We usually take a ball fairly close to Lind Point if it is just for a quick trip in to customs or for any supplies. We have also spent the night here after a late lunch and it really is a beautiful spot but we recommend you pick up one of the park service balls closer to Caneel Bay on the northern end of Honeymoon Beach to avoid the rolling produced by the ferry wake.
Tips: Honeymoon Beach is great to take the dinghy into and go for a stroll or swim. If you need to get supplies in Cruz Bay, then Dolphin Market is your best bet but be prepared to walk up a steep hill. For a quick bite and a fun time go to Woody’s Seafood Saloon (close to Dolphin Market). The blackened mahi sandwich is fantastic!
Hawksnest Bay- Beautiful anchorage if the conditions are right. When a North Swell is running it may be untenable. Have stayed there one night but did not snorkel. Word is snorkeling is good.
Cinnamon Bay- Years ago while traveling to St. John and spending time on land, this was our favorite beach on St. John. There are mooring balls and we have spent time here in the months of May and October. Make sure you check the swell forecast. It can get rolly with a northerly swell. Snorkeling is decent around Cinnamon Cay. The view looking back towards Cinnamon Bay lined with palms is beautiful.
Tip: Landing the dinghy in Cinnamon Bay is not recommended. Often the waves crash forcefully along the shore.
Maho Bay/Francis Bay- This is also a great anchorage to spend your first or last night. It is farther than Christmas Cove and to get to it, you have to bypass Caneel Bay, Hawksnest and Cinnamon Bay. Plan on about 2.5 hours motoring/sailing from CYOA’s base. However, the anchorage has numerous mooring balls (over 50) and provides clear water, numerous sea turtle sightings, fantastic views and a palm tree lined beach. You can take your dinghy in and tie off to the dinghy mooring line and swim the rest of the way in.
Tips: This anchorage is better protected during a north swell but you will still have to monitor conditions. We personally like the Maho Bay anchorage side but if the breeze is light, Francis Bay will provide more of a breeze.
Leinster Bay-Watermelon Cay- What can we say? We believe this anchorage has it all! Views looking towards Tortola, outstanding snorkeling, and the opportunity for hiking! This anchorage contains about 15 mooring balls and a dinghy mooring line to tie up to when snorkeling Watermelon Cay. We often snorkel around the cay in a counter clockwise direction. Be careful of the currents.
Hiking: We have taken the dinghy ashore and hiked to the Annaberg Sugar Plantation Ruins-1.9 mile trail total (in and out) and also hiked up to the Murphy Great House where it meets the Johnny Horn Trail. Bring water!
Tip: The view from the Murphy Great House provides a fantastic camera shot of Watermelon Cay and the mooring field.
Salt Pond Bay- This anchorage is located on the south side of St. John which is the more remote and wild side of St. John. Four mooring balls are in this anchorage so it is limited to just a few boats. Snorkeling is excellent here, especially around the rock islands. Snorkeling depth is deep around the rock islands with large coral formations and lots of species of fish. Closer to shore in the turtle grass are an abundance of turtles and rays.
Hiking:- Salt Pond Bay provides a spectacular hiking opportunity on the Rams’s Head Trail. The trail is 2.3 miles total ( in and out) and provides unbelievable views.
Tips: Entrance into the bay can be a bit tricky. It is best to enter with the rock islands on your starboard side. Depth is still fairly shallow and you need to look out for coral heads on the edges of the rock islands when entering and make sure you see a sandy bottom. The cruising guide provides information and more details about this bay.
This bay also provides access to Concordia Eco Resort on the Hill. There is a path towards the left as you are facing the beach that takes you up the hill and takes about 10-15 minutes. We ate at the resort’s restaurant one night and the food and drink were excellent and the prices reasonable. Also, it was a great view of the anchorage. Warning: Restaurant hours are sporadic. You should call first.
Great Lameshur and Little Lameshur Bay-These anchorages are on the South Side of St. John and on side by side. Great Lameshur is to the east of Little Lameshur. Great Lameshur offers an anchorage with towering hills on either side and easy dinghy access to the payment station and trash disposal given that it has a dinghy dock. Little Lameshur has a small sandy beach, ruins and better snorkeling. It also has easier access to hiking trails including the trail to Yanzi Point and the Little Lameshur Trail to the Petroglyphs. Both are wonderful and worth a visit.
Tips: The Yanzi Point trail is short and easy. The Little Lameshur Trail is moderate in its intensity. It is 2 miles in and 2 miles out to see the petroglyphs. Total 4 miles. Bring lots of water and sun protection.