by Guest Lecturer Sandy Cares
The undisputed Holy Grail of French islands in the Caribbean, sun-drenched St. Barts may be off-limits to many cruise lines, but aboard Oceania Cruises, we are among the few anointed to gain entry to this exclusive port of call. The annual New Year’s gathering place of the rich and famous, this French-spirited island is a dream escape during the winter. After a morning shore excursion of sailing aboard a luxurious catamaran or setting off on an adventurous ATV tour of the island, you will still have plenty of time to explore this Caribbean gem on your own. After many visits to this beautiful island, here are a few of my top suggestions.
Swim at Shell Beach
So named for the millions of little shells that crunch underfoot, Shell Beach is so close to the tender drop-off that you won’t find a taxi that will take you here. Simply follow the signs to “La Plage” and expect to walk for about 15 to 20 blissful minutes. The commanding beauty here is undeniably the clear blue water. There is no admission to the beach but chair rentals and amenities from the restaurant, Do Brazil, may cost you. If you prefer to “see and be seen” with the chance for a celebrity sighting, take a taxi over to St. Jean, relax at Nikki Beach and lunch at Eden Rock.
Stroll Around the Careenage
Historically, the Careenage of Gustavia provided a safe hideaway for pirates and ship captains to clean – “careen” – their ships. Today it’s where some of the world’s most dazzling yachts, many belonging to celebrities, dock. From where the tender drops guests off, you can take a peasant stroll along the boardwalk stopping at leisure to take in some of the island’s historic and cultural sights, or just sip coffee or a drink from a waterfront bistro as you gaze at one of the world’s prettiest views.
Waterfront Museum & Drink at Presqu’ile
Walk completely around the Careenage to visit the little museum right on the waterfront. The Wall House building, which survived a fire in 1852, serves today as the island’s museum, showcasing a permanent exhibit about the patrimony and temporary exhibits of more contemporary interest like a recent Jasper Johns show. Upstairs is the island library, modern and well-trafficked. On the way back, stop in Presqu’ile, St. Barts’ best corner bar for meeting the locals and chatting up the visiting captains over the cheapest brew while enjoying the most stunning waterfront view of Gustavia.
See the Anchor, Anglican Church & Swedish Clock Tower
Along the boardwalk, you’ll pass an enormous anchor near the waterfront. It was dragged to St. Barts accidently by a captain coming from French Town in Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas, or one story goes. St. Bartholomew Anglican Church is directly across the street inviting you for an all-too tempting photo opportunity and generally is open if you wish to go inside. If you stand near the anchor, face the church and look at about 10 or 11:00 you will see the Swedish clock tower, an example of Swedish architecture from the era of the island’s Swedish occupation. Take a walk up to it to see the “Sundial” door, painted to preserve the sun’s shadow falling across it.
Discover more history and island stories when you escape the chill and join me for adventures in St. Barts and other sunny Caribbean ports this winter.
Seaswept Breezes | January 13, 2018; February 16, 2018; March 8, 2018
Captivating Caribbean | January 23, 2018
Island Paradise | February 6, 2018
Sunny Charms | February 26, 2018