Oranjestad (Sint Eustatius) On a Budget
An island of the Caribbean Netherlands, St. Eustatius, sometimes called Statia, is a small, relatively unknown destination to the greater tourist areas of the Caribbean. As a result, however, it is its own treasure consisting of a dormant volcano known as the Quill and featuring a lush rainforest, narrow volcanic beaches, many dive sites, and a quaint harbor town.
The Quill volcano dominates the scenery of St. Eustatius. Quill National Park has hiking trails along the ocean and around the volcano, which features a rainforest and many species of orchid. The island is roughly saddle-shaped with Quill lying to the southeast and a smaller set of mountains - Signal Hill, Little Mountain, and Boven Mountain - to the northwest. This collection of hills comprises Boven National Park. The same foundation that manages these parks is also responsible for the National Marine Park which surrounds the island up to 30 meters deep and encompasses two reserves, as well as the Miriam C. Schmidt Botanical Garden which focuses on native plant species. The organization that oversees these areas is called STENAPA (an acronym for St. Eustatius National Parks) and its main function is environmental protection.
The majority of St. Eustatius' population resides in the middle of the "saddle" at the islands center. As this is where most communities have always lived on the island it is also the most historic area. The main historic site is the 17th-century Fort Oranje in the direct center of the town, overlooking the waterfront. This cliffside fort has cannons, undamaged bastions, and a courtyard. Nearby is a museum, upon which are the ruins of one of the oldest synagogues in the Western Hemisphere, and a Jewish cemetery. Another historical feature includes a Dutch Reformed church built in 1755, which is partly in ruins but still accessible. Visitors can still climb to the top of its tower for views of the surrounding area. Other historic highlights include various restored 18th-century merchants' residences and restored wooden Caribbean-style houses.
An island of approximately 11 square miles, St. Eustatius is home to one main town: its capital, Oranjestad. The historic harbor town is divided into two main sections. Lower Town, located along the waterfront, borders on the island's main beach and features dive shops, a number of colonial-era ruins, and the harbor. Upper Town centers on a restored historic core, and is also the island's main commercial and residential center (for a population that comprises just about 1,000 inhabitants). Some of Oranjestad's top features include the 17th-century Fort Oranje, an 18th-century Dutch Reformed Church, and the historic Gezaghebber House, former Lieutenant Governor's residence, on Kerkstraat.
Like any island destination, St. Eustatius has plenty of opportunity for outdoor activity. Relax on one of the islands volcanic sand beaches, or hike the volcano itself to see spectacular views of the entire island. Explore the historic harbor town of Oranjestad, or walk along the coast for endless views of the ocean. Diving and snorkeling are also especially popular within the bays of St. Eustatius. Snorkeling in Oranje Bay is of particular interest because of the parts of 18th-century buildings that were swept into the sea. This unique opportunity allows visitors to explore ruins by land and by sea. Overall, the island has a rich history to offer as well as a landscape just as impressive.
Food and Dining
While the island is very small and one of the least-touristy destinations in its general area, St. Eustatius does have plenty of dining options to explore. The cuisine here takes influences from a variety of sources including Africa, France, Holland, England, Spain, the West Indies, and many others. As a municipality of the Netherlands, one of its legacies is cheese - Gouda, in particular, is very popular with the Dutch. There are also restaurants on the island to satisfy all tastes and budgets, from Chinese food, burger joints, and pizza to French and Italian bistros, cafes, bakeries, and more. A few favorites include Blue Bead Bar & Restaurant, Cool Corner Bar & Restaurant, The Old Gin House Restaurant, and Ocean View Terrace.
F. D. Roosevelt Airport is the only airport on the island, built to support small aircraft. Winair is the only airline regularly operated (to and from Saba and St. Maartin). Other services are available from Air Sunshine (Aruba), Coastal Air (Anguilla, Nevis, St. Croix), Trans Anguilla Airways (Anguilla), and charters with Fly Montserrat (Montserrat) and St Barth Commuter (Saint Barthelemy). Once on the island, the airport is accessible by private vehicle or taxi.