St. Eustatius, locally known as Statia, is a Caribbean island that can be found in the northern part of the Lesser Antilles. This northern part is called the Leeward Islands. Statia is to the southeast of Saba and to the Northwest of St. Kitts. The island is approximately 21 square kilometers and has around 3,500 inhabitants. Today, the island is part of the Caribbean Netherlands and is a special municipality of the Netherlands. Even though it is a small island, there are still many things to do on Statia. Relax on the quiet beaches around the island, rent a kayak or immerse yourself in the rich history the island has to offer. At night, enjoy good Caribbean rum, shoot some pool or sing karaoke in one of the many small bars on the island.
Nowadays, St. Eustatius is relatively unknown to the world. However, during the eighteenth century, this island was one of the largest trading centers in the New World and an important hub in the transatlantic slave trade. Many goods were stored in warehouses that once were located on the 2 km strip of land that is called Lower Town. Remnants of these warehouses can still be seen today. It is very hard to imagine that almost every consumable good in the world had a connection to St. Eustatius.
The prosperity of St. Eustatius made it a very desirable island, which is reflected in the islands’ turbulent history. From the first short-lived colonization by the French in 1629 up until 1816, Statia has changed flags 22 times. During this time the island was swapped between the French, the Dutch and the English. In 1816 St. Eustatius came under permanent Dutch Rule.
Even during the American War of Independence (1775-1783) St. Eustatius played a significant role. Not only were the merchants of St. Eustatius providing the American Rebels with guns and ammunition, but Statia was also the very first to recognize an
American warship by responding to its salute. Eventually the British, under the command of Admiral George Brydges Rodney, completely ransacked the island in 1781.
This island, which was once known as the Golden Rock, is now covered with hundreds of ruins that are silent landmarks of these times of war, prosperity and historical events.
Diving and Snorkeling
Statia’s dive sites are among the best in the Caribbean. Here you find a wide variety of different sites, including beautiful coral reefs, walls, drop offs, historic wrecks, modern wrecks, and muck diving. Turtles, stingrays, barracudas, sharks, and a wide variety of reef fish can be seen on most dive sites. Not certified yet? Not a problem. There are two PADI dive shops on the island at which you can take an introduction dive or choose from a wide range of courses. For more information go to www.scubaqua.com and www.goldenrockdive.com.
Statia also offers some great snorkeling. The area in front of the Old Gin House is particularly beautiful. Here you can snorkel among the sunken warehouse ruins from the eighteenth century. Many fish can be found between the ruins, including barracudas and schools of blue tang. Plus there is a good chance to encounter some turtles too.
There are two geographic areas on the island that offer great hiking. The first is the dormant Quill volcano. Several trails can be found in this area. You can go to Panorama Point and enjoy the stunning view of the entire island or go into the crater where you can see the tallest tree in the Kingdom of the Netherlands. It is possible to walk around the crater rim until you have a spectacular view of White Wall. During this trail you will pass the highest peak of the island, Mazinga at 601 m. It is not uncommon to spot several red-bellied racer snakes (harmless) during a single hike and many hermit crabs.
The Northern Hills or Boven National Park are the remains of an extinct volcano where it almost feels like you are on a different island. It is a deserted area with unspoiled nature. Here you can walk for hours and never see another soul. Several trails lead to the summits of Bergje, Gilboa, and Boven Hills. The area holds the remains of old sugar plantations, slave walls and housing platforms. It is also the place where the endemic Statia Morning Glory can be observed. Venus Bay is a nice place to see the waves crashing into the rocks. Jenkins Bay is very secluded and is a good spot for snorkeling. For more information go to www.statiapark.org.