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St. John Feet, Fins and Four Wheel Drive Paperback – July, 2001
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About the Author
Pam Gaffin has lived on St John since 1989. She is an avid hiker and snorkeler. Not content with hiking the marked trails and swimming in all the bays, Pam is one of the few (only?) people that has both snorkeled and hiked the island's perimeter, along with all the ghutts on the island.
As an avid world explorer, Pam has used many guidebooks - some great, some terrible. She used that knowledge to write a book that is fun to read as well as informative. Much to her surprise, St John Feet Fins and Four Wheel Drive has been a best seller since 1994!
Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.
Welcome to St. John
You've made it to the island - your long awaited vacation in the American Paradise is about to begin. You're standing on the ferry dock or sitting on your balcony admiring the view. Now what?
St. John is not large, not very developed, not very populous, and not very sophisticated. If your idea of a dream vacation features glitzy nightlife, tons of shopping, noisy casinos and lots of people - you are on the wrong island.
However, if you have arrived on St. John in search of natural beauty, friendly people, a vibrant community, and a pristine environment - then you are in exactly the right place.
Why? Because St. John is unique. It has a distinctly different history than St. Thomas, St. Croix or Tortola. There are subtle reasons for this - cultural, tribal, geographic, and agricultural reasons. St. Johnians have always taken pride in their well-deserved reputation for being fiercely independent, self-sufficient, and community-minded. What other tiny tropic island would refer to its only town as 'Love City?'
Another reason St. John is so unique is because of the National Park. Over half the island falls within its protective boundaries. No other island in the Caribbean has expended so much money, time, talent, careful thought, and hard labor to ward off the corrosive influence of modern man.
You say you want beaches? There are 39 of them - big ones, little ones, crowded ones, and lonely ones. There are beaches for sunbathing, beaches for beachcombing, and beaches for snorkeling. We've got sandy bays, rocky bays, mangrove bays and even salt ponds. There are beaches which are only two steps from your car, and beaches that you can only get to by hiking a long way. A few of our beaches have shops, snack bars and facilities - but most are splendidly undeveloped and natural.
No matter how idealized your expectations of the 'perfect tropical beach' may be - we've got a beach which will meet or exceed them. Guaranteed.
Hiking? St. John has ten minute and all day trails, easy trails and rather hard trails - and trails to historic ruins, isolated beaches, and salt ponds teeming with birds. There are over 20 miles of trails just in the park alone.
As for historic sites, there are ruins of five windmills on the island, old sugar cane factories, plantation Great Houses, mysterious petroglyphs, and even the landmarks of one of the most important slave insurrections in the world.
St. John roads snake alongside some of the most spectacular beaches in the world, and regularly offer breathtaking views of both the Caribbean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean.
Taxis are available to take you to some of the more popular beaches, but the best way to fully explore St. John is by rental jeep.
There are many curve-by-curve 'jeep tours' within this book, and one of them is just right for you, whether you're able to spend an active day or a leisurely month exploring the island.
We do, of course, have night life and shopping - and we certainly know how to party. Cruz Bay has a wide variety of shops, restaurants and bars but you don't need a guide book for that - just wander around town and enjoy. Wednesdays and Fridays are the biggest nights for live bands, but there's usually music somewhere on other nights. Special events, like a fish fry or benefit dance or baseball game or kite flying contest or historical lecture are advertised by posters all over town.
OK, now where are the beaches, the ruins, the protected forests and the trails? What should you do if you've only got one day? How can you get around the island?
That's what this book is for - to tell you what's out there, how to get to it, how to find it and how to enjoy it.
Welcome to St. John. Have fun exploring. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Top customer reviews
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On our second vacation to St. John we brought and still have used this book. AND-- as a little treat to ourselves, we took the author up on the offer she makes in the book, emailed her and hired her for a half day as our guide! If you enjoy her writing style and her knowledge, I highly recommend doing this. We walked the trail from East End Road to Brown Bay with Pam and all along the way she told us all kinds of things about the flora and fauna around us, taught my 5 year old how to "spider fish"--- for tarantulas!!!-- and even brought a package of Oreos as a post-hike treat before we snorkeled. It was a lot of fun. She's a spunky lady, as you might imagine, and has traveled the world but has lived in St. John for 28 years. What a unique experience!
We bought this book at Christmas time in preparation for a St. John vacation in February. As I write this we are 5 days in, have visited a different beach for snorkeling every day and have consulted this book every day. We have two other books as well and are using them all. Constantly. If you plan to visit St. John in the USVI, you'll be glad you have this detailed guide.
One important information not listed anywhere on the book info page: The description lists 2001 as the date the book was published. I was not sure whether to buy it, I was worried it would be outdated. We bough it anyway based on the reviews. The edition we received states the book was completely updated in 2009 and partially updated in 2013 and we had no problem with anything not being accurate.
The only flaw I found is that the book is getting a bit dated. Information about jeep rentals on the island, while accurate to some extent cannot reflect the current state of inflation and do not reflect the difficulty in securing a rental. This was a flaw in a few books that don't emphasize a need to make reservations for jeeps on the island.
Of course all books are going to get dated, and I am sure the author will take care of this in a newer edition of the book.
Overall, this is a fantastic book, and it would be a shame if it didn't continue to be updated. If you are going to St. John, you really need this book. My only wish was that they author would put together a similar guide for St. Thomas and some of the other Virgin Islands. There isn't another book out there as good as this one.
The only negative with this book is that it's almost completely text. There are only a few simple maps, and no photographs of the different locations. If you're interested in that, then check out St. John Off The Beaten Track.
If you're doing the all-inclusive resort thing, it's far more than you need. If you prefer the East End, as we do, it'll direct you to marvelous spots that can't be imagined from Center Line Road. And the cruise ships don't take their passengers there.
St. John road maps are more aspirational than accurate. Some of the marked "roads" are steep footpaths. Pam tells you which ones.