St. Eustatius, or Statia, is aptly described as a sleepy corner of the Caribbean, even though the island historically was at the heart of the action as the English, French, Dutch, and Spanish fought for control of the Caribbean. "The Golden Rock" is one of the last great destinations where you can get a taste of the old Caribbean, a laid-back island with few flashy attractions but lots of great diving, well-preserved natural habitats, and history aplenty.
Statia Basic Travel Information
- Location: Part of the Netherlands, located in the Leeward Islands near St. Martin/Maarten, Saba, and St. Barths.
- Size: 8.1 square miles.
- Capital: Oranjestad
- Language: Dutch, English, Spanish
- Religions: Seventh Day Adventist, Methodist, Roman Catholic, Jehovah Witnesses, Bahai Faith, Baptist, Anglican, Apostolic Faith, Pentecostal, and World of Faith Ministry
- Currency: Antillean Guilder; U.S. dollar also widely accepted.
- Telephone/Area Code: 599.
- Tipping: 15%; service charge included at hotels.
- Weather: Arid tropical maritime; hurricane threat July-Nov.
- Airport: F.D. Roosevelt Airport (Check Flights). Most flights originate in St. Maarten; there is also regular ferry service from this nearby Dutch Caribbean island.
Diving is a big attraction in Statia thanks to its unique mix of warm water, healthy reefs, ample shipwrecks, and underwater volcanic landscape. The St. Eustatius Marine Park is part of Statia's diverse ecotourism offerings, which also include a dormant volcano sheltering a tropical rainforest and an extensive trail system. History buffs will find plenty to love about Statia, as well, including the fully restored circa 1629 Fort Oranje, the old Lower Town in Oranjestad, and the Lynch Plantation Museum.
Statia isn't really a beach destination, but there are a trio of swimmable beaches on the island: Oranje Beach on the Caribbean is calm with beige and black sand, while Zeelandia beach is a secluded strip on the Atlantic side of the island with rough waters and a dangerous undertow, therefore more suited to private sunbathing than swimming (in fact, swimming is expressly forbidden on some). Lynch Beach, also on the Atlantic, is a small beach with shallow waters best suited for close-to-shore bathing. None of the beaches are protected by lifeguards.
Statia Hotels and Resorts
Picking a hotel on Statia is fairly simple, since there are only five to choose from: The Country Inn with six rooms in a garden setting; the seaside, 20-room Golden Era Hotel; the Kings Well resort with its dozen villas and views of Oranje Bay; the 19-room Old Gin House, built of bricks carried as ship's ballast and surrounded by tropical gardens; and the Statia Lodge, with 10 private cottages located between a dormant volcano and the Caribbean.
Statia is hardly a culinary destination like nearby St. Barths, but the island's dozen-plus restaurants include some interesting options. Fine dining is generally limited to hotels like the Kings Well and the Old Gin House, but don't miss the Ocean View Terrace, located in the courtyard of the Government Guest House overlooking Fort Oranje. Most restaurants are casual, and choices include burgers, pizza, local cuisine, and a surprising number of Chinese restaurants. The Smoke Alley Bar and Grill is an open-air beach bar and restaurant; the Blue Bead Bar and Restaurant in Lower Town Oranjestad is renowned for its Italian and French cuisine.
Statia Culture and History
Now considered a sleepy outpost, Statia was once one of the busiest -- and most fought-over -- islands in the Caribbean. Possession of the island changed hands at least 22 times during the battle for control between the Dutch and Spanish, and Statia's busy port also was the main conduit for arms for the American colonies as they fought the British in the Revolutionary War. After more than 150 years of declining fortunes, Statia began developing its tourism infrastructure in the 1960s and 1970s.
Statia Events and Festivals
Carnival, held annually on Statia since 1964, is the highlight of the island's festival calendar, celebrated over the span of two weeks each July and early August. Statia-America Day is Nov. 16, recognizing the fact that St. Eustatius was the first nation on Earth to acknowledge the independence of the U.S. Other major holidays include the Queen's Birthday (April 30), Emancipation Day (July 1), and Antillean Day (Oct. 21).
Statia is not a party destination, so you'll find the nightlife here generally limited to the hotel lounge and a handful of bars. The Smoke Alley Bar and Grille on Gallows Bay, an open-air beach bar, is probably your best bet for a classic Caribbean experience. Local bands also typically play at bars in downtown Oranjestad on weekends. The island comes alive for the annual Carnival celebration in July and August, however.