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St John beaches: Francis Bay

St. John USVI Beaches: Francis Bay

Excerpted from St. John Beach Guide © 2006 Gerald Singer

Why Francis
Francis Bay is a St. John beach that really invites you to settle down and stay a while. It’s an ideal beach for a picnic. The bay faces west, leeward of the trade winds and tends to be calmer than other north shore beaches.

During the week, there are not many visitors here, and because the beach is so big, it is almost always possible to find a nice private spot.

Getting There
If you are coming from Cruz Bay via Route 20, proceed to Maho Bay where the road leaves the shoreline and turns inland towards the right. From here, continue about 1.5 miles where you will come to an intersection with the road that runs along the Leinster Bay shoreline. Turn left and go to the stone building, which will be on your right. You can park here and take the walking trail or continue straight to the end of the road where you can park near the beach.

st john virgin islands beaches: francis bay
Sunfish at Francis Bay

If you are arriving from Cruz Bay via Centerline Road, turn left at the Colombo Yogurt stand. Go down the hill and turn right at the first intersection. This will take you to the Leinster Bay shoreline where you will turn left and proceed to either the parking area by the stone building and take the walking trail or directly to the parking area by the beach.

francis bay st john usvi
Francis Bay

Facilities
Portable toilets are located at the main parking area where there is also a dumpster for trash. Picnic tables and barbecues can be found nestled between the trees at the edge of the beach.

The Francis Bay Trail runs along the salt pond located just inland of the beach and is an excellent place for bird watching, especially early in the morning.

Snorkeling
The rocky north coast on the right hand side of the beach offers excellent snorkeling, especially during the summer months when large schools of fry congregate close to shore. These small silvery fish travel in close proximity to one another in large schools that look like moving underwater shadows.

st john virgin islands beaches: francis bay
Francis Bay from Overlook

On the outskirts of these living clouds, in slightly deeper water, lurk predators, such as jacks, yellowtail snapper, Spanish mackerel and barracuda as well some respectfully-sized tarpon and pompano. Every now and then, one of these larger fish will enter to feed, moving quickly into the glittery mass. The fry are extremely sensitive to minute changes in water currents and can sense the approach of the hunters. In a burst of speed, they move away from the oncoming predators. Some are successful and some are eaten. Some breach the surface of the water, fly through the air and splash back into the sea. This splash, however, puts them into yet more danger. Waiting pelicans and brown boobies swoop down in the vicinity of the splash scooping up big mouthfuls of unlucky fry.

In the midst of all this activity, large schools of French grunts, oblivious to the drama around them, hover, almost motionless, over and around colorful live coral. Parrotfish and blue tang swim about grazing on algae. Little damselfish defend their self-proclaimed territories by darting menacingly at even large intruders.

A closer look will reveal all sorts of beautiful and mysterious sea creatures like small eels, feather duster and Christmas tree worms, brightly colored sponges and gracefully swaying gorgonians such as the colorful sea fan.

In the underwater grasslands just seaward of the reef, snorkelers are likely to come upon large green sea turtles often accompanied by stuck-on remora or bar jacks that follow along just inches above the turtle’s back. In this area one may also see southern stingrays, conch, trunkfish, and others.

Novices who feel more comfortable close to shore can have a rewarding snorkel around the rocks on the south side of the bay between Francis and little Maho or over the seagrass that lies in shallow water on the other end of the beach.