St. John USVI Beaches: Gibney & Oppenheimer BeachesExcerpted from St. John Beach Guide
Enter the driveway through the door in the iron gate and walk down the driveway to the shore. The renovated structure at the bottom of the driveway on the right is the former Oppenheimer home, which is now a community center.
The area in front of the community center is sometimes referred
to as Oppenheimer Beach, while the longer and wider southwestern
part is known as Gibney Beach. They are both geographically the
same beach, with names that
have been changing and evolving over time.
Beaches of Hawksnest Bay
Gibney Beach is 0.3 mile east of Hawksnest Bay or 2.1 miles east of Mongoose junction on Route 20. You will enter via the second driveway on your left after passing Hawksnest Beach. Limited parking is available in places where you can pull your vehicle completely off the road. Enter the driveway through the door in the iron gate and walk down the driveway to the shore.
Right off the Community Center (the old Oppenheimer house) is a shallow reef, which occasionally breaks through the surface of the water. Much of this reef was negatively impacted when a heavy rain occurred during the excavation for the Myrah Keating Smith Clinic. Tons of earth were washed down into Hawksnest Bay and the resulting turbidity damaged much of the coral in the bay. Today the reefs are coming back to life and you will see some beautiful live elkhorn and boulder coral, along with fire coral and other examples of reef life. Schools of small fish such as, goatfish, grunt and tang can commonly be seen in the area.
A narrow fringing reef runs along the eastern coastline. Close to the beach is a section of beautiful brain coral. The reef here is colorful and there is an abundance of small and medium size fish. Look for parrotfish, angelfish, squirrelfish, trunkfish and trumpetfish. Also, observe the predators such as yellowtail snapper and blue runners prowling the reef edges on the lookout for fry and other small prey.
More experienced snorkelers can continue along this eastern coast to the point and around to Perkins Cay and Denis Bay. Along the way is a small beach where you can stop and rest. Just before you come to this pocket beach you may see the remains of a sunken sailboat. As you progress northward along the coast you will encounter scattered areas of colorful coral, sponges, fish and other marine life in depths of about six to ten feet. Snorkeling here is best in the summer when there are no ground seas to churn up the water.