Hawksnest Bay has several fine beaches. From west to east, they are Caneel Hawksnest, Little Hawksnest, Public Hawksnest, Gibney beach, and Oppenheimer beach. But on the eastern side of Hawksnest Bay, about 100 yards north of Gibney Beach, there is another small sandy beach.
Except for its size, Mermaids Chair shares almost all of the wonderful characteristics of St. John’s world-renowned north shore beaches. You can instantly recognize it since there is a large rock that looks like a chair, hence the name.
Mermaid’s Chair has the same soft coral sand, but tidal conditions determine how much beach you actually have. The soft sand extends into the water, making it easy to enter the water. There’s shade in the mornings, beautiful views, and nice snorkeling along the coast in both directions.
Just to the south are the remains of an old sunken boat that once belonged to the son of the original owners of the lumberyard when it actually was a lumber yard. It wrecked when the mooring failed during a windy night.
In the early 1970s, there were several tents occupied by hippies on the ridge of the headland who frequented this very private and out-of-the-way little beach. The hillside was once referred to in an unfriendly way by some island residents unsympathetic to the hippie way of life.
How To Get To Mermaid’s Chair
This tiny beach is accessible by boat, kayak, paddleboard, swim, or by snorkeling from the Oppenheimer side of Gibney Beach towards the eastern shore or right when facing the ocean. At one time, there was a rugged trail through a thick bush leading to a section of the rock cliff behind the beach. There was even a rope placed to facilitate the descent and ascent of the rocks.
I once made my way down to the beach following this rough trail that led from the Northshore Road just a little west of the Peace Hill parking area to the top of the rocks behind the beach. From there, it was a relatively easy scramble down to the beach below.
In its current state, the best way to get to this little cove is by sea. If you arrive by boat, you can tie up to the mooring buoys just offshore.
Snorkeling At Mermaids Chair
The best spot to snorkle in Mermaids Chair is towards the way going to Oppenheimer Beach. Near this area, you can find a shallow reef that was once abundant with marine life but has deteriorated over time due to construction nearby. However, it has been recovering over the past years. You can find quite a lot of fish species, like butterflyfish, snappers, angelfish, and more.
The reef corral consists of brain and elkhorn coral. You don’t need to swim out too far out either, as the snorkeling is good within 20 feet of the shore.
Mermaid’s Chair is more popular for the privacy it offers, picture-perfect moments, and intimate surroundings rather than it’s snorkeling. Overall, it’s a pretty little beach with soft white sand and good snorkeling along the coast, and certainly unique in its size.