Beach Break at Oppenheimer!

View from Oppenheimer Beach where someone has so generously hung a tire swing from the coconut palm!
View from Oppenheimer Beach where someone has so generously hung a tire swing from the coconut palm!

Need a Beach Break? Let’s visit Oppenheimer Beach!

I know many people on the East Coast are dealing with the aftermath of strong storms the last day or two, so I thought I would offer a view of a much calmer and warmer place just waiting for your return!

View back towards Oppenheimer Beach, St. John.
View back towards Oppenheimer Beach, St. John.

One of my favorite beaches to visit when I stayed at Maho Bay Camp and also while I have lived here is Oppenheimer Beach. The sand here has eroded to almost nothing but the beach itself is still beautiful and lined with coconut palm trees. The water is the most incredible turquoise blue, especially in the summer when the angle of the sun shifts and the beach is not put into the shade as quickly as it is in the winter months.

My favorite memory of this beach was back in July of 2000 when Inner Visions, a local reggae band, was playing next to the house on Oppenheimer Beach, and food and drinks were for sale as a fundraising for a local organization. After a 10 minute downpour of liquid sunshine, as we call a sunny rain shower, we headed down to the water with our drinks and listened to reggae while dancing in the bay! It was my quintessential Caribbean beach day!

Often referred to as Gibney beach, Oppenheimer Beach is the same stretch of sand. Gibney is about 3/4th of the beach that is closer to Hawksnest Beach, while Oppeheimer is the the small beach on the opposite side with a small building and now a tire swing!  Robert Oppenheimer, “the father of the Atomic Bomb” used to own this small piece of land, which was later inherited by his daughter. When his daughter died she donated it to “The Children of St. John”.

Looking up from the tire swing at the coconut palm tree at Oppenheimer Beach.
Looking up from the tire swing at the coconut palm tree at Oppenheimer Beach.

In light of the fact that the Government Shutdown has closed all public access to the beaches, bays and hiking trails of the National Park here on St. John, as well as stopped any personal or charter boats from mooring in the bays, I am inclined to want the new owners of the Maho land to make any donation to the VI Government or to St. John in some way. Locally we enforce public access to all beaches up to the high tide or tree line. When you consider the beaches and bays incorporated into the VI National Park, it is almost all of the beautiful North Shore beaches that visitors come her for and locals go to on their days off. The idea of arresting someone for going for a swim in the ocean is absurd and requires more manpower than is ever put forth when the government is not shutdown.

Some specifics of my above paragraph could probably be nitpicked for the more technically accurate information, but I am more interested in two ideas to consider:

  1.  Maybe there is an alternative way to donate land for public use on St. John than the VI National Park, since any mandate that our tax dollars go to keeping these areas open to the public seems to be in question. Really, who closes the Ocean?!
  2. Living on the island already means you are working with limited resources – of income, food, entertainment, etc. Many are happy with that, of course, but when you close access to 65 or 75% of the entire island, it hurts everyone in one way or another – vacationers who saved all year to come visit our beaches, those who charter boats for snorkeling and sailing to the bays, locals needing to cool off in an afternoon swim in the hottest month of the year or looking for some exercise by going on a hike…
Afternoon beach break at Oppenheimer Bay, St. John.
Afternoon beach break at Oppenheimer Bay, St. John.

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4 thoughts on “Beach Break at Oppenheimer!”

  1. After my first visit to St John and Maho Bay Camps, thirty some years ago, I was back the next year. Then a hiatus, half a decade trying to find a better island. Chalk that up to the foolishness of youth. Back to St John and Maho. Over time I made it my habit and goal to be on St John twice a year. Snorkeling, hiking and finding that perfect, isolated spot to hang my hammock for siesta.

    Oppenheimer. I chanced upon it by trespassing across the rusty gates. This was not the perfect place to hike or to snorkel. It was the best possible spot to pitch a hammock, read a book, lightly drift off to the music of Drake’s Passage and then, to jump in the waves (a better wake me up than coffee).

    I suspect whoever designed this place had the hammock in mind when spacing the palms. And in the early days it was all mine.

    Over time I learned to share Oppenheimer with the fellowship of islanders and visitors. Their innate kindness as well as their stories made up for any disturbance. This was especially true for visiting locals who, with any luck, did not resent my presence.

    I have a photo of my grandson taking his afternoon rest in my hammock at Oppenheimer. Perfect!

  2. It is sad to hear that the beaches are being patrolled, rather than simply being left with signs saying ‘national park beach close – use at your own risk’ or something like that.

    Someone should do an island economics study of St John. Maho Bay Camps economics alone would make, or would have made, a fine PHD thesis.

    1. I agree Charlie, and thankfully, just before an “Occupy” the beaches party organized by locals last week, the beaches and bays were reopened!

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