Travel Guide, Photos and tips for exploring Eustatius
Sint. Eustatius is one of the islands of the Netherlands Antilles in the Caribbean Sea. It is just northeast of the primary Antilles, Aruba, Bonaire and Curacao. Its name comes from that of the Christian martyr, St. Eustace, and is sometimes referred to by the nickname Statia.
About 2500 residents live on the 8.1 square mile island, which is served by the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Airport.
Its motto is “The Historic Gem,” which may seem surprising given the sleepy nature of the island today. Yet at one time it was the most important shipping center in the Caribbean. During the American Revolution, the relaxed trading regulations imposed by the Dutch propelled it to prominence as merchants sought out a safe and inexpensive location for operations in the New World. The islanders raised sugar cane, and also manufactured arms and munitions. This commodity was much sought after by the colonists rebelling against Great Britain, and it was the primary source of weapons for those early Americans. As a result, Sint Eustatius was the first nation to officially recognize the United States. The American brigantine, Andrew Doria, fired a salute in the harbor on November 16, 1776. The commander of Fort Oranje on the island returned the eleven-gun salute, thus recognizing the new nation.
As a result of continual European wars, Sint Eustatius was passed back and forth from the Dutch, British, French, and other nations over the time since it was first claimed by Christopher Columbus for the Spanish.
Geographically, the island appears as a saddle between two volcanic peaks. The Quill (Dutch for pit– referring to the crater at its top) is on the southeast end, and two small hills form the northwestern height of the saddle. These are known as Signal Hill and Little Mountain. The Quill is 60 m (1,970 ft) high, and is now within a national park which includes ten hiking trails. Although the surrounding area and slopes of The Quill appear rather barren, the crater contains a lush rainforest. Seventeen kinds of orchids, bromeliads, tree ferns, mahogany, ginger bush and other plants create a suitable environment for iguanas, butterflies, crabs, and other exotic wildlife.
The National Parks of Sint Eustatius include three primary areas. The Quill/Boven area includes the dormant volcano and one of the smaller peaks. Primary attractions are the rainforest and a natural limestone wall on the south side of the volcano.
The National Marine Park encircles the island of Sint Eustatius from the water line to the 30-meter depth contour. Coral reefs and shipwrecks are popular with diving tourists. The third portion of the park is the Miriam Schmidt Botanical Garden dedicated to studying and preserving the flora of the island. It also contains hiking trails and picnic areas.
Although Sint Eustatius is small, there are plenty of comfortable lodgings in the main town of Oranjestad which maintain Caribbean charm. International dining options are offered, not surprisingly, on an island with such a varied history. French, Dutch and Asian dining are popular, as is Caribbean fare.
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