St. Eustatius; the Golden Rock

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Fort de Windt Sint-Eustatius

St. Eustatius; the Golden Rock

What comes to mind when thinking of the Caribbean are the white sandy beaches, swaying palm trees and cocktails. Or so I thought about it until I arrived ten years ago in St. Eustatius – Statia commonly called – and my complete assumption was nullified in a hit. In a negative way? Not at all, up to this day it’s one of my favorite islands. You find yourself still in the past on Statia, partly because the time seems to stand still there…

What makes the island so special? Or better yet, what makes the island different from other islands? Let me first explain something; no island in the Caribbean is similar to one another. That’s the beauty of the area. For example, it is literally a world of difference on the nearby subtropical Saba (32 km away). Or the further away (50 km) touristic Saint Martin. St. Eustatius is so special, because the island is completely different from the standard Caribbean thought. A strange hidden gem in the tropics with fantastic friendly people, volcanic sand beaches, plenty of ruins and here and there a lost palm tree.

Its great history

The small St. Eustatius is in size, the big it is in the (Dutch) history. After the discovery by Columbus, it came in Dutch possession in 1636. Initially, it was mainly used for the cultivation of tobacco and sugar. Did you know the island was the main transit port in the Caribbean? Daily up to 20 ships arrived and the anchorage off the coast of capital Oranjestad could have 200 ships. During Statia’s heydays, in 1779, more than 3,000 ships from Asia, America and Europe laid off the coast. As a result the island was called Golden Rock. Merchandise from around the world was stored in the warehouses of downtown Oranjestad. Because of that there are still remains to admire.

During Statia’s heydays, in 1779, more than 3,000 ships from Asia, America and Europe laid off the coast.

The island was led by Governor Johannes de Graaff. With gun salutes in 1776, St. Eustatius was the first region in the world who recognized the present United States. For the island itself it was a bad move. Four years later, Britain unleashed a war with The Netherlands, which lasted more than four years. In 1781 the island was robbed of all its wealth by British Admiral Rodney, who had a personal dislike to the island. Then, the economy managed briefly to flourish, but not like before. St. Eustatius fell into decline…

Time seems to stand still

This can be still seen today. On large parts of the island you will find (remains of) old warehouses, forts, potsherds and guns. It’s like walking through a history book. If you want to feel yourself just as powerful as the greats of the past, go to Fort de Windt, located at the far southeast of Statia. It is a dead end road, a fantastic intact small fort complete with cannons is waiting for you, along with breathtaking views of Saint Christopher (Saint Kitts) and Nevis. I have been told  you can spot whales with a little luck in the right season. Visit the place at night as well. You will be treated to a clear night sky, lights on the horizon and the sound of waves deep down smashing into the surf…

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