A Day in St. Eustatius

Unless you're a diver or a history buff, chances are you have never heard of St. Eustatius, or Statia, as it is often called. So many ships once crowded its harbor that it was tagged the Emporium of the Western World. That abruptly changed in 1776. With an 11-gun salute to the American Andrew Doria, Statia became the first country to recognize U.S. independence. Great Britain retaliated by economically devastating the island.

Fort Oranje, from where famous shots came, is a history buff favorite. In Oranjestad, it has protected the island beginning in 1636. Its courtyard houses the original Dutch Reformed Church (1776). Honen Dalim, one of the oldest synagogues in the Caribbean (1738), is on Synagogepad (Synagogue Path).

The island's interior is gorgeous. For hikers, the Quill is the challenge. The long and windy trail to the top of the 1,968-foot crater is lined with wild orchids, frilly ferns, elephant ears, and various other kinds of flora. Beaches, on the other hand, hold little attraction. There's no real sandy spot on the Caribbean shore, and the beaches on the Atlantic side are too rough for swimming.

Statia is a pleasant change from the bustle of St. Maarten. No matter how much time you spend on the island, locals will wave or beep at you in recognition. You never feel like a stranger.

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