St. Eustatius, which is commonly referred to as “Statia”, was once an isolated island few people knew about. Unfortunately for purists, Statia is becoming increasingly popular as a destination, especially for its archaeological artifacts and pre-Colombian sites, which attract numerous students every year. St. Eustatius has also become a popular port of call for cruise ships in recent years.
The island’s history began when the Dutch settled it in 1636. The Dutch soon found themselves having to defend it against the British and French. St. Eustatius, in fact, changed hands more than 20 times before becoming a permanent Dutch possession in 1816. During the Revolutionary War when the British blockaded the thirteen American colonies, supplies were slipped to the Americans through Statia. St. Eustatius was actually one of the first foreign nations to salute the new American flag in 1776, earning it the nickname “America’s Childhood Friend”. Angered by this, Britain declared war on the Netherlands and sacked Statia. The French, however, ousted the British in 1786 and returned the island to the Dutch, after which the island returned to its role as a trading port. Since the 19th century, St. Eustatius has lost its wealth and importance in trade.
One of the main attractions of St. Eustatius is its scuba diving. Divers and snorkelers can explore the submerged ruins of the Dutch sea walls, which once were used to protect the island but are not sunk beneath the waters of the bay. There are also more than 200 sunken ships along with corals and fishes that can be explored.
Also popular is hiking, highlighted by a trek up The Quill, which is the prominent sight in Statia’s skyline. It is an extinct volcano that rises over 1,800 feet and is blanked with a rainforest featuring thick and wild foliage.
St. Eustatius is not typically known for its beaches, but the island has its fair share of them. For a different beaching experience, Smoke Alley Beach offers volcanic black and beige sands. More conventional beaches are found north of the capital, Oranjestad, where sunbathing and surfing can be done. Many of these beaches have blue glass beads, which were used as currency in the 1600s by the Dutch West Indies Company.
On the historical side, Statia is famous for its pre-Columbian artifacts, much of which have been carefully restored and proudly exhibited at the St. Eustatius Historical Foundation Museum. Fort Oranje is an interesting historic military site. It has been shelled numerous times over the last three or four centuries. British Admiral Rodney lived there when he pillaged the rest of the island.
There is not much of a nightlife in quiet St. Eustatius. There are a few bars in Oranjestad as well as musical entertainment provided in some of the town’s hotels. There are also local live bands and dancing, featuring reggae and calypso. Most of the nightlife is centered around Oranjestad’s main hotels and restaurants.