Francis Bay

St. John Beach Guide

Excerpted from St. John Beach Guide

Why Francis?
Francis Bay is a beach that really invites you to settle down and stay a while. It's an ideal beach for a picnic. The bay faces west, leeward of the trade winds and tends to be calmer than other north shore beaches.

Francis Bay, St. John USVI

During the week, there are not many visitors here, and because the beach is so big, it is almost always possible to find a nice private spot.

Getting There
If you are coming from Cruz Bay via Route 20, proceed to Maho Bay where the road leaves the shoreline and turns inland towards the right. From here, continue about 1.5 miles where you will come to an intersection with the road that runs along the Leinster Bay shoreline. Turn left and go to the stone building, which will be on your right. You can park here and take the walking trail or continue straight to the end of the road where you can park near the beach.

Francis Bay Beach, St. John US Virgin Islands

If you are arriving from Cruz Bay via Centerline Road, turn left at the Colombo Yogurt stand. Go down the hill and turn right at the first intersection. This will take you to the Leinster Bay shoreline where you will turn left and proceed to either the parking area by the stone building and take the walking trail or directly to the parking area by the beach.

Portable toilets are located at the main parking area where there is also a dumpster for trash. Picnic tables and barbecues can be found nestled between the trees at the edge of the beach.

The Francis Bay Trail runs along the salt pond behind the beach and is an excellent place for bird watching, especially early in the morning.

Francis Bay Pond Overlook

Francis Bay Pond Overlook

Snorkeling Francis Bay
Snorkelers take note, Francis Bay can be crowded - not with people, but with fish and sea birds.

Millions of fry frequent the shallow fringing reef along Francis Bay's rocky north shore. These small silvery fish travel in close proximity to one another in large schools that look like underwater clouds.

On the outskirts of these living clouds, in slightly deeper water, lurk predators, such as jacks, yellowtail snapper, Spanish mackerel, barracuda as well as some respectfully-sized tarpon and pompano. Every now and then, one of these larger fish will attack, moving quickly into the glittery mass. The fry are extremely sensitive to minute changes in water currents and can sense the approach of the hunters. In a burst of speed they move away from the oncoming predators. Some are successful and some are eaten. Some breach the surface of the water, fly through the air and splash back into the sea. This splash, however, puts them into yet more danger. Waiting pelicans, gulls and brown boobies swoop down in the vicinity of the splash scooping up their unsuspecting prey.

In the midst of all this activity, large schools of French grunts, oblivious to the drama around them, hover, almost motionless, over and around colorful live coral. Parrotfish and blue tang swim about, grazing on algae. Little damselfish defend their self-proclaimed territories by darting menacingly at intruders that are often much larger than them.

A closer look will reveal all sorts of beautiful and mysterious sea creatures like small eels, feather duster and Christmas tree worms, brightly colored sponges and gracefully swaying gorgonians like the colorful sea fan.

In the underwater grasslands just seaward of the reef, snorkelers may be fortunate enough to see large green sea turtles often accompanied by bar jacks that follow along just inches above the turtle's back. In this area, one may also see southern stingrays, conch and trunkfish.

Novices who feel more comfortable close to shore can have a rewarding snorkel around the rocks on the south side of the bay between Francis and Little Maho or over the seagrass that lies in shallow water on the other end of the beach.

Bring your snorkel gear and join the crowd!

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