There are 3 ways to get to this hard-to-reach beach. We suggest you only consider 2 of them!
SWIM/SNORKEL – From Cruz Bay – take Rte 20 ( North Shore Road) approximately 2 miles – just beyond Hawksnest Beach. You’ll pass a white picket fence marking the Gibney’s property. Immediately after the fence is the gated entrance to Oppenheimer Beach and Gibney Beach. Parking is limited to just a few spots along the left side of the entrance. DO NOT BLOCK THE GATE. You’ll also find a single spot across from the Gibney’s entrance – that is cut into the woods. Once there – head through the iron gate and down the paved drive. At the bottom you’ll see the Oppenheimer Community Center building. From here you’ll snorkel or swim along the eastern shoreline ( right side as you face the water). Just around the first small “point” is the beach.
BY BOAT/KAYAK – The beach is located along the eastern shoreline of Hawksnest Bay. Many charters will know the location. If you are going by kayak out of Honeymoon: head east past Caneel and around the point. Paddle directly across Hawksnest Bay – aiming for a small pocket beach that’s about 175 yrds from the next point. The beach is small – but a nice spot to feel like you’ve discovered a private place on St John! NOTE: the day charters like this spot as well. Depending on the season and time of day you may get a boat or 2 moored up just off the beach.
HIKE/WALK – Not recommended. The local name for this beach is Rope Beach. After you’ve fought your way through the cactus, brush and vines …you’ll wish you’d brought a rope to lower yourself down to the sand! Take our word for it and skip this option!
Mermaid’s Chair Beach
First: This isn’t a traditional St John beach! It’s diminutive size and hard to reach location make it one of the less visited beaches on Saint John.
Second: During Winter months this beach doesn’t get much sun until after midday.
Third: It’s on many of the charter boat destinations for a short stop and snorkel.
That said, this is a fun location to put some distance between you and the crowds that sometimes fill the most popular beaches like Trunk, Cinnamon and Hawksnest. So that your expectations match the reality … this is a small pocket beach. When the tide is low it has a decent amount of white sand such that you can place your towel and gear out of reach of the waves. When the tide is high the beach’s size/depth shrinks considerable.
Snorkeling at Mermaid’s Chair Beach is best along the eastern side between Oppenheimer Beach and Mermaid’s Chair. The shallow reef just off Oppenheimer Beach is recovering from destruction inflicted during the construction of the Myrah Keating Smith Community Health Center – high up on the ridge above Hawksnest Bay. Construction runoff caused significant damage to a once impressive reef. Fortunately the corals, sea fans and marine life are returning. Continue on along the eastern shoreline in about 8′ to 15′ of water and the overall health of the reef increases dramatically. You’ll see a wide variety of Tangs, wrasses and snapper as well as established brain corals, sea fans, gorgonians, elkhorn and fire coral.