After breakfast, we decided the best thing to do on our first day was to orient ourselves a bit more to the island and the park by driving back to Cruz Bay along North Shore Road, this time able to see all the vistas that had been hidden by darkness. In Cruz Bay, we could stop in at the visitor center and learn about any activities happening in the park during our time on the island.
We climbed into the Jeep and headed out. Although it was easier to navigate the steep twists and turns by day, without headlights there was less warning about approaching cars around the blind curves.
When we reached Cinnamon Bay (see map), we decided to stop and explore the ruins of the estate’s sugar and bay rum factory, which was visible from the road. It was about 10:30 am, and the parking lot was bustling with families and couples headed to the beach. (Cinnamon Bay is also the location of the park’s only campground for tents, and we were very glad we’d opted for the seclusion of Concordia.)
Instead of heading to the water, we crossed the road to the ruins, where a wheelchair accessible boardwalk winds through a stand of bay rum trees. In 1903, the factory began processing the essential oil of the leaves into St. John Bay Rum cologne and lotion.
Most buildings from the colonial era were constructed from walls made of rocks, brick, and hard, dense coral (like brain coral) held together by a quicklime mortar (made of crushed shells and coral heated in a kiln) and then covered with stucco.
Throughout the second half of the eighteenth century through the first half of the nineteenth, the estate produced sugar, rum, and molasses, only later turning to bay rum as the emancipation of slaves in the Danish West Indies in 1848 brought the sugar plantation era to a close.
Two cemeteries are located on the property. One, on the slope above the ruins of the estate’s great house, is from the twentieth century, including a tomb that is less than a year old.
Beyond the runis of the estate, a half-mile long, self-guiding trail loops through the forest past interpretive signs.
I had no idea that deer were present on the island until we spotted some along the trail. White-tailed deer were introduced to the island during the colonial era, and the the population was restocked in the late 1930s by the United States.
The second, much older cemetery lies further along the trail with graves from the Danish colonial era.
The loop ended at the ruins of the estate’s great house and separate kitchen. We were surprised both at how small it was and that it was in such an advanced state of disrepair since it had been occupied up until 1969.