A couple of years ago I had my friend and his family down for a week. His kids were 4 and 6 at the time. We ended up spending four or five night moored in Francis Bay on the north side of St John in the middle of the National Park.
I know some of you are thinking that sounds boring, but we had a blast, because within a mile or so there are six beaches, 2 hikes, multiple historic ruins, and several great snorkels.
Francis Bay has a long beach, but it is fairly narrow. The bay makes up for the beach by almost always having a cooling breeze, a cool board walk through a mangrove swamp, Annaberg sugar factory nearby, and two great beaches right next door. It is a great place for us to finish each day as we lounged around in the water at sunset.
Moving clockwise you have Maho Bay half a mile away and it has a nice beach and descent snorkeling from the shore. This beach turned out to be my friend’s family’s favorite. In fact this bay is so nice a little old lady decided to built a house here in the 50’s and had to haul all the material to the top of a small hill with the use of mules. She wrote a book about it and wanted to call it “I Did It With Donkeys”, but her publisher wisely made her call it “Grandma Raises A Roof”.
Moving on we come to my favorite beach on the north side, Cinnamon Bay. This is the NPS campground and the vibe is great with everyone so relaxed. Across the street you will find a half mile nature hike starting at the bay rum factory ruins. While walking smell the leave of the bay rum tree (very straight tree with no bark). You can also hike up American Hill for a great view (1st photo).
The last beach is Trunk Bay with its underwater snorkel trail. This is the most popular beach and does have the softest sand, but it can get crowded sometimes.
The last place I want to tell you about is Whistling Cay across the bay. The west end of this island has some incredible snorkeling (make sure it is not too rough though) and the east end has a customs house ruin from the Danish days (even then governments wanted their tax money!!!).