Why Leinster? Leinster Bay includes two inner bays, Mary Creek on the west
and Waterlemon Bay on the east . A small, tranquil sand beach
can be found at Waterlemon Bay. Just offshore of the beach
is a small island, Waterlemon Cay, (not Watermelon)
providing what most visitors describe as the "best
snorkeling on St. John." This beach also makes an excellent
cooling-off stop after a hike on the Leinster
Bay, Johnny Horn or Brown
Bay Trails. Another plus for Waterlemon Bay is
that you can almost always count on the sea to be quiet and calm,
even in the winter when the ground seas are up.
Leinster Bay was once called "Smith Bay." The current name "Leinster Bay" was adopted by James Murphy, a St. Thomas merchant, slave trader and ship owner, who purchased Leinster Bay, and surrounding estates in 1796. The name Leinster came from the province in Ireland where his family came from.
In 1918, Luther K. Zabriskie offered the following description
of Leinster Bay in his book,
The United States Virgin Islands: “Smith Bay with its fine bathing beach cannot be easily forgotten.
The bottom of the bay is of beautiful white sand spread like
There are pit toilets and a trash bin near the parking lot.
Because dueling was illegal in the Danish West Indies, those
convinced of the necessity of settling disputes or defending
their honor in this manner would travel to Tortola where the
practice was legal. In 1800, however, the British Virgin Islands
also prohibited dueling. Consequently, the remote and uninhabited
island of Waterlemon Cay, far from the eyes of Danish or British
authorities, became the new "field of honor."
Beach at Waterlemon Bay
From the beach, you can access the fine snorkeling around Waterlemon
Cay, the small island just offshore. (Many visitors name this
as their favorite snorkel.)
Enter the water from the beach and snorkel to the island. The
shoreline water is shallow, and the bottom is a mixture of sand
and coral rubble. It is about a 0.2-mile snorkel to the fringing
reef off Waterlemon Cay. Between the beach and the island you
will snorkel over an environment of seagrass in about twenty
feet of water where you can often see starfish, sea cucumbers,
green turtles and stingrays.
decrease the snorkeling distance to the island, follow the trail
at the far end of the beach. Bear left at the first fork in the
trail, which runs along the coastline. At the end of this trail,
walk along the shore and choose a convenient place close to Waterlemon
Cay to enter the water. The distance across the channel to the
island is only about 0.1 mile. This entry is from the rocky shoreline
to a rocky bottom. Be careful not to step on live coral or sea
From this entry point to the eastern part of Waterlemon Cay,
you will snorkel over an area of seagrass and scattered reef.
Closer to the island, the water becomes quite shallow. Here you
will see schools of blue tang and some very large parrotfish.
You can sometimes hear the parrotfish crunching their beak-like
teeth along the surface of the rocks and dead coral. They do
this to scrape off algae. Chunks of coral and algae pass through
the parrotfish's unique digestive system and are excreted as
fine coral sand. Much of the sand on our beautiful beaches is
produced in this manner.
The south and east sides of Waterlemon Cay are bordered by a
shallow-water fringing reef. The reef on the west and north sides
of the cay is deeper, descending to a depth of about twenty feet.
The reef is teeming with fish and other sea creatures. There
are several varieties of coral to be found here, all healthy
and colorful and the sea fans and sea plumes found in the deeper
parts of the reef will give you the impression of swimming about
in an underwater forest.
Look for eels in holes in the reef and for octopus where you
find opened seashells piled together.
There is often an offshore current around Waterlemon Cay, especially
on the western side of the island, which will be stronger during
new and full moons. If you are not a strong swimmer, keep this
in mind. If you get into trouble, follow the current; go around
the island and return on the other side.