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A Closer Look: Murphy Great House

Hello everyone, and happy Friday! Yesterday we brought you along to one of our favorite hiking spots – the Murphy Great House, which is located near the Annaberg plantation. (Click here to read all about it in case you missed it.) Well today, I’d like to share a two minute video that I took for you. Take a walk through the site with me to get a better glimpse of this property and its incredible views.

And as always, you can see all of my videos at www.explorestj.com/videos

Want to see St. John in real time? Check out our webcam page at www.explorestj.com/webcams

Enjoy!

Go off the beaten path. See beautiful beaches. Explore centuries-old historical sites. Grab a cocktail or two along the way. But most importantly, have fun! Explore STJ island tours is rated “Excellent” on TripAdvisor.

On the Trail: Leinster Bay Trail to Murphy Great House

St John Murphy Great House at Annaberg
The view from the Great House

Anyone who knows me knows that I love a good walk in the woods, and we are beyond lucky to have more than 20 hiking trails throughout the island. One of my absolute favorite hikes is up to the Murphy Great House. But before I get into the actual hiking aspect of today’s post, I’d like to tell you a bit about this part of the island and its history. 

The Murphy Great House, which is located at the Annaberg plantation, is named for James Murphy, an Irish shipowner, St. Thomas merchant and slave trader. Mr. Murphy bought Waterlemon Bay back in 1796, and renamed it Leinster Bay soon thereafter, according to the St. John Historical Society. Within a year of owning the parcel, Murphy acquired Annaberg and Mary Point estates and then added a portion of the former deWintsberg estate, known as Betty’s Hope. He then started to build what was considered at the time to be a state-of-the-art sugar factory at Annaberg. 

(The Annaberg site still remains and is maintained by the Virgin Islands National Park. You can view the former windmill, horse mill, boiling house, remnants of the enslaved laborers’ village, cook house (built later on), and a beautiful garden, which is lovingly maintained by my dear friend Charles.)

Mr. Murphy continued to acquire land, and in 1803 added the Munsburry plantation to his landholdings. Four years later, he purchased the nearby Brown Bay estate. By that time, he had amassed 1,245 acres of land. And off that, 494 acres were planted in sugar cane. According to the St. John Historical Society, this was the largest amount of sugar land ever controlled by one person in the history of St. John. 

Murphy’s land. Image source: Estate Consolidation, Land Use, and Ownership: A GIS Archaeological Landscape Survey of St. John, Danish West Indies (1780-1800), with a Particular Focus on Annaberg Plantation

Murphy House, the destination of this hike, is the former homesite of Mr. Murphy. It is located high on a hill, above the Annaberg plantation site, and overlooks Leinster Bay and the Sir Francis Drake Channel. The site has spectacular views of the British View Islands and beyond. The views, in my opinion, are some of the best on island. Mr. Murphy controlled this land until his death in 1808. The land was then appraised separately. Some was sold off to his creditors, while some was split among his heirs.

Murphy Great House location

The hike to the Murphy Great House takes about 30 minutes or so in each direction. The time varies based on your pace, of course, and how often you choose to stop and take pictures along the way. I recommend sneakers for this hike, although it is doable in flip flops or sandals. I usually carry a bottle of water with me, although there are typically nice easterly breezes that cool you along the way.

To take this hike, you’ll want to park in the small lot below the Annaberg plantation. Then walk toward the water where you will see a sign for the Leinster Bay Trail. Follow the rocky path along the shoreline and through the mangroves. After about 15 to 20 minutes, you will arrive at the beach at Waterlemon Bay.

The trail to Murphy Great House starts here.

Walk across the sandy beach until you see an opening into the woods. Take a right into the woods, and, almost immediately, you see a sign for the Johnny Horn trail. You’ll want to walk toward the left and up a slight hill.

The path is to the right here near the end of the beach.
The path up to the guardhouse and Great House is to the left of this sign.

After less than five minutes, you will see a small path on your left that leads you to the former guardhouse site. This structure was purposefully located in a strategic spot, so the overseer was able to keep an eye on the the Fungi Passage, between Whistling Cay and Mary Point, and the Narrows, which separates Great Thatch and St. John. 

Remnants of the guardhouse

From the guardhouse, continue your walk uphill. After a roughly five minute climb, you will come to an intersection. Take a left to visit Murphy Great House. (The trail continuing straight leads to the Brown Bay trail and ultimately out to Coral Bay.

Once you arrive, be careful of the loose stone at the bottom of the stairs. From atop the site, you will see Annaberg in the distance off to your left, Tortola to your right, Waterlemon Cay below, Great Thatch to the far right, and glimpses of St. Thomas and Jost Van Dyke, among other islands, in the distance. There is a picnic table up there as well, so perhaps pack a lunch or a snack or two, and soak in the beauty St. John has to offer. Check out some more pics I took for you…

Pretty incredible, isn’t it?

Please check back tomorrow to see a video I took from my hike. It’s a bit long, so I decided to save it for its own post. In the meantime, I hope you all have a wonderful day. And if you’d like to see more of the island or perhaps learn a thing or two about St. John’s amazing history while having an amazing day during your vacation, please be sure to check out Explore STJ island tours at www.ExploreSTJ.com

New Webcam Alert!

Hello everyone, and happy Tuesday! I know how much you all love webcams as much as I do, so you’re going to love this!

A brand new webcam popped up over the weekend at Tropical Panorama, a five-bedroom villa located in Cruz Bay. The webcam is situated above the mouth of the bay and has northernly views out toward Lovango Cay. Check it out:

Great view, right?!

You can see this webcam and over 20 more on our webcam page at www.explorestj.com/webcams.

Go off the beaten path. See beautiful beaches. Explore centuries-old historical sites. And more…

Mind = Blown (Thanks to all of you!)

Oppenheimer Gibney beach St John US Virgin Islands

Hello everyone, and happy Monday! I just wanted to write a quick post to thank you all for reading Island Tidbits! I have to admit, my mind has been absolutely blown by the response. When I first started this way back when (ok, it was only 12 days ago lol), I wasn’t sure how it would be received or if anyone would actually take the time to read it. Well you know what? You did! And I am so thankful!

Now that my nerves have subsided (you like me, you really like me!), I am super excited to be on this journey again. I absolutely LOVE sharing stories and videos from the island. I definitely have a lot of ideas up my sleeve ( including some super random stuff like that one time a family of bats decided to take up residence in my wall or when a bird from Puerto Rico decided to move into Palm Tree Charters‘ porch), but I’m interested in your feedback too. So if there is anything specific you’d like to know more about or if there’s something you’d like me to feature, please either leave your suggestion in the Comments section here on the site, or email me at jenn@explorestj.com.

Now let’s get to some housekeeping…

  1. If you are interested in taking an island tour, please check out Explore STJ. I offer both full and half day tours. Together we can go off the beaten path, see beautiful sights, check out amazing beaches, explore historical sites, perhaps grab a cocktail or two (you , not me, of course!) and more. Please visit www.ExploreSTJ.com to learn more, or send me an email at jenn@explorestj.com.
  2. In case you missed it, you can find nearly two dozen webcams all in one spot at www.explorestj.com/webcams. Bookmark the page, and check out your favorite island spot 24/7!
  3. And if you’re looking for videos, you will find every video we post in one spot too! You can see them at www.explorestj.com/videos.
  4. And last, but certainly not least, Island Tidbits has its first advertiser! Woohoo! I would like to give a huge THANK YOU to Elaine Estern, owner of Coconut Coast Studios, for supporting this website. Elaine has great stuff, including amazing artwork and a brand new calendar, so please be certain to check out her website at www.coconutcoaststudios.com. We will definitely have more on Elaine later this week!

Again, thank you all so much for reading! Have a wonderful day!

On the Road: Hawksnest to Maho Bay

Visit your favorite north shore spots including Trunk Bay with my latest GoPro video.

For those of you who know me, you know how much I love securing my GoPro to the Jeep and taking fun island videos for all of you. Well I did just that earlier this summer, and I’m excited to share it today. I labeled some of my favorite spots during the video too, so you can use this as a handy little guide to check out your favorite places along the north shore.

This video clocks in at just under 16 minutes, which is long, I know. Below the video is a quick reference list of some of your favorite places and the time they pop up in the video. You can save some time by checking it out that way if you prefer. Or you can grab yourself another coffee (or heck, make yourself a cocktail!), pop on your favorite island tunes, and enjoy 16 minutes of paradise. 🙂 Have fun!

You can find this video and all of my videos at www.explorestj.com/videos

  • Hawksnest parking area: :05
  • Gibney Cottages property: 1:31
  • Oppenheimer: 1:48
  • View across Hawksnest Bay: 2:13
  • Easter Rock: 2:23
  • Peace Hill parking area: 2:47
  • Jumbie: 3:21
  • Trunk Bay overlook: 4:28
  • Trunk Bay parking area: 5:38
  • Trunk Bay switchbacks: 6:11
  • Peter Bay: 6:53
  • Upper Peter Bay: 7:04
  • Road to Catherineberg: 8:26
  • Cinnamon Bay entrance: 9:39
  • Cinnamon Bay sugar factory: 10:42
  • Maho Bay overlook: 12:50
  • Maho Crossroads: 14:34
  • Reef2Peak: 14:52
  • Maho Bay (turtle side): 15:49
Go of the beaten path, visit beautiful beaches, explore St. John’s rich history & so much more.