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St. Thomas’s Legendary Scenic Lookout, The View & The Story




Drake's seat

Drake’s Seat Scenic Lookout is located on the Nothside of St. Thomas in the US Virgin Islands. From this special vantage point, you can enjoy a stunning panoramic view of the north side of the island, down through the east end, and out to the British Virgin Islands. The vista includes Magens Bay Beach, the Magens Bay Watershed Preserve, neighborhoods including Estate Lovenland and Estate Wintberg, plus Outer Brass, Hans Lollick Island, Thatch Cay, Little Tobago, and on the horizon the islands of St. John, and Jost Van Dyke. Drake’s Seat is a good spot to watch the sun set.

The view from Drake’s Seat is the gem at this attraction. The lookout itself is simple in design. On one side of the road is a roadside pullover with maybe a dozen parking spaces, and on the other side is an iconic green (formerly red) bench. The main activity here is to slow down, enjoy the gorgeous view, and take photos as souvenirs or to share on Facebook and Instagram.

Drake’s Seat is a popular stop for visitors to the island. It is often combined with visiting other nearby attractions such as Magens Bay Beach, Mountain Top, Phantasea Tropical Botanical Garden, and the Tree Limin' Extreme Zipline. In addition to visitors, Drakes’s Seat also sees a fair number of residents. In the afternoons, and on weekends, it’s common for residents to stop by Drake’s Seat to enjoy nature’s beauty.

There is no admission fee to visit Drake’s Seat and you don’t need reservations or tickets. The lookout is located literally just off the main road. Commercial activities are prohibited at Drake’s Seat so don’t expect to find food/drinks or souvenirs for sale. There are a few options for food/drinks within a 5-minute drive from Drake’s Seat, including Brooks Bar & Restaurant, Northside Grind, Root 42 Bar & Grill and Udder Delights Ice Cream Parlor.

Getting to Drake’s Seat:

Drake’s Seat is a popular stop on island tours. Tour groups typically stop for around 10 minutes before continuing to the next stop. It’s just enough time for you to take a few photos and enjoy the view. If you are visiting the island on a cruise ship, and taking a cruise ship excursion, look for one that includes Drakes Seat. The lookout is typically combined with a visit to Magens Bay or Mountain Top. Visitors staying on the island can arrange for an island tour or take a taxi to Drakes Seat. Read About St. Thomas Island Tours

If you have a rental car, you can drive yourself to Drake’s Seat. It’s an easy stop on the way to or from Magens Bay Beach. If you are using a navigational app, using the location ‘Drake’s Seat’ should get you there.

Tip: Drake’s Seat is located on the bend of a road, use caution when pulling into and out of the parking. Also check the cruise ship schedule before heading to Drake’s Seat, it’s a popular stop and receives steady traffic on days with multiple cruise ships in port. View St. Thomas Cruise Ship Schedule

History of Drake’s Seat: Was Sir Francis Drake ever there?

Caribbean history includes factual and legendary stories of pirates, privateers, and buccaneers. There are documented accounts that St. Thomas’s natural harbor was an anchorage for some salty sailors. And that a couple of the early governors of the island had friendly, and sometimes lucrative, alliances with a few men of the sea.

BUT WHAT ABOUT SIR FRANCIS DRAKE AND DRAKE’S SEAT?

The popular legend on St. Thomas is that Sir Francis Drake stood on the spot that is now home to the overlook bearing his name. That he used its commanding position to keep an eye out for enemy ships. The story is reinforced by the green bench at the look which has an inset that says, “The Drake Seat”. The account, however, has been dismissed by most as a historical fantasy. Still, there are a few island residents that maintain that even though documentary evidence has not been found, they still think there is a remote possibility that Drake was there during one his voyages through the West Indies, and so the legend continues.

In more recent times we know that the area was well regarded for taking in the view.

For example, the article “A Short Guide for Tourists and Visitors” from a 1908 newspaper states that visitors can take a small pony and “go round Louisenhoj and Ma Folie and gaze upon the Caribbean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean with the beautiful Magens Bay in the foreground”.

Some suggest that the Drake Seat bench was built in the 1930’s at the spot where views were being enjoyed, by the then owner of the property, Arthur S. Fairchild. This account continues that Fairchild built the bench as a rest spot for island residents walking between downtown Charlotte Amalie and the Northside of the island. At that time the area’s country roads were still dirt-tracks passable on foot, or on donkeys and horses.

In February 1948, President Harry S. Truman visited St. Thomas. A photo from that visit shows Truman with Governor William Hastie of the Virgin Islands at the Drake's Seat overlook. On that trip Truman traveled with 28 journalists from leading US media and on his agenda were improvements in the territory, including the economy. The photos of Truman at Drake’s Seat and in the Virgin Islands were well circulated, helping to focus attention on the Virgin Islands as a travel destination.

The road passing the scenic look out was eventually paved by the government and there were improvements to the scenic pullout/parking area. Drake’s Seat was on the map as an island attraction. The site was, however, on private property which came with the possibility that the easement could be revoked, and the property developed for private use.

In 2004, the Nature Conservancy purchased approximately 228 acres of land including the location of Drake’s Seat and the scenic lookout. Most of this land was placed into conservation and joined with an existing park at Magens Bay Beach to create the 319-acre Magens Bay Watershed Preserve. The preserve is co-managed by the Magens Bay Authority, the Virgin Islands Government, and the Nature Conservancy. The main attractions within the preserve are the Drake’s Seat Scenic Lookout, Magens Bay Beach and the Magens Bay Discovery Nature Trail (also known as Magen's Bay Beach Trail). Read About the Magens Bay Watershed Preserve

Today, Drake’s Seat Scenic Overlook offers access to the beautiful panoramic view that many have enjoyed in the past and is protected for future generations to enjoy. When you visit Drake’s Seat stand on the overlook or sit on the bench and take in the view. Pause to enjoy nature’s beauty. And perhaps use your imagination to visualize an earlier time in history… weary residents on foot traveling over dirt roads taking a rest on that spot, tourists on horseback taking in the view, President Harry Truman with a gaggle of media, and of course… pirate ships on the horizon! Enjoy.

References

  • “President Harry S. Truman Speaks with Governor William Hastie”. (1948, February 22). Photograph. United States Navy, Harry S. Truman Library & Museum. Accessed April 23, 2023, [https://www.trumanlibrary.gov/photograph-records/64-342]

  • Jeffrey R. McCord (2015, February 1). “President Truman’s 1948 Visit set the Virgin Islands on the Road to Becoming “America’s Paradise”. Old Town Crier. Accessed April 23, 2023, [https://oldtowncrier.com/2015/02/01/president-trumans-1948-visit-set-the-virgin-islands-on-the-road-to-becoming-americas-paradise]

  • “A Short Guide for Tourists and Visitors”. (1908, April 11). Newspaper Article. St. Thomas Tidende. Royal Danish Library. Accessed April 24, 2023. [http://hdl.handle.net/109.3.1/uuid:2f14a961-eb85-45ee-ac99-4b215673c345]

  • St. Thomas/St. John Recorder of Deeds. (2002, April 13). Warranty Deed HD Wheaton Qualified Domestic Trust to The Nature Conservancy. Accessed April 24, 2023.

Source: vinow.com

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