Oranjestaad is the capital of the small island of St. Eustatius – more commonly known as Statia - in the Netherland Antilles. This is a charming town that gives a great sense of what life in the Caribbean must have been like in the past – the pace is slow, the people un-hurried and there are few tourists. Oranjestaad has plenty to interest those who like a bit of history.
The town has two main sections. Along the waterfront by the harbor are buildings dating from the colonial era and the best beach on the island; together, these comprise the Lower Town. The Upper Town is home to the impeccably restored historic center and most of the island’s main commercial and residential buildings. Among the historical sites of Oranjestaad are the 17th century waterfront Fort Oranje, a synagogue that is the second oldest in the western hemisphere and a Dutch reformed church dating from 1755.
Amongst the most interesting buildings are the restored 18th century houses of the merchants who made their homes here. Gezaghebber House, the oldest, is the former Lieutenant Governor’s residence. The St. Eustatius Historical Foundation Museum organizes a good walking tour. Snorkelers will want to explore the ruined buildings now submerged on the fringes of the harbor. There are a good few bars and restaurants in Oranjestaad catering to range of different tastes and budgets.