Oppenheimer Beach (aka Gibney Beach) in St John, USVI

This small but exquisite beach is one of the many beautiful beaches on the north side of the island of St John in the US Virgin Islands. This beach isn’t nearly as popular as some of the others because it is smaller, lacks amenities, and is harder to access.

That being said, you will in no way be disappointed if you end up on this beach! You might have to get dropped off or walk because access is thru a gated community and there are only a couple of parking spots outside of the community. The walk down means this beach is usually not as crowded as some of the others, but the accompanying views are superb.

And yes, the beach is named after THAT Robert Oppenheimer from the movie.

Oppenheimer Beach Quick Tips:

  • Other Names: Gibney Beach, Atomic Bomb Beach
  • Known for: snorkeling, less crowds, named after one of the atomic bomb developers
  • Good for: snorkeling, avoiding the crowds 
  • Not so good for: ease of access 
  • Facilities: basically none 
  • Parking: only 3 spots at a gate that makes you think you can’t access, but others on the side of the road nearby
  • Cost: free

Location Oppenheimer Beach/Gibney Beach

Like a lot of popular St. John beaches this is located on the northwest side of the island. If you are coming from the Cruz Bay ferry terminal it is only about a 10 minute drive to get to the gated community.

One note is that Google Maps isn’t 100% correct. It shows the beach on the east side of a peninsula on the northern strip of the island, but the beach itself is actually on the the west side of that peninsula. It’s less than 100 yards away than where it appears on Google Maps, but know that it isn’t quite right.

Tip – When in the US Virgin Islands I recommend renting a car to get the most out of your experience. It would be difficult to see all the beautiful places in the islands without a car. Reserve a car here.

Accessing the Beach

The access point to this beach is unmarked. It looks like a gate entrance to a private villa, but it’s actually the access point to the beach. 

There are only 3 parking spots in front of the gate, so you will have to get there early or be lucky to snag one of them. Once you are there you walk into the community it is easy to follow down to the beach and will take you less than 5 minutes to walk there.

If you really are committed to seeing this beach you can park off the side of the road a ways down the hill, but know that you will need to trek up the road to the gate and then back down to the beach. The hike from the gate to the beach will take you less than 5 minutes.

You also could swim to this beach from Hawksnest Beach. Just follow the beach all the way to the right (when facing the water) and then swim around the Rocky outcropping.

Need more information on the island of St. John? Check out all our blog posts here.

Oppenheimer Beach Photo

Tire swing over Oppenheimer Beach on St. John in the US Virgin Islands
Tire swing over Oppenheimer Beach on St. John in the US Virgin Islands.

What to Expect at Oppenheimer Beach

  • Water Color: shockingly clear blue
  • Sand: Fine white sand
  • Lifeguards: no 

Basically, once you get here you can expect it to be a perfect place to relax all day in tranquility. Don’t expect a ton of amenities, but the basics are there, bathrooms and showers.

The sand is perfect, the gentle waters are clear, and there are various trees you can set your towel under to enjoy the shade. 

One sad note is that the famous tire swing is no longer there. The supporting palm tree met its demise during one of the hurricanes.

Oppenheimer Beach History

Why the name Oppenheimer Beach?

This beach is named after Robert Oppenheimer, who was one of the project leads in developing the atomic bomb.

You don’t need to worry about any bombs being tested here, this is just where the Oppenheimers bought property to relax after developing the ultimate death tool. 

Oppenheimer Beach Snorkeling

Like lots of the north side of St John beaches the Oppenheimer Beach snorkeling is some of the best. The water is so clear that you can see all kinds of fish and creatures darting beneath you. 

The water entry is easy, very calm water, sandy bottom. Bring your own gear as there are no rentals at the beach.

Facilities

Aside from the pathetic amount of parking spaces there are no amenities. This is the sacrifice you make when coming to this beach. The trade off is that there are likely to be VERY FEW people here.

Conclusion: Is Gibney Beach worth visiting?

If you are willing to sacrifice the amenities then you will be able to thoroughly enjoy Oppenheimer Beach. 

I wouldn’t say you need to target it, but if the is the St John Beach you end up on you won’t be disappointed.

We have visited almost every beach on St. John and St. Thomas. Below are a list of our favorites.

  1. Trunk Bay – most beautiful beach I have ever seen!
  2. Cinnamon Bay – amazing full service beach
  3. Hawksnest Beach – amazing snorkeling beach
  4. Maho Bay Beach – almost guaranteed to see sea turtles here.
  5. Salomon Beach – Secluded Paradise!
  6. Honeymoon Beach – great hike and snorkeling
  7. Oppenheimer Beach – great to avoid the crowds
  8. Jumbie Beach – lesser known beach

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