There are four picture book villages on Saba, connected by a single spectacular 10½ km road which begins at the airport and ends at the pier. The road itself is a feat of engineering, designed and built by Josephus Lambert Hassell (1906-83) in the 1940s, who studied road construction by correspondence course after Dutch engineers said it was impossible to build a road on Saba.
From the airport, the road rises to Hell’s Gate and then on through banana plantations to Windwardside, a walk of 20-30 minutes, where most of the hotels and shops are situated. There is a small museum, a bank and post office. Lambee’s Place, originally the home of Josephus Lambert Hassell, now houses the tourist office, Sea Saba Dive Shop, Breadfruit Gallery, El Momo Folk Art, The Carmel Shop (gifts) and Y2K Café (bakery, bar and grill). On the first Sunday in each month, a ‘happening’ is held in the grounds of the Harry L Johnson Museum. Everyone dresses in white (including visitors), plays croquet and drinks mimosas. The museum was a sea captain’s house, built in 1840 and is a typical, tiny, four-room Saban house on one floor. It is filled with antique furniture and family memorabilia. The kitchen is in its original state. US$2, 1000-1200, 1300-1530, Mon-Fri.
The road goes on past Kate’s Hill, Peter Simon’s Hill and Big Rendezvous to St John’s, where the schools are, and which has a wonderful view of St Eustatius, then climbs over the mountain and drops sharply down to The Bottom, the island’s seat of government, with a population of 350. The Bottom is on a plateau, 245 m above the sea, and gets its name from the Dutch words de botte, meaning ‘the bowl’. It can be hot, as there is little breeze. Leaving The Bottom, the road makes its final descent to Fort Bay, where small cruise ships, yachts and the ferry from St Maarten arrive at the 85 m pier. Most of the houses on the island are painted white with red roofs and some have green shutters. Heleen Cornet’s book, Saban Cottages, gives background information on some interesting houses. There are watercolour workshops.