Tag Archives: Virgin Islands

Christiansted National Historic Site

Overview

Three of the Virgin Islands were purchased by the United States in 1917, supposedly to prevent Germany from establishing a Caribbean naval base during World War I.  The southern island of St. Croix was originally claimed by Spain, England, the Netherlands, and France, before being purchased by Denmark in 1733.  The Danish West India and Guinea Company grew sugarcane on the island utilizing slave labor (until 1848), with slaves outnumbering the free population 9,000 to 1,000.  The port town of Christiansted was planned by Frederick Moth and named in honor of Danish King Christian VI.

Highlights

Fort Christiansvaern, Old Danish Customs House, Steeple Building

Must-Do Activity

Fort Christiansvaern was completed in 1749 and is the highlight of this National Park Service (NPS) site.  Pick up a self-guided tour booklet at the NPS visitor center so you do not miss any hidden corners, like the dungeon.  Ask a park ranger about tours that may be available to see inside the other six buildings that comprise Christiansted National Historic Site.  The Scale House was under construction during our visit, but typically has exhibits on its bottom floor.

Best Trail

There are no trails, but sidewalks lead from Fort Christiansvaern to the Government House (that is still used for official business) and the Lutheran Church, which is next to a sprawling and interesting cemetery.

Instagram-worthy Photo

The beautiful yellow structures were built in neoclassic style and are best exemplified by the Customs House, which dates to 1841.

Peak Season

Anytime except hurricane season

Hours

https://www.nps.gov/chri/planyourvisit/hours.htm

Fees

$7 per person or America the Beautiful pass

Road Conditions

Roads are paved and there is a designated parking lot at Fort Christiansvaern with a two hour time limit.  Note: you drive on the left side of the road in the U.S. Virgin Islands, but in standard American left-side driver seat vehicles.

Camping

There is no official NPS campground at Salt River Bay National Historical Park and Ecological Preserve, but people camp along the coast there and at many beachside locations around the entire island.

Related Sites

Salt River Bay National Historical Park and Ecological Preserve (Virgin Islands)

Buck Island Reef National Monument (Virgin Islands)

Virgin Islands National Park (Virgin Islands)

Explore More – What famous American patriot worked in Christiansted as a boy (Hint: he has a Broadway musical written about him)?

Virgin Islands National Park

Overview

More than half the island of St. John is part of Virgin Islands National Park, a Caribbean paradise known for its white sand beaches and crystal waters.  The National Park also includes 95% of Hassel Island, which was once a peninsula connected to St. Thomas.  The region is still recovering after Hurricanes Irma and Maria did extensive damage in 2017, but did not seem to affect the sugar mill ruins that have been standing since the 1720s.

Highlights

Trunk Bay, Maho Bay, Annaberg Sugar Mill, Petroglyph Trail, Saltpond Bay

Must-Do Activity

Snorkeling is the number one reason to visit St. John, which is surrounded by coral reefs.  The Underwater Trail in popular Trunk Bay is a good place to start, but our favorite spot to snorkel was from the beautiful beach at Saltpond Bay where we saw sea turtles, reef squids, and countless other species.  From the beach a trail leads 1.8 miles roundtrip to the 200-foot high cliffs at Ram Head.

Best Trail

Reef Bay Trail starts near the island’s high point at 900 feet in elevation, then descends 1.5 miles to the split for Petroglyph Trail where the rocks around a seasonal waterfall have several Taino carvings.  Reef Bay Trail continues another mile to the ruins of a sugar mill where ranger-led hikes (fee) are met by a boat.

Instagram-worthy Photo

A small, paved pulloff at the top of a hill on North Shore Road looks east towards the white sand beaches of Trunk Bay, an image used in almost every promotional publication for St. John. 

Peak Season

Winter

Hours

https://www.nps.gov/viis/planyourvisit/hours.htm

Fees

None, except when lifeguards are on duty at Trunk Bay.

Road Conditions

Two narrow, winding, paved routes (North Shore and Centerline Roads) leave from Cruz Bay where the ferries arrive.  Several dirt roads require four-wheel-drive, including Catherineberg Road.  Note: you drive on the left side of the road in the U.S. Virgin Islands, but in standard American left-side driver seat vehicles.

Camping

None on the island of St. John until the NPS reopens Cinnamon Bay Campground, which closed following the 2017 hurricanes.

We created this design to celebrate Virgin Islands National Park and it is available on a variety of products at Cafe Press and Amazon.

Explore More – How long did the violent slave revolt in 1733 last before French troops arrived on St. John to return slaves to the sugarcane plantations?

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Virgin Islands Coral Reef National Monument

Overview

Established in 2001, Virgin Islands Coral Reef National Monument covers 12,708 acres of ocean around Virgin Islands National Park on St. John.  The National Monument consists of four separate areas in the Sir Francis Drake Channel and Caribbean Sea.  Its primary access point is in Coral Bay where it touches the island’s shoreline and kayaks can be launched from the road at Borck Creek, Princess Bay, and Haulover Bay.  

Highlights

Borck Creek, Princess Bay, Haulover Bay

Must-Do Activity

We rented a tandem kayak from Crabby’s in Coral Harbor and paddled east into Hurricane Hole to access the monument.  We found the snorkeling to be best around Borck Creek.  Guided kayaking and snorkeling trips can be arranged with concessionaires on the island.

Best Trail

None

Instagram-worthy Photo

In 2017, Hurricanes Irma and Maria killed a large portion of the red mangroves surrounding the bays within the monument.  However, even the dead roots provide structure for coral and fish.  The best way to see this is to snorkel in the shallow water, but be careful not to touch a mangrove jellyfish which can trigger a group response when the first one stings.

Peak Season

Winter

Hours

These are the hours for the Virgin Islands National Park visitor center on St. John:

https://www.nps.gov/viis/planyourvisit/hours.htm

Fees

None

Road Conditions

No roads in this completely underwater monument, but watch for potholes and oncoming truck traffic if you drive to Princess Bay on Centerline Road from the ferry terminal in Cruz Bay.  Note: you drive on the left side of the road in the U.S. Virgin Islands, but in standard American left-side driver seat vehicles.

Camping

There are overnight moorings (no anchors allowed) for boats in Water Creek and other bays around St. John.  There are currently no campgrounds open on the island.

Explore More – Why do barracudas often follow snorkelers and divers?