The largest of USVI’s three main islands is St. Croix (a prime area). Situated about 60 kilometres south of the other islands, St. Croix is culturally and historically rich place, with the elegance of old colonial homes and churches mixing with the pulsating vibe of steel pan bands playing reggae and calypso. Its beaches and resorts are tourist magnets, as are its two main towns, Christiansted and Frederiksted.
Christiansted in is a great town to visit, with its Old World charm, historic importance and lovely architecture. The town has been named a National Historic Site.
The topography on St. Croix is very different from those of its sister islands. It is a delightful mix of long stretches of sandy beaches, large farmable flat lands, dry grassy meadows, and even mountainous areas. Most of the property and residential developments are on the eastern end of the island. In the west, the island’s lush forest remains.
Thanks to the island’s white sand beaches, many of St. Croix’s districts are dedicated to resorts and resort-like communities. The longest-running resort on the island is the Buccaneer in Estate Shoys, a blend of Old World charm and modern comforts. The hotel is popular for honeymoons, weddings and family vacations. It has an 18-hole golf course, water sports facilities, swimming pools, and tennis courts. Buccaneer also has three beaches: Mermaid Beach, Grotto Beach and Whistle Beach.
The Carambola Golf and Country Club near the island’s north shore is a “must play” destination for the avid golfer.
Sitting on the white sands of Grapetree Beach in Divi Carina Bay is the Divi Carina Bay Beach Resort. Its airy beachfront guestrooms and luxury hillside suites offer a quiet retreat from the nearby Divi Carina Bay Casino.
The Chenay Bay Beach Resort sits cozily on a hillside that overlooks the Caribbean Sea. This resort covers 30 tropical acres of land and also has some great amenities such as a hot tub, direct beach access and a wonderful infinity pool among its Caribbean cottages. The site where the resort stands was once an old plantation. A 19th century windmill made of stone and a limekiln are some of the remnants of the past that the visitor can see.
Coakley Bay is a small white sand beach popular for snorkelling. Coakley Bay Luxury Condominiums, only 15 minutes from town, offers great accommodations for short- and long-time visitors. The beach at Cane Bay has a great number of coral walls found close to the shore. This top diving spot also offers other beach activities such as kayaking and horseback riding.
The strong waves at Davis Bay make it ideal for body surfing. It is not as crowded most of the other beaches on the island. The wind is a little stronger at Teague Bay, which is why it is a great place to do some windsurfing. The St. Croix Yacht Club is on the Teague Bay waterfront. Across it is a huge mansion referred to locally as The Castle. The eastern end of the bay is called Romney Point. Beachfront villas line this part of the island with stunning views of the ocean.
Tamarind Reef Community has a cozy beach and a number of great restaurants and small shopping boutiques. Tourists are usually billeted at the Tamarind Reef Hotel. Nearby is Udall Point, the easternmost point of the United States.
St. Croix’s Northwest is quiet and peaceful. The roads here wind through tawny cliffs that sit above the sparkling Caribbean. On a clear day you can look out and spot the islands of St. Thomas and St. John. If you aren’t in a hurry, stop by Judith’s Fancy, a gated neighbourhood with the remains of an old Danish plantation. Judith’s Fancy is in Salt River Bay, the area where Christopher Columbus first met the Carib Indians upon his arrival in 1493. The community is also next to Salt River National Park, which encompasses the last remaining mangrove forest in the USVI.
On the other side of the island is Sion Farm, which sprawls over 500 acres of pastures, stables, gardens, lawns and twisting mountain trails. There is a shopping centre nearby.
Green Cay is of volcanic origin and features lava outcrops, volcanic tuffs and breccias. Steep cliffs mostly surround the saddle-shaped cay with pebble beaches on both sides and a narrow valley resting in between. Green Cay is part of the Caribbean Islands National Wildlife Refuge Complex and protects the largest remaining population of the endangered St. Croix Ground Lizard and the surrounding bird nesting habitat. Deluxe yachts are berthed at the Green Cay Marina.
The East End is one of the prettiest areas on the island. It has rich farmlands with red-hued cows found only in St. Croix. A beautiful ocean vista beyond rugged cliffs makes for a great drive.
The East End Marine Park is the first territorial park on USVI. It protects the largest island barrier reef system in the Caribbean, so you can only imagine the rich and vibrant marine life making its home here. Several varieties of coral dominate the area. Groupers, sharks, barracudas, snappers, parrot fish, surgeon fish, doctor fish and about 400 other species live in the East End. The marine sanctuary is also home to the endangered leatherback, hawksbill and green turtles.
The Buck Island Reef National Monument, or Buck Island for short, is an uninhabited, 176-acre island just off the northeast coast of St. Croix. You’ll need a whole day just to explore it. There is a pristine white sand beach and astounding marine life beneath the waves. There are hiking trails on the island as well as underwater trails for snorkellers. The white-sand Turtle Beach on its western end was voted one of the world’s most beautiful beaches by National Geographic. The elkhorn coral barrier reef is the home of hundreds of species of marine life such as whitetip and blacktip reef sharks, nurse and lemon sharks, eagle rays, and green, hawksbill and leatherback turtles.
Other places of interest around St. Croix:
- The Whim Plantation Museum: a restored 18th century home and sugar plantation. The sprawling, 12-acre estate includes the great house, the cook house, and wind and steam mills.
- The Lawaetz Family Museum: an old estate that presents a look at life in the 19th century. Once a plantation, it was converted into a dairy farm in the late 1890s by a farmer from Denmark. This lovely home surrounded by fruit and flower gardens features antiques, photographs, and old furnishings.
- The Heritage Trail: a walking tour by the St. Croix Landmarks Society that takes you across the whole island and points out historical sites, churches, special buildings and unique flora and fauna.
- St. George’s Botanical Gardens: 16 acres of greenery within the ruins of an 18th century sugar plantation. There are more than 1,000 species of trees and shrubs here. Visitors can explore the tropical gardens, a cactus garden, a working nursery and a rain forest trail.
- Cruzan Rum Factory: the main producer of the islands’ famous rum. Visitors can go on tours where they can have a look not only into the process of rum making, but also into the role of rum in the islands’ history.
Frederiksted also has its own distinct style. It is not as heavily developed as Christiansted, but is by no means less interesting. The locals often refer it to as “Freedom City”, as it was here that the emancipation of slaves was declared by the Governor of the Danish West Indies. Its most famous landmark is Fort Frederik, a stronghold built in 1752 to protect the town from rival imperialist nations and from pirate raids. It is a fine example of Danish military architecture. The main port on St. Croix is in Frederiksted, and the town has become the main port of entry for cruise ships visiting the island.
Frederiksted’s architecture differs from Christiansted because the town was partially burned down during an uprising in 1878 called Fireburn. Many of the buildings were rebuilt in the late Victorian style, with gingerbread trim that can be still be seen on buildings such as the Victoria House that stands at the corner of Market and Strand streets. A number of the original buildings still exist, so keep an eye out for these historic old places, such as the Customs House and St. Patrick’s Catholic Church.
Most visitors who come to St. Croix spend most of their time exploring Christiansted. It was once the capital of the Danish West Indies and still known today for its beautiful old buildings. The town has done an amazing job with maintaining its rich Danish colonial heritage; old churches, cobblestone walkways and other historical structures are definite sites of interest. The entire town is a National Historic Site.
Fascinating places to explore in Christiansted include:
- Fort Christiansvaern: the best-preserved fort of the five remaining Danish forts in the West Indies and a great example of Danish colonial military architecture. Although the yellow-brick fort was built to protect the area from pirates and rival imperialist nations, it never saw warfare. It later served as a jail, and was used for religious services.
- Steeple Building: once St. Croix’s first Lutheran church, it is now a museum where visitors can learn about plantation life and the island’s history.
- The Old Scale House: an important part of the waterfront-trading scene during the Danish settlement. Built in 1855, sugar that was on its way out to Denmark and other countries was weighed and taxed here.
- Customs House: after their goods were weighed, merchants would stop by here to pay their taxes. This beautiful yellow building made of Danish brick is a mix of island and European architecture. The elegant staircase is a prime example of its European style while hurricane shutters illustrates the necessary adjustments that needed to be made for island living.
- The Government House: a grand old building that illustrates Danish construction when they were in control in the West Indies. This three-storey, Neoclassical edifice was constructed in 1747 and is surrounded by ornate gardens and courtyards. Government and cultural events are still held here.
- The Apothecary Hall: a 19th century Danish colonial pharmacy museum, the only one of its kind in the Western Hemisphere. It has some beautiful antique drug jars and interesting pharmaceutical equipment on display.
- The Lutheran Church: once the Dutch Reformed Church, this is the oldest church in Christiansted and is still in use. It is noted for its unusual, three-tiered Gothic tower.
- The Danish West India and Guinea Company Warehouse: the headquarters of the company in the 18th century, it was also a bustling slave market till the 19th century. It was also used as a military hub at one point. Today though, it is the town’s post office.
- Market Square: once a produce market in the 18th century, it has been restored and is now Market Square Mall, a popular shopping complex. Other places to do some shopping in Christiansted are along King, Company and Strand Streets. Make sure not to miss out on the little alleyways that snake in and out of these major streets, as there is a treasure trove of smaller boutiques. Shopping is tax-free here, so popular items to purchase are clothes, crystal, art, perfume, alcohol, china, jewellery and well as some Crucian souvenirs.