Little-known St. Croix, in the Caribbean, is part of the USVI – the United States Virgin Islands. The largest of the trio (with St. Thomas and St. John), St. Croix is 218 sq. kilometers, and is located much further South than its sister islands; it is also the US’ easternmost point, locates at Point Udall. Not as touristy as St. Thomas or as nature-oriented as St. John, there are still plenty of things to do in St. Croix, an island that offers a lot: an insane amount of history, great diving, colonial and Victorian architecture, a perfect climate and anything an adventure-lover/water sports fan could hope for.
When we visited a few years ago -being of a more contemplative type- we enjoyed walking along its waterfront, discovering the Danish heritage, and more than anything, the overall vibe of the island. From tiny Frederiksted harbor to History-heavy Christiansted, our short time on the island was packed with lots to see and do. And though we didn’t have time to sail around Buck Island, we know we’ll have to go back to visit this stunning national park.
St. Croix –along with its two sisters- was a Danish colony of the West Indies until 1917. In 1801, the British started occupying the territory. Due to political upheavals, the end of the slave trade and the U.S. prohibition slowing down rum production, the island’s economy went bust. In 1916, Denmark sold the islands to the United States and they became the USVI.
Did you know?
18th & 19th centuries’ Danish settlers were plantation owners with slave workers who came to the island to pay off their debt to society. Of the 220+ original plantations, more than 100 –most in ruins- can still be found on the island and some can be visited, like Whim Plantation or Judith’s Fancy.
The island’s capital, Christiansted, is quite tiny, and like the rest of the island, not very touristy, which makes for pleasant walks around town. The National Historic Site, in the center of town, is a little heaven for history buffs as it encompasses the Danish Customs House (1830, closed to the public), the Steeple Building (1753, St. Croix’ 1st Lutheran church) and the stunning Fort Christiansvaern (1749, partially rebuilt in 1771 after a hurricane destroyed it).
Not far from there, the impressive Government House dominates the street and seems to have inspired other houses and shops to boast the prettiest colors.
On the island’s west end lies the town of Frederiksted. Founded in 1751, it’s the second largest town on the island, with a small harbor and plenty of Victorian architecture. Though I enjoyed walking around Chris’ historic monuments, I think I preferred the laid-back atmosphere of Fred’, especially the waterfront promenade, which pelicans seemed to enjoy too, and the view of Fort Frederik (1760), where thousands of slaves marched in July of 1848 to demand their freedom.
My favorite place in town was without a doubt the Caribbean Museum Center for the Arts, across from the waterfront. Located in a historic building at 10 Strand St., the center offers a diverse program of exhibits, classes, performances and workshops, plus studio spaces and a little shop. Entrance is free, and I greatly recommend it.
If you’re a cruise ship passenger, I would suggest to head to the main street (Strand St.) to catch a local bus to Christiansted as soon as you disembark at Frederiksted’s pier, or hop on a tourist van to go explore the island, and reserve time for Frederiksted for the end of the day. For a free map of the island, stop at a car rental agency or at the Tourism Office.
Have you been to the USVI? Tell me what your top things to do in St. Croix were in the comments below!