What To See
Red-brick Fort Christian is the oldest colonial building in the USVI, dating back to 1666. Over the years, it has functioned as a jail, governor’s residence and Lutheran church. At press time, the fort and its artifact-rich museum were closed and undergoing renovations. The reopening date for the multi-year project has not been determined.
Virgin Islands National Park
In the early 1950s, US millionaire Laurence Rockefeller discovered and fell in love with St John, which was nearly abandoned at the time. He purchased large tracts of the land, built the Caneel Bay resort, and then donated more than 5000 acres to the US government. The land became a national park in 1956, and over the years the government added a couple of thousand more acres. Today Virgin Islands National Park covers two-thirds of the island, plus 5650 acres underwater.
It’s a tremendous resource, offering miles of shoreline, pristine reefs and 20 hiking trails. The park visitors center sits on the dock across from the Mongoose Junction shopping arcade. It’s an essential first stop to obtain free guides on hiking trails, snorkeling spots, bird-watching lists and daily ranger-led activities.
For the record: more than 30 species of tropical birds nest in the park, including the bananaquit, hummingbird and smooth-billed ani. Green iguanas, geckoes, hawksbill turtles, wild donkeys and an assortment of other feral animals roam the land. Largely regenerated after 18th-century logging, the island flora is a mix of introduced species and native plants, with lots of spiny cacti.
Annaberg Sugar Mill Ruins
Part of the national park, these ruins near Leinster Bay are the most intact sugar plantation ruins in the Virgin Islands. A 30-minute, self-directed walking tour leads you through the slave quarters, village, windmill, rum still and dungeon.
The schooner drawings on the dungeon wall may date back more than 100 years. Park experts offer demonstrations in traditional island baking, gardening, weaving and crafting.
When you’re finished milling around, hop on the Leinster Bay Trail that starts near the picnic area and ends at, yep, Leinster Bay. It’s 1.6 miles, round trip.
The US Virgin Islands' cultural hodgepodge means that St Patrick's Day is celebrated with as much verve as a blues festival. No matter what is being celebrated, the costumes are going to be colourful, there's bound to be a calypso beat in there somewhere and it's hardly a party unless someone's on stilts.
Carnival on St Thomas is a crazy week full of masquerades, drumming, dancing, feasting and mocko jumbies (costumed stiltwalkers). Unlike other Carnivals in the Caribbean, which precede Lent, St Thomas' takes place after Easter, usually in late April. St John extends US Independence Day on 4 July into a week's worth of fireworks and vigorous celebration right after its own Carnival in the last week of June.
St Croix's two-week Crucian Christmas Festival from Christmas through early January offers yet more feasting, drinking and parading. And if one Christmas isn't enough, get back for Christmas in July when Santa dances on the streets of Charlotte Amalie with the tallest elves you've ever seen. Bull and Bread Day celebrates the efforts of sugar plantation slaves to attain better conditions. It's held every 1 November on St Croix. Transfer Day (31 March) commemorates the 1917 handover of the islands from Denmark to the US.
The St Thomas Yacht Club's International Rolex Cup Regatta cuts up the waters every April. On a not quite so grand scale are the Hermit Crab Races in Christiansted on St Croix every Monday evening. Also worth looking out for are 'scrambles,' tournaments ranging from golf to cake baking where the emphasis is on participation rather than excellence.