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st. thomas

Once connected to St. Thomas by an isthmus, Hassle Island is now a rugged 135-acre island that forms the western edge of St. Thomas Harbor. Covered in trailing foliage and windswept trees, the island is dotted with crumbling ruins that reflect its important history. A steep hiking trail winds through the landscape and connects to historic ruins. Creque Marine Railway, located on the island’s northern tip, was one of the first steam-powered marine railways in the Western Hemisphere. The remaining equipment, machinery and diving bells make it the oldest surviving example of a steam-powered railway in the world. Topping the highest point on the Island, Fort Shipley’s stone walls overlook the sapphire waves of the Caribbean Sea. The fort harkens back to the British occupation of USVI, during the Napoleonic Wars of 1803–1815. Prince Frederik’s Battery towers over the entrance to the harbor, with stone and rubble sides. Constructed in 1778 by the Danish prince, the British renamed the structure Fort Willoughby in 1807, upon their occupation of St. Thomas. The St. Thomas Historical Trust offers guided tours of Hassel Island by appointment.

USVI’s bustling capital city of Charlotte Amalie brims with the 17th-century charm of Danish colonial architecture. The delicate white ironwork and three stories of neoclassical style framed by palm trees and flowering bushes make the Government House a prime example of the opulence of Danish official structures. Erected between 1865 and 1867, the lobby displays a lineup of all the island’s governors. Eye-catching brick step streets, or frigangs in Danish, are a defining feature of Charlotte Amalie. Built in the 1700s to cut across the island’s hilly terrain, 99 Steps is the most notable, with yellow flowers and palm trees adorning each side of the stairway. There are actually 103 steps that make up this landmark, with bricks that were transported from Denmark in the hulls of sailing ships.

The distinctive red Fort Christian rises above the contrasting green hills of St. Thomas. Built between 1672 and 1680, the fort is the oldest structure in USVI, guarding Charlotte Amalie Harbor for over 300 years. In 1874, the fort was turned into the official prison of St. Thomas, serving as both a prison and police station until 1983. A National Historic Landmark, the fort now houses the Fort Christian Museum that features exhibits on USVI history and an art gallery.

st. croix

The butter-yellow walls of Fort Christiansvaern tower over St. Croix’s sparking blue waterfront. The fort is the centerpiece of five historic buildings spanning seven acres that comprise the Christiansted National Historic Site. Stroll through the structures that represent Danish colonial occupation from 1733 until 1917, when the island was purchased by the U.S. Step into the rectangular facade of the Scale House, built in 1856, where imports and exports were inspected. Climb the stairs to the Danish Customs House, which was built on the site of the island’s slave and sugar trading compound in 1830. The park also offers a guided walking tour that departs from the visitor center.

Sprawling across 12 acres, with buildings featuring curving stone walls and forest green shutters, Estate Whim is the oldest sugar plantation in St. Croix and the entire USVI. The Estate Whim Museum complex consists of the Great House, sugar mill, cookhouse and slave quarters. You can wander the grounds or join the guided tour, which is essential for a deeper understanding of what life was like on a 17th-century sugar plantation. In addition to artifacts and exhibits, an important element of Estate Whim Museum is the living museum. Watch local Crucians demonstrate cultural traditions like conch shell blowing, quelbe folk music and candy making.

Roam through fragrant paths covered with ferns, orchids, mahogany trees and over 1,000 species of plants on grounds that overlap an Amerindian settlement dating back to circa 100 A.D. The St. George Village Botanical Garden rates as perhaps St. Croix’s prettiest piece of history, with preserved ruins of the 18th-century Estate St. George Danish Sugar Plantation peeking out from an herb garden, fruit orchards, an orchid house and palm garden. Butterflies, hummingbirds and dragonflies flit all around the grounds. See if you can spy the elusive bananaquit, the official bird of USVI. 

The crimson-colored Fort Frederiksted stands prominently among palm trees along the coast of St. Croix. Built between 1752 and 1760 by Danish colonialists to discourage pirates, the fort’s claim to fame is issuing the first salute from foreign soil to the new nation of the United States in 1776. Today, the fort houses a museum and art gallery.

st. john

Perched on a slope and surrounded by trees and a soaring view of the sea, the Annaberg Sugar Plantation is home to the largest and tallest windmill in USVI. Established in 1758, the planation features partially restored wattle and daub buildings, including the windmill, sugar factory and horse mill. National Park Service interpreters provide demonstrations of local culture during this era, including basket weaving, baking and agricultural techniques.

Spanning 300 acres and woven with tropical trees and foliage, the Cinnamon Bay Plantation was constructed in 1717 and was one of the earliest sugar plantations on St. John. Limestone ruins of the factory, great house and slave quarters line a five-mile trail that loops under a canopy of tropical trees.

Scale the steep Reef Bay Trail to view the petroglyphs created by the pre-Colombian Taino people thousands of years ago. If it’s rained recently, you’ll be treated to a cascading waterfall and pool of water surrounding the petroglyphs and rock carvings. If not, you’ll clearly see faces carved into the falls’ blue ballast rock and 20-foot-wide carvings near the pool.

Learn more about USVI history, heritage and culture.

Get Inspired

Architectural Treasures

From a historic sugar plantation and well-preserved forts to the Western Hemisphere’s second-oldest synagogue, USVI’s architectural treasures are just waiting for your exploration. ...

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