Visiting The Cruise Port Of Frederiksted
At 84 square miles, St. Croix is the largest island in the Virgin Island group and significantly more rural than the others. The island features a rain forest in its western interior, an arid climate in the east along with two historic towns.
The island was a possession of Denmark until the early nineteenth century and boasts a deepwater port at the west-end town of Frederiksted. The port was defended by Fort Fredirek as far back as the mid eighteenth century. A second deepwater industrial port was developed on the south coast in the nineteenth century. The island, along with St. Thomas and St. John was bought by the United States in the early nineteenth century. That means you don’t need a passport to visit and best of all you can bring back to the United States five liters of liquor duty free.
Where Your Ship Docks
The more popular destination town on St. Croix is Christiansted but it sits inside a protective coral reef with no good anchorage or pier. Cruise ships will dock on the far west end of the island at the Frederiksted pier. The island and town are developing the area around the pier and historic customs house and there are public facilities available. There is no terminal or facilities on the pier.
Other than taking a tour the best way to see the island is to rent a car. Prices are reasonable but arranging a car can be an issue. On our most recent trip we had reserved a car through Avis which indicated they had an office in Frederiksted – they didn’t and we wasted an hour figuring this out and getting them to bring us a car from the airport. So be caustious in reserving a car. Driving is on the left side of the road which can be awkward because most of the vehicles come from the American market and have the steering column on the left. Taxis are available but they are expensive but you can negotiate a tour with the drivers. There is also limited bus service and “taxi buses” which have dedicated routes and a flat fare. The system is a bit freeform and isn’t something a visitor can rely on.
The U.S. Virgin Islands use the U.S. Dollar but credit cards and debit cards are welcome.
Frederiksted is a town that seems to always be redeveloping starting tomorrow. For decades it has been taking two steps forward and one step backwards – sometime three steps backward. It is a historic town with a colonial fortification and customs house. There is a small strip of beach in town but the nearest good beach is Sandy Point National Wildlife Refuge. Unfortunately(?), to protect the sea turtle nests the beach is closed between April and September.
As mentioned already, to really see the island you should rent a car. Christiansted is about twenty five miles from Frederiksted and there are some glorious beaches scattered around St. Croix. Christiansted to us, represents the quintessential tropical waterfront. It is located on the north central coast. The waterfront is fringed with a boardwalk and small boat docks, protected by a natural reef and a close-in small island occupied by a hotel. The harbor features sailboats at anchor, crystal clear water and a number of small hotels and restaurants along the boardwalk. Running up from the waterfront is a colonial era town where the stone and brick buildings include colonnades protecting the sidewalks from the frequent tropical rainstorms. Most of these buildings feature galleries, shops and restaurants along with a couple of small hotels. Just to the east on the waterfront is the old Fort Christiansvaern operated by the U.S. Park Service. The small island in the harbor is Protestant Cay and features the Hotel on the Cay which is serviced by hotel launches. Its beaches are open to the public but there is a small fee to take the launch from town.
Another area, which we love for its beaches and good snorkeling is Davis Bay. Located along the western north coast it has always been pretty isolated and primitive but the beaches are some of the best on the island. Some thirty years ago the Rock Resort people built an exclusive resort above Davis Bay called the Carambola Resort but a combination of things, including a storm named Hugo, caused the venture to fail. Today it is alive again as the exclusive Renaissance St. Croix Carambola Resort and, based on location alone, it is worth visiting.
Up in the rain forest is a bar with a pig and back in day you were expected to buy the pig a beer by simply tossing a can into the pen. The pig would pick up the can, raise its head, crush the can and drink. If you got there too late (or early depending on perspective), the pig was passed out drunk. I never actually knew the places name but apparently it is the Montpellier Domino Club and I would bet that that pig is long gone. It has been replaced we’re told by a couple of pigs and now seems to be a “must do” tourist destination.
If you are a skin or scuba diver, or just a novice swimmer, one real “must do” on St. Croix is to visit the underwater National Park at Buck Island where the whole island, not just the reef, is the park. Located 1.5 miles off the northeast coast, there are a number of boat tours from Christiansted out to the area and the reef is spectacular. There is also an underwater trail on the eastern tip. If you can convince yourself to take this trip and put on a face mask you will never forget it.
A good driving circuit is to drive out Centerline Road where you should visit the Estate Whim Museum, the only surviving plantation great house in the Virgin Islands. Go on into Christiansted for lunch and a walk around the historic district and the waterfront. Skirt along the northwest coast from Salt River a stop at Davis Bay, the scenery is spectacular. On your return to Frederiksted drive through the rain forest on Mahogany Road with a stop off for a beer with the pig if you are so inclined.