My husband the About Fishing guide and I visited St. Croix for 10 days a few years ago, and we were both enchanted by the island. We were not on a cruise, but stayed at a small inn and spent our vacation time touring via rental car, snorkeling, or lazing on our second floor screened-in porch that hung over the surf below. I have visited St. Croix since that vacation on cruises, and have always enjoyed my time on this quiet, sweet, U.S. Virgin Island.
With 84 square miles of diverse landscape, St. Croix is the largest of the three U.S. Virgin Islands. It is about 40 miles south of St. Thomas, and its far eastern shore, Point Udall, is the easternmost point in the United States. The island has a dramatic history, and sugar cane cultivation was much more important here than on St. Thomas or St. John. Seven flags have flown over St. Croix, but the nearly 250 years of Danish influence seem to predominate throughout the island. The island has a contrasting variety of scenery. The northwest is covered by a lush rain forest, the East End is dry and barren, and palm-lined beaches touched by clear aquamarine water ring the island. The South Shore is dominated by industry, providing a stark contrast to the natural beauty found elsewhere on the island.
The ruins of great plantation houses and more than 100 sugar mills dot the island's landscape. Wonderful names of the old plantations are still used to describe the small communities and districts of St. Croix.
If your cruise includes a day on St. Croix you have several choices. You can rent a car and explore the island and the two major "cities" of Frederiksted and Christiansted. If you are squeamish about driving on the left, you can rent a taxi for a day or half day. Snorkelers should probably go to Buck Island for the day if the weather permits. Those who are fascinated by the old plantations might want to spend a few hours at the Estate Whim Plantation Museum, and those who are fascinated by old forts should use their time to tour Fort Christiansvaern in Christiansted or Fort Frederik in Frederiksted. The Cruzan Rum Factory distills the famous Virgin Islands rum, and offers tours to the public. Finally, if you are into gardening, you might want to stop at the St. George Botanical Gardens. These are only a few options to explore on St. Croix. As you can see, this Virgin has a little of everything!
Driving around the island can be challenging. Not only do you have to drive on the left, but often the roads need repair, so you spend some of your time dodging pot holes. The island is flatter than its two saintly brothers, so we found the driving somewhat easier than on St. Thomas. Many of the roads are unmarked, but remember that getting lost may be part of the adventure. Your cruise ship will probably offer a circle island tour, and taxis are also available for hire. Just be sure to get the daily or half day rate before striking out in one! Buck Island is a snorkeler's dream. The park covers about 850 acres of land and water surface and lies about 1.5 miles off the northern shore of St. Croix. Buck Island has been a part of the park service since 1948, and the pristine waters offer wonderful snorkeling. There are a couple of snorkeling trails, and several outfitters offer day trips to the island. We sailed on Captain Heinz's Teroro II, and thought the captain and his excursion were great.
The Estate Whim Plantation is only about 2 miles from Frederiksted, and was restored by the St. Croix Landmarks Society. The oval-shaped plantation house is really special. It has only three rooms, and its walls made of stone, coral, and molasses, are three feet thick. The chateau-like house is surrounded by a dry moat, which helps cool the house. In addition to the old plantation house, you will find other fascinating exhibits such as an apothecary, cook house, and windmill. There is a small admission fee, but it is well worth it to get a sense of life on a sugar cane plantation of the 1800's.
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