Saint Thomas

Saint Thomas in the U.S. Virgin Islands offers you spectacular views of the Atlantic Ocean and Caribbean Sea, European architecture, exquisite beaches, balmy water and over 300 duty-free shops plus tales of plundering pirates.

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1 Red Roofs and Blue Harbor of Charlotte Amalie, Saint Thomas

Downtown Charlotte Amalie on the island of Saint Thomas is awash in a rainbow of colors. The sky is blue, the Caribbean is aquamarine, the Danish roof tops are red, the blooming hibiscus are pink and the vegetation on the hillside is lush and green. Simple perfection! This panoramic view can be seen from Synagogue Hill.

Hebrew Congregation of St. Thomas, Charlotte Amalie, St Thomas 00801, USVI
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2 Port and Harbor History in Charlotte Amalie, Saint Thomas

The St. Thomas harbor has had a long history of welcoming ships of all sizes from different countries. Christopher Columbus landed here in 1493, followed by the Spaniards. Then the Danish settlers started arriving in 1672. After it became a free port in 1815, it grew into a major Caribbean distribution point for companies from Europe and the Americas for the next hundred years. Today, it has two ports – Havensight and Crown Bay – where cruise ships are constantly unloading two million passengers a year who collectively add over $1 billion to the local economy.

Legislature of the U.S. Virgin Islands, Veterans Dr, St Thomas 00802, USVI
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3 Magens Bay From Drake’s Seat on the Northside, Saint Thomas

Sir Francis Drake was a 16th century sea captain and the first Englishman to sail around the world. In England he was a hero but the Spaniards considered him a pirate for plundering their ships in the West Indies. According to legend, he used an elevated spot on the Northside of St. Thomas as a lookout for arriving vessels. In 1933, Arthur Fairchild created an overlook there and called it Drake’s Seat. It provides a stunning view of Magens Bay in the foreground and Lovenlund Bay on the other side of the Peterborg Point peninsula.

Drake's Seat Rte 37, St Thomas 00802, USVI
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4 Couple Reading and Napping at Magens Bay on the Northside, Saint Thomas

There are about forty beaches on the island of St. Thomas. One of the most popular is Magens Bay on the Northside. It has an exquisite sandy beach that stretches for three quarters of a mile. Although it tends to be crowded, there is always plenty of room to find your spot to lie down and enjoy a good book or a great nap.

Magens Bay Park, Magen's Bay Rd, St Thomas 00802, USVI
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5 Boat Rental Sign at Magens Bay on the Northside, Saint Thomas

If you are looking for a water toy to rent for an hour or the day while vacationing in St. Thomas, you will probably find it at Magens Bay. They have small boats, paddleboards, kayaks, snorkels and floats plus beach chairs and loungers. So go have some fun on this gorgeous sheltered bay of the Atlantic Ocean where the water is blue and calm and the sun is shining.

Magens Bay Park, Magen's Bay Rd, St Thomas 00802, USVI
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6 Lifeguard at Magens Bay on the Northside, Saint Thomas

Magens Bay is one of the few beaches on St. Thomas that charge an admission fee because the park supplies several services such as showers, restrooms and lifeguards. The 54 acre park was gifted to the government in 1946 by a Wall Street executive named Arthur Fairchild. It is now managed by the Magens Bay Authority. Prior to that, during the 18th and 19 centuries, the property was owned by the Jacob Magens family which is how the beach got its name.

Magens Bay Park, Magen's Bay Rd, St Thomas 00802, USVI
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7 Little Brothers at Magens Bay on the Northside, Saint Thomas

It was so much fun to watch these little brothers playing at Magens Bay. They’d race up to the waterline and then make a quick retreat when the waves approached their feet. The eldest kept taunting the younger one to enter the water. When he finally accepted the dare and plopped down, the older sibling laughed hysterically.

Magens Bay Park, Magen's Bay Rd, St Thomas 00802, USVI
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8 Sand Dollar Estate on the Northside, Saint Thomas

Along Peterborg Point on the Northside of St. Thomas are some very expensive properties for rent with gorgeous views of Magens Bay. An example is the Sand Dollar Estate in the lower center of this photo. The nine bedroom villa on 2 ½ acres with its own private beach has been the vacation spot for President Bill Clinton and his family, Vice President Gore and a long list of rock stars and celebrities.

Sand Dollar Hideaway 104, Peterborg, St Thomas 00802, USVI
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9 People at Skyline Drive Overlook in Charlotte Amalie, Saint Thomas

The island of St. Thomas is extremely hilly thanks to its volcanic origins so you get some great views as you drive around its 32 square miles. But to find the half dozen spots where the scenery is incredible, it is best to hire a taxi driver like these tourists did. They are enjoying the magnificent panorama of the Southside from the Skyline Drive Overlook, which is also called Valdemar Hill.

Valdemar A. Hill, Sr. Drive Scenic Overlook, St Thomas 00802, USVI
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10 Elevated View of Harbor and Charlotte Amalie, Saint Thomas

In the foreground is Charlotte Amalie, the capital city of the U.S. Virgin Islands and the only town in St. Thomas. It has a population of about 18,000 people. On the left is the Havensight Port where most of the cruise ships dock. The archipelago in the harbor includes the Hassel and Water Islands. The former is uninhabited and the latter has less than 200 residents. All of that wonderful blue water is the Caribbean Sea. This view is available from the Skyline Drive Overlook.

Valdemar A. Hill, Sr. Drive Scenic Overlook 00802, St Thomas 00802, USVI
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11 Blackbeard’s Castle in Charlotte Amalie, Saint Thomas

For a small entrance fee, you can tour Blackbeard’s Castle and other historic buildings in the King’s Quarter of Charlotte Amalie. Although I highly recommend the tour, the name is a misnomer. First, the Skytsborg Tower was built as part of a Danish fort in 1680, the same year the pirate was born as Edward Teach or Thatch. Second, although Blackbeard did plunder ships along the Lesser Antilles, some historians believe he never set foot on St. Thomas. However, several other pirates and bootleggers did have a safe haven on the island at the turn of the 17th century. So what is fact versus fiction is murky but the view from the top is worth climbing up the 40 foot circular staircase.

Blackbeard's Castle, 1002 Blackbeard's Hill, Charlotte Amalie, St Thomas 00802, USVI
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12 Three Queens Statues in Charlotte Amalie, Saint Thomas

Denmark ruled St. Thomas almost continuously from 1666 until 1917. In rebellion of the Dane’s oppressive control, Mary Thomas, Axeline Salomon and Mathilda McBean led an uprising in 1878 that was later called Fireburn because of all the houses and plantations that were torched. These women were considered heroines and given the name the Three Queens. Their statues, which were created by Richard Hallier in 2005, are located in a four-acre, terraced garden in the Kongens Quarter.

Blackbeard's Castle, 1002 Blackbeard's Hill, Charlotte Amalie, St Thomas 00802, USVI
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13 Government House in Charlotte Amalie, Saint Thomas

This two-story building with intricate white ironwork is the Government House and includes the Virgin Islands governor’s office. Standing on these balconies provides a commanding view of Charlotte Amalie and the Caribbean Sea. It was built in 1867 for the Danish Colonial Council. Inside is plenty of art including works by the French Impressionist Camille Pissarro and portraits of previous governors.

21-22 Kongens Gade, Charlotte Amalie, St Thomas 00804, USVI
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14 Women Descending 99 Steps in Charlotte Amalie, Saint Thomas

If you spend time exploring the town of Charlotte Amalie in Saint Thomas you will soon be challenged by its steep hills. The most famous is called Store Taarne Gade, which in Danish means Greater Tower Street, but most people call it The 99 Steps. In case you are counting, there are actually 103. The staircase was built in the mid-18th century using stones that had been ballasts on trade ships. But don’t worry because if you need to catch your breath, there are plenty of historic buildings to see along the way such as the Haagensen House which was built in the 1820s.

Kongens Gade & 99 Steps, Charlotte Amalie, St Thomas 00801, USVI
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15 Camille Pissarro Statue at Pirates Gallery in Charlotte Amalie, Saint Thomas

At the Pirates Gallery in St. Thomas, you can marvel at a huge collection of life-size statues of pirates who terrorized the Caribbean during the Golden Age of Piracy that ended around 1730. Some of the favorite bronze sculptures are of Blackbeard and Captain Morgan. Surprisingly among this motley crew is Camille Pissarro, the famous 19th century, French painter and Father of Impressionism. You can also visit his boyhood home at the nearby Pissarro Building.

Haagensen House, Charlotte Amalie, St Thomas 00802, USVI
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16 Amber Waterfall at Hotel 1829 in Charlotte Amalie, Saint Thomas

At the top of this red staircase called “Welcoming Arms” is the world’s largest amber waterfall. The two-story fountain contains about 12,000 stones that sparkle brightly in the afternoon sun. It is located in Hotel 1829, so named because it was built in that year as a huge home for Alexander Lavalette, a wealthy French sea merchant.

29-30 Kongens Gade, Charlotte Amalie, St Thomas 00801, USVI
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17 Shops along Main Street in Charlotte Amalie, Saint Thomas

Most of the duty-free shops that target tourists are not along the waterfront’s Veterans Drive but are one block over on Dronningens Gade, better known as Main Street. Several of these storefront buildings with Danish doors date back to the 19th century when they were warehouses for goods arriving or leaving from the harbor. Today, the merchants hope you will leave the port with shopping bags full of their jewelry, alcohol, clothes and souvenirs.

Artistic Jewelers, 5332 Dronningens Gade Suite # 2, St Thomas, 00802, USVI
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18 Diamonds International Store in Charlotte Amalie, Saint Thomas

If you love shopping then you will really love Saint Thomas because there are about three hundred shops in Charlotte Amalie. A few malls have sprung up near the cruise ship ports but the traditional stores are downtown on Main Street and Veterans Drive. A successful example is Diamonds International. They were founded here in 1986 and have grown into 150 stores and the world’s largest duty-free jewelry retailer.

Main St. & Norre Gade, Charlotte Amalie, St Thomas 00802, USVI
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19 St. Thomas Synagogue in Charlotte Amalie, Saint Thomas

Beracha Veshalom Vegmiluth Hasidim, better known as St. Thomas Synagogue, was built in 1833. This makes it the oldest Jewish synagogue in continuous use in America. Yet the congregation dates back to 1796. Three synagogue buildings preceded this one on Synagogue Hill. Inside this historic landmark is a menorah from the 11th century. Most interesting is the sand floor. This symbolizes the persecution that Crypto-Jews suffered during the Spanish Inquisition. To prevent execution, they secretly prayed in cellars covered with sand to muffle their Hebrew prayers.

Hebrew Congregation of St. Thomas, 2116 Crystal Gade, St. Thomas, 00802, USVI
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20 Legislative Building in Charlotte Amalie, Saint Thomas

Along the waterfront in Charlotte Amalie are the offices of the Virgin Islands Legislature. Built next to Fort Christian by the Danes in 1874 as a police barracks, it was here in 1917 that the Danish West Indies were transferred to the United States for the sum of $25 million. The building has also been used as a school and to house U.S. marines before becoming the capitol.

Legislature of the U.S. Virgin Islands Veterans Dr, St Thomas 00802, USVI
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21 White Ironwork on Main Street in Charlotte Amalie, Saint Thomas

Saint Thomas is a United States territory but its architecture is predominately European. There is plenty of influence from Denmark’s colonial period that started in the mid-17th century and lasted until 1917. The most visible example is the Danish red roofs. But you’ll also see French white iron gates and grillwork plus Spanish patios. Even the African slaves and the Caribbean pirates left behind traces of their culture and lives.

Raadets Gade & Dronningens Gade, Charlotte Amalie, St Thomas 00802, USVI
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Close Up of Large Green Iguana in Charlotte Amalie, Saint Thomas

A visit to St. Thomas is not complete unless you have seen one of the island’s ugliest residents: the green iguana. As a baby they are very green. As they mature, their scales become different shades of brown, black and rust. Their body can measure up to six feet. These giants are cold blooded so they often bask in the sunshine along rocky shorelines.

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22 Windmill at Crown Bay Port in Charlotte Amalie, Saint Thomas

Shortly after the Danes conquered Saint Thomas, they established sugar cane plantations during the late 17th and early 18th centuries. At first they used convicts and then slaves to plant and harvest the fields. Windmills were built to press the juice from cut cane stalks. Today there are only about 150 historic windmills on the Virgin Islands and most are in ruins. Only four are located on St. Thomas plus this reproduction at the Crown Bay Center next to the cruise ship port.

16 & A Sib Baase Crown Bay, St Thomas, VI 00802, USVI
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23 Elevated View of Lindbergh Bay on the Southside, Saint Thomas

If you fly into Saint Thomas you will probably see Lindbergh Bay as your plane lands. Also called Emerald Beach, it is a beautiful, crescent-shaped stretch of sand along the Caribbean Sea that’s lined with palm trees. Despite its proximity to both the airport and downtown, it is typically very quiet.

8070 Lindberg Bay, St Thomas, 00802 USVI
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24 Brewer’s Bay on the West End, Saint Thomas

Brewer’s Bay is on the West End of Saint Thomas and technically part of the University of the Virgin Islands campus. Expect to see more residents and local college students than tourists enjoying this beach. The water is usually calm which is great for a dip and seeing an occasional turtle, sting ray or dolphin swim by.

Brewers Bay Rd & Julian Jackson Dr, St Thomas 00802, USVI
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25 Elevated View of Perseverance Bay on the West End, Saint Thomas

Tourists rarely explore the West End of Saint Thomas which is a shame because these hills that plunge to the Caribbean Sea are covered with lush, green vegetation. Perhaps this is what the island looked like when the Ciboney people lived here around 1500 BC and then the Arawaks and Caribs before the first European explorers “discovered” it. But this deserted, pristine beach on Perseverance Bay is only accessible by boat.

Fortuna Rd & Black Point Rd, St Thomas 00802, USVI
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26 Carronade Cannon at Mountain Top on the Northside, Saint Thomas

The highest elevation on Saint Thomas is Mountain Top at 1,500 feet. Although it provides a great view of the Northside plus, on a clear day, several of the British and U.S. Virgin Islands, the overlook is dominated by a huge gift shop that sells souvenirs to busloads of tourists. What I liked most is this carronade located next to the parking lot. The cast iron, short-range cannon was designed by a Scottish company for the British Royal Navy in 1770. The “smasher” also became the weapon of choice for pirates for nearly 80 years while they plundered the Caribbean.

Mountain Top, Crown Mountain Rd, St Thomas 00802, USVI
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27 Inner and Outer Brass Islands on the Northside, Saint Thomas

Across from Neltjeberg and Dorothea Bays on the Northside of Saint Thomas are two small jewels of the Atlantic called Inner and Outer Brass Islands. Inner Brass is only a half mile from shore so it is a popular destination for kayakers. The island is mostly uninhabited except for a pack of wild goats.

Dorothea Beach, St Thomas 00802, USVI
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28 Elevated View of Hull Bay and Tropaco Point on the Northside, Saint Thomas

Tropaco Point is best known as the western edge of Magens Bay but on this side the peninsula with two islets defines the much smaller, quieter yet equally beautiful Hull Bay. It is a great place to escape the cruise crowd that flock to the most popular beaches. Here you can have a relaxing time with the locals from the Northside.

George A. Mena Scenic Dr, St Thomas 00802, USVI
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29 Brass Islands From Hull Bay on the Northside, Saint Thomas

The Northside of Saint Thomas is a sawtooth series of bays facing the Atlantic Ocean. A couple of them feature beaches that are always on the “must see” lists for tourists. Most of the others are quiet and enjoyed only by locals, many of whom have homes that hug the coastline. Hull Bay, with its great view of the Inner and Outer Brass Islands, is a good example. During my visit I shared this beach only with a jogger and his two dogs.

10 Hull Bay Estate, St. Thomas, 00802, USVI
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30 Mahogany Run Golf Course on the Northside, Saint Thomas

The only 18-hole golf course on the island of Saint Thomas is Mahogany Run. Tom Fazio designed this 70 par course to offer you the scenic challenge of rolling green hills plus spectacular views of the Atlantic Ocean at the three holes called Devil’s Triangle. The course is of championship quality yet open to the public.

1 Mohogany Run N, St Thomas 00802, USVI
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31 View of Thatch Cay from Tutu Bay on the Northside, Saint Thomas

On the horizon from this elevated view of Tutu Bay is a privately held yet uninhabited island called Thatch Cay. During the 19th century it was home to a Danish plantation called The Hope. Then in the early 20th century it had a small fishing community that harvested the abundant lobsters off shore. But in 2000 the 230 acres were purchased and are awaiting development.

Salt Pond Rd, St Thomas 00802, USVI
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32 Sandy Beach at Coki Bay on the Northside, Saint Thomas

Coki Bay is always rated as one of the best beaches on Saint Thomas. The sand is white and fine, the Atlantic Ocean water is typically calm, the snorkeling is excellent and there are plenty of vendors, rental shops and amenities to take care of whatever you need for a wonderful day in the tropical sun. The only downfall is that it tends to be very crowded with tourists.

6464 #4 Coki Point Beach, St. Thomas, 00802, USVI
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33 Girls Photographing Boyfriends at Coki Beach on the Northside, Saint Thomas

College students love spending spring break in a tropical climate and Saint Thomas in the Virgin Islands is a perfect choice. It does not attract the throngs of partiers like some beaches in Florida and Mexico yet has plenty of inexpensive airfares, reasonable hotels, duty-free shopping and no passport is needed. So talk your best friends into going along to this picture-perfect location.

6464 #4 Coki Point Beach, St. Thomas, 00802, USVI
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34 Coral World Ocean Park at Coki Bay on the Northside, Saint Thomas

The white dome on the shore of Coki Beach is part of the Coral World Ocean Park, a major tourist attraction on St. Thomas. The 4.5 acre park has an underwater observatory with an 80,000 gallon coral reef exhibit. You can also get close to sharks, sea lions, turtles and countless other marine life from the Atlantic Ocean and the Caribbean Sea.

6450 Coki Point, St Thomas, 00802, USVI
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35 People Snorkeling at Coki Bay on the Northside, Saint Thomas

Saint Thomas is a haven for snorkelers and scuba divers because the water is always warm (in the 80° F range), clear down to 100 feet and hosts beautiful coral reefs that are populated by over 400 species of tropical fish and other marine life. Unfortunately, most of the best spots are far offshore. The exception is at Coki Bay. Just walk into the calm water and be delighted by its two fringing reefs that extend out 50 yards. It’s perfect for beginners and intermediates. Rental equipment is also available nearby.

6450 Coki Point, St Thomas, 00802, USVI
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36 Nirvana Buddhist Temple on the Northside, Saint Thomas

The U.S. Virgin Islands only has about 100,000 people whose predominate religion is Christianity so it is unexpected to see a Buddhist temple hugging a hill on the Northside of St. Thomas. But in 2006, Dr. May Trieu and her foundation constructed the Nirvana Temple on the Estate Mandahl to serve the religious needs of the 1.5% of the population who are of Asian descent.

The Nirvana Temple, 6519 Mandahl Estate, St. Thomas, 00802, USVI
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37 Mandahl Bay Beach on the Northside, Saint Thomas

Most of St. Thomas’ Northside coast is developed but the rare exception is Mandahl Bay. You will need a local expert to bring you to a dirt road, walk through dense mangroves and pass a salt pond before reaching this isolated beach. I promise you will be the only person there. But this precious area is threatened by the proposed construction of a hotel and marina so you’d better visit it soon if you want to experience the unspoiled Virgin Islands.

21B-2 MANDAHL, Box 600166, St. Thomas, 00801, USVI
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38 Sea Fan at Mandahl Bay on the Northside, Saint Thomas

The water surrounding Saint Thomas is blessed with healthy reefs that are home to more than 40 types of coral. This is a visual paradise for snorkelers and scuba divers. But if you explore deserted beaches like the one at Mandahl Bay, you might find sea fans that have washed ashore. Called a gorgonian or alcyonacea, this sea whip is actually a colony of tiny, living polyps.

21B-2 MANDAHL, Box 600166, St. Thomas, 00801, USVI
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