St. Croix’s history spans the rule of seven nations, each influencing the customs, character, language and architecture of the island. Even today, with modern conveniences, St. Croix retains the old world charm that has vanished on many other islands. The pace is slower, and everyone takes time to stop and smell the frangipani!
The island is 1700 miles south of New York, 1100 miles south east of Miami, near the eastern tip of the Caribbean island chain. On the same latitude as Acapulco and Hawaii, just below the Tropic of Cancer, it is eternal summer caressed by cooling tradewinds. The average temperature is in the mid-80s, and there’s just enough rain to keep the ixora, hibiscus and bougainvillea in bloom. The island is 22.7 miles long, and at its widest only 8 miles, but in this stretch there are great varying landscapes. The eastern end is dry, with giant cactus and yucca clusters. The middle is flat fertile land, once the site of massive sugar cane plantations. The western end rises to a height of 1,096 feet on Blue Mountain, culminating in a rain forest of giant mahogany, saman and tibet trees.
The beaches are unique, some quiet coves, some, like Cane Bay, a world renowned dive site. Snorkeling is easy, for abundant sea life and coral reefs are close to shore. The high salt content of the Caribbean Sea makes you more bouyant so snorkeling here is easy.
Since 1917, the island has been a territory of the United States, with special status as a duty-free port. Although U.S. citizens here cannot vote for the President, they elect a non-voting delegate to Congress, and elect a local governor and territorial Senate of 15. A Caribbean jewel under the U.S. flag, St. Croix is laid back, quiet, restful and not crowded. It’s what you always hoped a Caribbean island would be.
Christiansted: One of two towns on the island, and a National Historic Site, Christiansted was once the Capital of the Danish West Indies, and was founded in 1734. The architectural quality of the town is remarkable, with cobblestone walkways shaded by large arched galleries. The Danes discovered how to adapt 18th Century-style buildings in the West Indies to reduce heat, maximize breeze, and withstand tropical storms. Tray ceilings let warm air rise in the days before ceiling fans and air conditioning, and cross ventilation is enhanced by rectangular shaped buildings. In fact, even today, many buildings and homes on St. Croix are not air conditioned thanks to this ingenious practical design. The buildings were constructed from cut coral blocks (look closely, you’ll wonder how they were ever harvested!) and Danish brick brought as ballast. Thick walls keep the interiors cool, and courtyards and arcades provided shaded retreats. Narrow streets were wide enough for the mule carts of the 1800s! This area, once prestigious residences and mercantile shops of the wealthy Danes, today forms the shopping and restaurant district. Ongoing interest continues and plans are underway for the historic restoration of old buildings on the outskirts of town.
Frederiksted: Victorian Gingerbread, wide streets and a picturesque waterfront the full length of the town make Frederiksted one of the most beautiful in the Caribbean. Freedom City, as it is known, has a rich history. Smugglers and pirates of the mid-1700s necessitated the construction of Fort Frederik in 1752. The city was destroyed by fire in 1878, and rebuilt in the Victorian style of the era. Time seems to have passed the city by, but the beautiful park, and open air Vendors’ mart comes alive on the days the sleek cruise ships dock at the new pier. Navy ships and subs from the US and foreign fleets dock here often for R&R and frequently give tours of the vessels.