As you plan your trip to St. Thomas, you will probably find that one of the favorite activities for St. Thomas vacations is duty-free shopping in Charlotte Amalie. While shopping and walking the streets of this colonial capital might be a great start to a St. Thomas vacation, St. Thomas tourism certainly has more to offer than simple shopping and dining. From the historic colonial sites scattered throughout the island to the natural beauty of the Caribbean, St. Thomas has something to offer any type of tourist. You and your family can embark on exotic underwater adventures, or ride a cable car to the top of a Caribbean peak. The possibilities are endless in St. Thomas.
A favorite of families, the Coral World Ocean Park features over five acres of aquariums, pools, hiking trails and observatories. Feeding shows and snorkeling expeditions allow children to interact with some of the Caribbean’s most interesting sea creatures. For the daring tourist, the site even offers parasailing and a swim-with-sharks program. Also for lovers of marine life, the high-tech submarine tour – Atlantis XV – allows tourists to coast through coral reefs and observe numerous types of fish, turtles and other Caribbean creatures. Your tour guide will point out interesting and rare species along the way.
Just east of the capital city of Charlotte Amalie is another tourist favorite, Bluebeard’s Castle. Though local legend states that the structure was built by the famous pirate to commemorate his love of Mercedita, the stone tower was actually constructed by Danish colonists in 1689 as a watchtower for nearby Fort Christian. Connected to this site is the complex know as Frederiksberg, a residence erected after the colonial government sold the land in 1818. Today, the buildings serve as one of the most unique architectural sites in the Caribbean.
The highest point in St. Thomas, the 1,542 foot peak of St. Peter Mountain, was once used by the U.S. government as a communications station. Today, this scenic overlook features shops and restaurants that look down upon Drake’s passage – the legendary site believed to have been a lookout for Sir Francis Drake spying on the Spanish Armada – and the surrounding Virgin Islands. Another great location for that perfect Caribbean view is The St. Thomas Skyride to Paradise Point. The aerial cable car at the site takes you up 700 feet in less than 7 minutes with stunning scenery along the way. At the top you will find a number of fun shops and restaurants, all of which feature amazing views of Charlotte Amalie harbor.
The Tillet Gardens are the home of St. Thomas’ vibrant local art scene. Formerly a Danish farm, English artist Jim Tillet converted the property into a center for visual arts and performance after arriving in St. Thomas in 1959. Besides being one of the few colonial farms open to the public, Tillet Gardens are brimming with local paintings, silkscreen prints, jewelry and other crafts all created by the local community. After enjoying a cool drink and a snack, check the event schedule as you may have the pleasure of hearing a classical music performance. The charming fishing outpost known as Frenchtown is another great area to visit and relax while in St. Thomas. Settled in the late 1800s by fishermen from the nearby French-Caribbean island of St. Barthelemy, Frenchtown still features an active fish market. Early in the morning, you can observe fishermen approaching the shore in their small boats and preparing their catch for sale. Resting on a hilltop in the middle of town is St. Ann’s Catholic Church, a great place to catch a view of town and the vast Caribbean. Frenchtown also has the beautiful French Heritage Museum with artifacts documenting the French colonial experience in the Caribbean region. A little further off the beaten path is the town of Red Hook, a departure point for many Caribbean ferries and other vessels. Supporting the local marinas are several excellent restaurants and bars, each with unique offerings. Experiencing small towns such as Red Hook, in addition to the capital of Charlotte Amalie and the surrounding countryside, will certainly offer some understanding of the rich culture and history of this beautiful Caribbean island.