Charlotte AmalieCopyright: Matt Wade/cc by-sa 2.0/Flickr
Charlotte AmalieExceptional views, numerous historical attractions, delightful shopping opportunities and some of the best Caribbean beaches nearby — that’s what Charlotte Amalie is all about. Cruise ship passengers disembark daily to explore the idyllic waterfront, buy Caribbean rum and tax-free jewellery. Imagine the days of pirates while sipping a fruity cocktail, or get to know the colonial past of this 350-year-old city.
St Thomas IslandBefore the colonisation of the Americas, the area was inhabited by Caribs, Arawaks, Ciboney and Taíno native peoples. The U.S. Virgin Islands were “discovered” by Columbus on his second voyage to the New World in 1493. In the centuries that followed, the English, Dutch, French, Spanish, Knights of Malta, and Danes ruled the islands. In 1917, during World War One, the United States bought the islands from Denmark for $25,000,000 in gold. Since then, St Thomas became known for having one of the most beautiful harbours in the world. Located in the Northeastern area of the Caribbean Sea, St. Thomas is part of the Leeward Islands. Wonderful and reliable weather is what makes it such a popular destination in the winter months. It is a Caribbean postcard image in real life: glimmering turquoise waters, a hammock under a palm tree and a fruity rum drink in hand. St Thomas offers a lot of variety depending on your interests. Busy resorts line the shores of the East End around Red Hook Village. Southside beaches are almost exclusively used by hotel guests, so head here for a little more privacy. Northside is entirely private residences and villa rentals, so it’s even more tranquil — no tourist crowds whatsoever. Founded in 1666 as Taphus (“beer house” in Danish), Charlotte Amalie is the capital and the largest city of the U.S. Virgin Islands. The town got its present name in 1691 in honour of Charlotte Amalie of Hesse-Kassel (1650–1714), queen consort to King Christian V of Denmark-Norway. The deepwater harbour that once attracted pirates now welcomes cruise ships. It is, in fact, the busiest port of call in the Caribbean. Danish colonial architecture can still be found in Charlotte Amalie, and many streets and places have Danish names. Blackbeard's Castle and Bluebeard's Castle play into the romantic ideas we all got from the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise. Be sure to stop by the Royal Dane Mall, where a series of plaques placed throughout the alleyways provide extra historical context. The U.S. Virgin Islands have also been a popular shopping destination since 1607. The settlers of Jamestown, the first English settlement on the continent, bought supplies on their way to Virginia. These days, it’s all about shopping tax-free for things like custom leather sandals, jewellery, rum, artisanal Moko Jumbie dolls, shipwreck coins and local art. Fascinating history, exciting adventures, lush natural beauty, fantastic cuisine and lively culture — St Thomas has it all.
Sustainable TourismEven though eco-tourism is still a relatively new concept to the Virgin Islands, it is possible to find truly eco-friendly lodgings on the islands. Low-impact activities like hiking, snorkelling and kayaking abound in this natural paradise. Many restaurants and bars that grow their own ingredients. Back in the 18th century, most of the islands were clear-cut to plant sugar cane. Today, there is a very different attitude toward the complex ecosystem of the islands, shared by both residents and visitors alike.
Do & See
There are plenty of things to explore in Charlotte Amelie: up in the hills, by the sea and underwater. Culture, food and drinks, stunning nature and delightful shopping opportunities — you'll never get bored.
Stunning beaches and endless blue skies aside, St Thomas is known for its shopping scene. Remember, that you can buy souvenirs, local art, jewellery and whatever your heart desires duty free. Both cruise ports — Havensight and Crown Bay — have their own malls. The selection of products and services is superb. You could do all your shopping right there if you don’t feel like making the trip downtown. Let a gondola take you from Havensight up to Paradise Point, where the sprawling views of the bay are the perfect backdrop for some souvenir shopping. Try the chocolate-flavoured piña colada called the Bushwacker! Another place to shop with a view is the famed Mountain Top on St. Peter Mountain. Grab a Banana Daiquiri (which was invented right here!) and browse beachwear, sandals, jewellery and other Caribbean delights.