New York City of the Islands, St. Thomas
Updated: Jan 23, 2021
We refer to St. Thomas as the New York City of the islands because it is the 'city center' for the area. The capital of the US Virgin Islands, Charlotte Amalie, is located on St. Thomas and receives almost one million cruise ship passengers per year (before hurricanes Irma and Maria it was close to 2 million). Before basing Kuma Too in St. Thomas, we mostly used St. Thomas as a stopover before continuing onto other islands. However, now that this is our home, we have a new appreciation for this island paradise.
Lindquist Beach and Secret Harbor hold special places in our hearts since Joe and I were married on Lindquist Beach and had our wedding reception at Secret Harbor in 2013. Lindquist is a local's beach within Smith Bay Park, and there are few amenities. Although there is now a refreshment stand and restrooms available! Secret Harbor is a quaint resort that is home to Sunset Grille located in Nazareth Bay. Both locations are off the beaten path and do not get the crowds from the daily cruise ships.
Charlotte Amalie historic district is the 'tourist' center of the island; however that should not deter you from a visit! Taphus, the original name of Charlotte Amalie meaning beer house, was established by the Danish in the 1600s and was frequently visited by pirates as a safe harbor. In the 1700 and 1800s, Charlotte Amalie was a busy trading port and because the island saw short stints of British occupancy, there are forts around the harbor. The buildings that line the streets of Charlotte Amelie today were rebuilt in the early 1900s after being destroyed by natural disasters. The restaurants and shops that line the harbor have great food with even better ambiance, so it's definitely worth a stroll through town before heading to the airport!
The late 1800s and early 1900s were hard on the island chain, as they began relying on Denmark financially. Negotiations had been ongoing with the US, and the deal was made final on March 31, 1917 for St. Thomas, St.Croix, and St. John to become the Virgin Islands of America.
Hassel Island sits in Charlotte Amalie's harbor and is a VI National Park with a few private properties along the shore accessible only by private boat. Hassel Island is no longer maintained since the Hurricanes, so the dinghy dock is still in disrepair and the paths are significantly overgrown. That didn't stop us from exploring! We hacked our way through thick brush and spiderwebs to explore the Garrison House, Forth Willoughby, and Cowell's Battery and Signal Station used during the Napoleonic Wars.
Surrounded by the University of the Virgin Islands, the Cyril E. King international airport and a rocky outcrop, Brewer's Bay is another local's beach with great snorkeling! Beautiful turquoise water with a large sandy area around the reef provides a protected cove for anchoring Kuma Too. Across the street from beachfront ruins is a steep hike not for the faint of heart. After climbing up what looks like an old stream bed of rocks for almost 1000-feet, we arrived to a breathtaking view of the Bay!
Red Hook is Kuma Too's official home port in St. Thomas. The area is home to a marina complex and shopping center full of souvenir shops, restaurants, marine stores, a captains school, dive center, laundromat, liquor and grocery stores, mail center, pharmacy, doctors office, bank, and more. Red Hook is a jumping off point to the surrounding islands with one of the main ferry ports and customs offices located here. We have everything we need and more within walking distance of the dinghy dock.
With so much more than I even touched on here, St. Thomas is spotted with restaurants, beautiful beaches, and must-see destinations. Join us in St. Thomas to start your exploration of the Virgin Islands. To learn about charters on board Kuma Too visit www.SailingKumaToo.com
Until next time, Happy Sailing!