Traveling to national park units not only helps you to learn about and experience your world, you also make lasting memories. Every trip has three components: planning and anticipation; the experience itself; and afterwards reflecting on what you did and sharing it with family and friends.
We were recently reflecting on our visit to the US Virgin Islands, and in particular our visit to Christiansted National Historic Site on the island of St. Croix. It was one of our most special vacations within the United States. There are great places to stay, the islands are English-speaking, you don’t need a passport and you spend US dollars! Much easier than many Caribbean locations with the same gorgeous scenery.
St. Croix is a cruise ship destination, but there are many other places on the island to visit. Long deserted beaches, nice places to wander and interesting history. Christiansted National Historic Site, established in 1952, preserves the history of Denmark’s sovereignty over the island.
Denmark’s expansion into the islands began when the Danish West India & Guinea Company took possession of island of St. Thomas in 1672 and later the island of St. Johns in 1717. They purchased St. Croix in 1733 because this island was better suited to growing sugar and the deep harbor was conducive to trade. They named this town Christiansted after King Christiansted VI and attracted settlers by offering 150 acre plantations for growing sugar (and making rum). Although the population was some 10,000 people, 90% of them were slaves.
The fort at Christiansted, built between 1738 and 1749 on the remains of an old French fort, protected residents and commerce from slave revolts and marauders. You can visit it today, wander through the old fort and check out the canons. Bonus: a gorgeous view out over the harbor.
There are several other historic structures on the 7+ acre site. You can go into the Steeple Building, the first Lutheran church on the island built in 1753, and the Scale House built in 1856 a bustling center for trade – the place where they weighed “heads” of sugar and “puncheons” of rum before the shipped off island.
Other buildings that you can see include the Customs House (built in 1842), Danish West India & Guinea Company Warehouse (built 1749) and Government House (built 1747), all great examples of Danish style.
The tour is self-guided and there are lots of fun photo opportunities!
You will also want to spend some time at the visitor center where you will learn more about Danish people and what life was like in the islands between 1734 to 1917.
St. Croix became part of the United States in 1917, during World War I, as part of a strategy to control access to the Panama Canal and east coast of the US. This year, 2022, is the 70th anniversary of Christiansted NHS. It’s a perfect time to visit.
While you are there, be sure to take time to visit the other national park units in the US Virgin Islands. Two are on St. Croix (Buck Island Reef National Monument and Salt River Bay National Historical Park & Ecological Preserve). Pop over to the island of St. John’s to visit the other two national park units (Virgin Islands National Park and Virgin Islands Coral Reef National Monument). It is an amazing trip. You’ll feel like an “expat”.
Are you trying to visit all the National Parks?
If your goal is to visit them, one or all, we’d love to help you strategize. Give us a call at (480) 609-3978 or drop us a note here. We always enjoy talking with people who share our passion for visiting National Parks, and National Park Units.