st thomas day trips

Charlotte Amalie is the bustling center of activity on St. Thomas. (Photo: Alamy)

Tips + Trends

4 Easy Day Trips From Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas

Charlotte Amalie is the bustling center of activity on St. Thomas, a busy cruise stop and duty-free port where the narrow streets can be wall to wall with people when multiple cruise ships are in port. But you don’t have to go far to get away from the crowds.

Frenchtown is an easy alternative to the city’s shopping scene, a pair of nearby islands are oases of calm, and laid-back St. Croix is just a short hop away by seaplane.

Finding Frenchtown

A short walk along the waterfront west of downtown Charlotte Amalie is Frenchtown, a historic district with small shops and restaurants to explore. Founded by immigrants from the French Caribbean island of St. Barthelemy (St. Barts) around the turn of the last century, Frenchtown became a bustling fishing port and the center of French culture on St. Thomas—roles it still plays today.

In addition to fishing boats, a fish market, the hilltop St. Ann’s Catholic Church, and the small French Heritage Museum you’ll find Frenchtown’s narrow streets appropriately lined with some of St. Thomas’ best restaurants.

Seafood, of course, features prominently at Oceana, Hook, Line & Sinker, and newcomer Sea La Vie, but the district also boasts one of the best pizza joints in town, Pie Whole, and the elegant Bella Blu with its celebrated brunch and sushi menu.

“Hop Alley” is the obvious address for the Frenchtown Brewing Company, open for tours and tastings on Wednesdays, Fridays, and Saturdays.

Paddle to Hassel

From Frenchtown, you can rent a kayak and take a short paddle (mind the seaplanes!) across to Hassel Island, a historic district with hiking trails, forts, scenic overlooks, and the ruins of a 19th century marine railway, once used to repair ships. Strategically located Charlotte Amalie harbor, the island was a key defensive strongpoint for both the Danes and the British during their occupation of St. Thomas.

Visitors can follow trails to the ruins of three early 19th-century forts built by the British on the island’s high points, or take a more leisurely walk to the Creque Marine Railway on the 136-acre island’s east coast, where you can still see the rails used to drag 19th-century Danish ships from the water for repairs.

On the island’s quieter west side, kayakers will find small beaches and good snorkeling spots.

Ferry Across the Water… to Water Island

You can put away your paddles for the trip to Water Island, because ferry service runs regularly between Crown Bay Marina (on the western outskirts of downtown Charlotte Amalie) and the island. Nearly 500 acres in size, Water Island is the fourth-largest of the U.S. Virgin Islands but certainly the most overlooked.

With just a few hundred year-round residents and no cars, Water Island is a laid-back community where the biggest attraction is renting a golf cart or bike to go exploring.

The small island is full of surprises, however, including beautiful Honeymoon Beach (which seems a world removed from the traffic and tourists back in Charlotte Amalie), Dinghie’s Beach Bar and Grill with live music and a bar floating offshore, and the ruins of the World War 2 era Fort Segarra.

Take a Seaplane to St. Croix

Want to get even further away? Capture the spirit of the old Caribbean by boarding a seaplane for an unforgettable, 25-minute flight to St. Croix.

The Seaborne Airlines seaplane base is located harbor side in downtown Charlotte Amalie, with the channel between the mainland and Hassel Island serving as the runway for arriving and departing flights.

The pontooned, Twin Otter seaplanes splash down in St. Croix’s capital of Christiansted, where you can explore the well-preserved Fort Christiansvaern, built by the Danish in the 1730 and 1740s, bar-hop along the waterfront boardwalk, and dive the reef offshore of Buck Island, a national park with an underwater snorkeling trail.