Transportation to Nearby Virgin Islands
Do you want to explore everything the Virgin Islands have to offer? Ferries, sea planes, and day sailing trips are available to transport you to neighboring islands. St. Croix, the largest of the three primary U.S. Virgin Islands, is just a 20-minute sea plane ride or an hour and a half ride by ferry. St. John is just a quick 20-minute ferry ride from Red Hook. To learn more about visiting St. John, visit our local's guide to visiting St. John.
For more information about visiting nearby islands, including the British Virgin Islands (located less than 30 minutes away), visit our Tour & Activity Booking portal. There you will find day sailing, ferries, and all the other options available for transport to Jost Van Dyke, St. John, and other neighboring islands.
Walking tours on St. Thomas and St. Croix feature the diverse architecture, evidence of nations that colonized the islands in the 17th and 18th centuries. If you're feeling energetic, walk one of the many street steps, the most famous being the 99 steps on St. Thomas, a common way of getting to higher ground.
Brief History of The Virgin Islands
The first people arrived in the U.S. Virgin Islands in about 2000 B.C. Over the years, tribes, explorers, pirates, kings, and queens have all sought to rule the natural splendor of the U.S. Virgin Islands. From the time Christopher Columbus arrived, seven different nations have governed our land, leaving their influence in customs, architecture, art, music, and cuisine. On March 31, 1917, the islands officially became a part of the United States. The islands’ rich history results in a delightful tapestry of cultures.
According to historians, the Ciboneys were the first group of people to inhabit the U.S. Virgin Islands. They arrived on the islands during what is considered the Pre-Ceramic Culture. Arawaks were the next to arrive, establishing sites on St. John and St. Croix around 100 AD. But the best-known inhabitants, and those to arrive next, were the savage Caribs and the more peaceful Tainos. Evidence of their time in the islands has been unearthed in recent years and includes stone griddles, zemis (small carvings depicting the faces of their gods), and petroglyphs, which are rock carvings visible on St. John's Reef Bay Trail.
The Caribs had taken control of St. Croix when Christopher Columbus sailed into Salt River on his second voyage in 1493, claiming the islands for Spain. The battle between the Indians and Columbus is considered the first insurgency in the New World. After renaming the island Santa Cruz, Columbus headed north where he spotted a chain of islands. He proclaimed they would be called Las Once Mil Virgenes (11,000 virgins) in honor of Ursula, martyred by the Huns for refusing to marry a pagan prince.
It was the Danes who established the first settlement in St. Thomas in 1672, expanding to St. John in 1694. St. Croix was added to the Danish West India Company in 1733, and plantations soon sprung up all over the islands.
A treaty with the Dutch of Brandenburg in 1685 established St. Thomas as a slave-trading post. More than 200,000 slaves, primarily from Africa's west coast, were forcibly shipped to the islands for the backbreaking work of harvesting cane, cotton, and indigo. St. John and St. Croix maintained a plantation economy while St. Thomas developed as a trade center. Stripped of their dignity and freedom and fed up with the harsh conditions, slaves attacked St. John's Fort Frederiksvaern in Coral Bay in 1733, crippling operations for six months. In 1792, Denmark announced the cessation of the trade in humans. Freedom was not granted to slaves until 1848, when Moses "Buddhoe" Gottlieb led a revolution on St. Croix, 17 years before emancipation in the United States.
After the freeing of slaves and the discovery of the sugar beet, agriculture in the islands declined. The industrial revolution ended the need for the islands as a shipping port. Little was heard of the islands until World War I, when the United States realized their strategic position and negotiated the purchase of the islands from Denmark for $25 million in gold.
Although the islands were purchased in 1917, it wasn't until 1927 that citizenship was granted to Virgin Islanders. The Organic Act of 1936 allowed for the creation of a Senate. In 1970, the U.S. Virgin Islands elected its first governor, Melvin H. Evans.