The Danish ruled St Croix for almost 200 years before selling it to the United States in 1917. The Christiansted National Historic District includes five historic structures dating to the Danish colonial period that present and interpret the Danish way of life during the era, including the economy and trade, slavery, military and naval defense, ethnic diversity, architecture, and colonial administration.
Fort Frederick is an 18th-century Danish military base built to defend the island from other European navies and pirate attacks. It’s also the place where in 1848 the island’s governor general Peter Von Frederik read the proclamation that abolished slavery. It now houses a museum and art gallery.
Several old colonial plantations still stand in St Croix and are run like museums to demonstrate what life was like during the golden age of sugar, tobacco, and rum production. The Whim Plantation Museum is the grandest of the great old houses – a neo-classical mansion made of rock and coral with a mortar made from sugar molasses and seashells. A tour includes visits to the slave quarters, windmill, and factory. Other interesting plantations include the Lawaetz Family Museum (early 20th century), Estate Little Princess (18th-19th century; now a nature conservancy), and the Spratt Hall Plantation (oldest on the island, dating to the late 17th century).
Plant lovers will enjoy the St George Village Botanical Garden, where more than 1500 native and exotic plants are kept on a lovely property built on the ruins of a 19th-century sugar plantation and pre-Columbian Indian village. Some of the main attractions are a rainforest walk and cactus garden.
The Nelthropp family has been distilling rum on St Croix for eight generations. Visitors can tour the Cruzan Rum Factory to see how rum is made. The best part of the visit is the end, when you get to taste all the flavors of the iconic Caribbean liquor.
St Croix has some of the best-kept tropical and marine parks in the United States. The Buck Island Reef National Monument is a fully protected island and coral reef area that’s home to diverse flora and fauna, including hawksbill turtles and brown pelicans. The immaculately clear waters are perfect for swimming, snorkeling, and diving.
Salt River Bay National Historical Park marks the only place in the United States that Christopher Columbus is known to have landed – it remains an important prehistoric and colonial-era archaeological site. It’s also a fantastic ecosystem worth exploring for its large mangrove forests, coral reefs, and underwater canyon.
Sandy Point National Wildlife Refuge is a lovely, isolated, 3-kilometer/2-mile stretch of white sand where leatherback sea turtles are known to nest. Visitors can be taken on guided wildlife tours and swim in tidal ponds. Due to the fragile ecosystem, it is only open on weekends during the day.