Whether you are a first-time visitor to St. Thomas or an island “regular,” keep in mind that a day trip to St. John is always a special experience — well worth the short three-mile ferry ride.
The smallest of the three U.S. Virgin Islands, St. John truly is one of the most enchanting destinations in the tropics. With verdant mountainsides dropping down into tranquil blue bays, as they did centuries ago in the time of Christopher Columbus, most of the island has remained idyllic and pristine. In short, photo ops are plentiful and breathtaking.
The preservation of St. John is due, in large part, to the foresight of American financier and philanthropist, Laurence Rockefeller.
In the 1950s, captivated by the beauty of the island, Rockefeller made extensive donations to the federal government specifically to establish the Virgin Islands National Park. Today, the park protects approximately two-thirds of St. John — including more than 5,000 acres of offshore marine areas.
On the west end of the island, downtown Cruz Bay is the heartbeat of daily activities and it’s rich with quaint shops and eateries. But once you begin your explorations out of town, you can truly appreciate the priceless contributions Rockefeller made to preserve the lush green island he loved so dearly.
By far, the most popular beach on St. John is Trunk Bay, partly because it is the site of a renowned underwater snorkel trail. But whether you decide to head for a sugary sand beach, go hiking, or investigate historical ruins, your St. John day-trip is sure to be magical.
An important decision to make in preparation for the brief journey from Red Hook to Cruz Bay is your mode of transportation. Aside from private yacht charters, your most reasonable options come down to what locals call: the “car ferry” vs. the “people ferry.”
If you have a rental vehicle, decide whether you’ll be happy taking the car ferry and driving around St. John on your own. Navigation is fairly straightforward. You’ll be free to make as many stops as you please and stay as long as you like.
The “people ferry” is an 18-minute ride; the car ferry takes 30-minutes or longer and early arrival to the dock in preparation for boarding is highly recommended to ensure a space.
The “people ferry” takes less time, it’s less expensive — and taxis are readily available on arrival. It’s easy to secure transportation to a specific destination or you can take a complete island tour. For first-timers, that’s generally the best bet.
Yet another consideration is taking the “people ferry” to St. John and renting a car for the day once you get there.
Hopefully, whichever decision you make, it will be the first of “many happy returns” to St. John.
A BIT ABOUT RED ROCK ROAD
Located above Magens Bay, when the Peterborg area of St. Thomas was being developed as a prime residential neighborhood, “early settlers” enjoyed spectacular vistas framed by nature’s lush greenery. The bad news was that when a resident hosted a house party, homes off the main road were difficult, if not impossible for guests to find — and cell phones didn’t exist. Frustrated by “no-shows” to his fiestas, Gary Gaines solved the problem by painting the huge rock at the turnoff toward his home with bright red paint. Years later, the unique landmark inspired a proper street sign which now reads “Red Rock Road.”