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St Thomas is the second largest and most sophisticated of the Virgin Islands, and is an extremely popular port for cruise ships. There's a strong Danish influence which is especially evident in Charlotte Amalie, the main town and capital.
Being the most accessible of the islands also means it is the most heavily developed and visited, with visitors from around the world attracted by the town's reputation as an international shopping Mecca and cruise hub.
It is also scenically beautiful, with numerous headlands, coves, and forested hills providing stunning vistas over the Caribbean. St Thomas also has some of the best white-sand beaches in the region.
Magens Bay Beach, on the north coast, is acclaimed as one of the finest in the world, and the sparkling waters and coral reef of Coki Bay are superb for snorkelling. Fabulous panoramas can be viewed from Drake's Seat, a high point in the centre of the island from where Sir Francis Drake used to watch for enemy ships.
Combining natural beauty with first-rate amenities, St Thomas offers numerous activities on and off the water, a variety of accommodation including fine hotels, and good international cuisine.
Charlotte Amalie, named in honour of the wife of King Christian V, is the Danish-flavoured capital of the US Virgin Islands, a busy port and important merchant centre since the 18th century. The beautiful harbour is ringed with whitewashed houses and painted villas, their red roofs a splash of colour against the green hillside. Cobbled, Danish-signposted streets and alleyways lead down to the waterfront lined with shops, boutiques and colonial architecture.
The old Danish merchant warehouses form a world-famous shopping district, selling imported goods from around the globe. The harbour is usually filled with cruise ships, ferries, yachts and fishing vessels, and is one of the most visited ports in the Caribbean, creating a tourist hub that is vibrant and multinational, but often overcrowded.
For those weary of duty-free shopping, Charlotte Amalie offers numerous other attractions, as well as elegant restaurants and an exciting nightlife. Blackbeard's Castle on top of Government Hill offers superb views over the harbour, and is said to have been the lookout tower for the legendary pirate, Captain Blackbeard.
The red brick Fort Christian is the oldest standing building on the island, where Danish soldiers stood guard against pirates and invaders. The fort has served as a jail, church, government house and community hall in its long history and today houses the Virgin Islands Museum.
The best way to appreciate the stunning beauty of Charlotte Amalie and the St Thomas Harbour is from above. The idea for the tramway, which carries visitors over Flag Hill to Paradise Point, 700 feet (213m) up, began in the 1980s, when two ambitious businessmen bought more than 30 acres of Flag Hill from the Queen of Denmark.
After a few setbacks, including Hurricane Hugo, the tramway opened in 1994 and has been a favourite tourist activity ever since. If visitors are fortunate enough to catch one of the last trams of the day, they will witness a magical vista of twinkling lights against the soft Caribbean twilight.
At the top, there is a collection of unique shops as well as a casual restaurant perfect for watching sunsets while sipping a cocktail and listening to a local band. Paradise Point has been voted the best live entertainment venue and the best tourist attraction multiple times.
Coral World Ocean Park is arguably the island of St Thomas' premier tourist attraction and has been enormously popular for years with visitors of all ages. The marine park is built on two levels: an over-water floor with interesting exhibitions, a touch pool, restaurants, and a gift shop; and an underwater observatory where visitors can gape at exotic marine life in its natural surrounds.
Coral World also boasts Sea Trek technology - that is, 'helmet diving technology' - allowing you to walk along the ocean floor for up to half an hour with no need for an oxygen tank or a snorkel. This technology was successfully used to stage the island's first-ever underwater wedding, which took place at Coral World in January 2001.
St Thomas is a Caribbean tourist magnet, fully equipped to provide all sorts of entertainment for holidaymakers. Sports and activities are abundant on St Thomas: there are excellent snorkelling and scuba diving sites; quality greens for golf enthusiasts; sport fishing operators; and yachting opportunities.
Naturally the beaches of St Thomas are a big draw card for travellers. Favourites include Lindquist Beach, Honeymoon Beach, Secret Harbour, Bluebeard's Beach and Magens Bay.
Charlotte Amalie promises epic shopping sprees and great restaurants and the nearby resort town of Red Hook, a smaller version of Charlotte, also provides fun eating out and shopping opportunities. Red Hook is also the jumping off point to other Caribbean islands and the upmarket beach resorts nearby.
The educational Coral World Ocean Park provides a unique look at the goings-on of Caribbean marine life and is well worth a visit, especially for those travelling to the US Virgin Islands with kids. Another touristic must on St Thomas is a trip up to Paradise Point on the St Thomas Skyride, which offers spectacular views.
No direct flights from Heathrow to this Destination
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