There’s more to the U.S. Virgin Islands than beautiful beaches

There’s more to the U.S. Virgin Islands than beautiful beaches

TORONTO — The Commissioner of Tourism for the United States Virgin Islands admits it takes a bit of effort to get there — after all, Canadians are accustomed to direct flights to Caribbean destinations.

“We’re definitely a destination for the traveller,” said Beverly Nicholson-Doty, during an event to promote the islands to media and agents.

While there are no direct flights out of Canada, there are plenty of connections through New York, Miami, Atlanta, Charlotte and Philadelphia on Delta Air Lines, US Airways, American Airlines and United Airlines.

Once there, it’s a destination where clients can have a “multiple-island experience,” said Nicholson-Doty. “We’re unique in terms of the fact that we’re one territory, but we have three major islands.”

St. Croix is the largest island at 84 square miles, surrounded on all sides by the Caribbean Sea. “It’s lesser known in terms of our three islands, but it’s rich in history, rich in culture,” said Nicholson-Doty. “It’s really a place where you can step back in history.”

The island offers up colonial architecture, historic landmarks and national parks, but it’s also becoming known for its culinary scene. It’s experiencing the “farm to fork” movement and restaurants such as Zion Modern Kitchen serve up cuisine that’s sourced locally as much as possible.

Many people first visit St. Thomas on a cruise ship. Charlotte Amalie (the capital) is the most visited port in the Caribbean and has a reputation as a shopping mecca. As a mountainous island, it also offers stunning vistas of the Caribbean.

“(St. Thomas) is known for its shopping,” said Nicholson-Doty, “but around that is some of the most incredible history.” Fort Christian, for example, is a 16th century fort and the oldest standing structure in the Virgin Islands; it will reopen to the public in two months. It houses the Virgin Islands Museum with early island memorabilia and antique maps.

Then there’s St. John, the smallest of the three islands, with a tranquil, unspoiled feel. “If I live there and it’s my getaway, I can assure you, (it has) the most beautiful beaches that you’ve ever seen,” said Nicholson-Doty. Two-thirds of the island is protected as national park land, including an underwater preserve.

It’s easy to travel among the three islands, so visitors can have several different experiences during a one-week vacation. And it’s always a good time to go: “We believe that because we’re three islands we have three times the fun and we carnival all year round,” said Nicholson-Doty. “So there is always a party going on somewhere in the U.S. Virgin Islands.”