What you should know about St. John.
Only three miles from St. Thomas but still a world apart. St. John is the smallest and least commercial of the US Virgin Islands. Two thirds of the island is owned by the Virgin Islands National Park leaving only limited land for development. Despite that the population has nearly doubled in the past decade or so and the island has grown from a sleepy, unknown destination spot into a vibrant community that has many things to offer the visitor.
There are two settlements on the island of St. John. On the northwest end is the busy town of Cruz Bay (also known as Love City). Cruz Bay was established in the 1850s as an outpost for the Danes from St. Thomas and it is there that you will arrive by ferry. At the other end of the island is the much smaller community of Coral Bay. Even further yet is the area of East End, prestine and untouched, this coastline is the most quiet of the island and home to many long-time St. Johnians.
St. John and St. Thomas?
If you are traveling between our islands, you're sure to find some adventure!
Most passengers to St. John take the ferry service from Red Hook. The ride to Red Hook should take about 40 minutes. Sit back and enjoy these first views of the Virgin Islands, you are now on Island Time and there are ferries departing Red Hook on the hour throughout the day. [ferry schedule]. This taxi service to Red Hook is $13.00 for one person, $9.00 each if more than one. The ferry ride to St. John takes about 20 minutes and costs $3.00 a person.
If you decide to take the downtown Charlotte Amalie ferry to St. John the ride is shorter, about 10 minutes, and the cost is less, currently $6.00 for one person, 5.00 each if more than one, but be sure to check the ferry schedule [schedule] as fewer ferries connect between Charlotte Amalie and Cruz Bay. The $7.00 ferry ride from downtown takes about 45 minutes and features the gorgeous scenery of St. Thomas’ south shore line.
From Cruz Bay to Coral Bay to East End.
Cruz Bay, St. John
In Cruz Bay the shopping is varied and, due to its duty free port status, the prices are appealing. On the narrow crowed streets of Cruz Bay, St. John you will find many shops selling gifts, jewelry, clothing, local art, food markets and drug stores interspersed with a large number of fine restaurants, street-side cafes and smoothie bars.
Shopping in Cruz Bay
Coral Bay, St. John
An 8 mile, 30 minute, drive to the southeast end of the island takes you to the small town of Coral Bay, St. John. There you will note a distinctly different ambiance. Less populated, with many boat dwellers, it is dustier and more relaxed. Offering their own selection of intriguing shops, galleries, restaurants and bars the residents welcome island guests in a friendly and outgoing manner.
Bordeaux Mountain Lookout
On the way to Coral Bay and East End, you will climb Bordeaux Mountain, St. John's highest peak which rises to 1,277 feet. Route 10 passes near enough to the top to offer breathtaking vistas. At this lookout point you will be able see all around the island, the view of the sea is breathtaking. The turquoise blue of the Caribbean can be seen from all around. You can see the British Virgin Islands and on a very clear day, all the way to Virgin Gorda!
Shopping in Coral Bay
East End, St. John
From Coral Bay be sure to drive out to the East End of St. John for spectacular views and lesser known beaches, or out to Salt Pond where you can enjoy some of the other secluded shores and interesting dining spots.
What to see in East End
East End is unique in that there is no stores located here in East End, however, if you missed this opportunity to visit Vie's Snack Shack you will forever regret it! Try her honey-dipped chicken with Johnnie Cake!
Getting around St. John
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Traveling St. John by bus: Modern Vitran buses on St. John run from the Cruz Bay ferry dock through Coral Bay to the far eastern end of the island at Salt Pond, making numerous stops in between. The fare is $1 to any point. This is great for the traveler without time constraints but it is important to know that the service is slow and unfortunately at times unreliable and difficult to get a return ride at certain times.
St. John is traversed by Jeep or car rentals and taxi services. Because of the terrain, there are no bike or moped rentals.
Traveling St. John by ferry boat: There's frequent daily service from both Red Hook and Charlotte Amalie on St. Thomas to Cruz Bay. Due to the pandemic, there are no ferry services going to and leaving the the British Virgin Islands. But the St. John ferry schedules are published on the web site of Varlack Ventures Ferry Services.
Remember that a passport is required to travel between the USVI and BVI by ferry when ports reopen.
Traveling St. John by Taxi or Guided Tour: The tour drivers and taxi are pretty reliable and knowledgeable. You will hear many tales while driving along the windy St. John roads avoiding the freely wandering livestock, enjoying the vistas and marveling at the brightly flowered trees.