St. Thomas, US Virgin Islands
The six thousand feet long and a half mile wide Buck Island rises to 340 feet above sea level 1.5 miles off the northeast cost of St. Croix, the largest of the three US Virgin Islands, uninhabited except by sea turtles and brown pelicans and five miles away from Christiansted Fort, is considered one of the ten best Caribbean beaches by National Geographic Magazine along with Magens Bay.
The National Park Service manages the 880 acre territory which includes 176 acres of land and 704 of water and coral reef system. Buck Island was protected in 1948 to preserve the endangered species nesting here and one of the most beautiful marine gardens in the Caribbean Sea proclaimed a national monument in 1961 by John F. Kennedy. The island is not volcanic in origin but its sedimentary rocks were uplifted by tectonic pressures.
The Reef National Monument is a legendary underwater scenery and the white sand beach with crystal clear water an irresistible place to sun bath, swim or take a relaxing gateway pictured with several species of turtles, birds and Parrot Fish. Among the attractions there are many tour boats available at Buck Island including the Renegade, a boat with a glass bottom window to enjoy the wonders of the sea and also a range of boating and sailing tours, as well as other activities such as guided visits to the Park where more than 90 fish specimens and many corals species are housed. A visit is not complete without taking the underwater snorkel trail, one of unique three in the United States. Scuba diving is allowed but limited to only 2 designated areas.
Buck Island offers snorkeling starting from Turtle Beach with an amazing view to the marine gardens, the Elkhorn coral reef system which surrounds two thirds of the island and the darker, deeper water further out where the continental shelf falls off to the 5 mile deep Puerto Rican Trench. The arc of reef to the north and east creates a natural shallow lagoon between it and Buck Island lessens the wave action and the underwater vegetation and reef's shelter have attracted the endangered green sea turtle to several island's coves and many different species of tropical colorful fish.
Due the coral reef barrier, please use caution while swimming or snorkeling at Buck Island and do not feed the fish nor step on the corals. The Renegade boat tour per person in a full-day excursion cost $75 for adults, $55 for children ages 6-12, and $20 for children under 5; Buck Island Flyer are available for private charter on any of the trips.
For those who prefer to stay above the water, Buck Island offers a marked hiking trail from either Diedrich or West Beach with picnic areas including tables, charcoal grills, toilets and some shade areas as well as a historical guided Walking Tour to Christiansted, a restored bright yellow construction built in 1738 to protect Buck Island town's harbor and one of the five remaining Danish forts in the Virgin Islands which it included. The tour includes a visit to the dungeons and the surviving battlements.
Another land attractions include visits to historical places at Bucks Island to enjoy the architectural styles throughout the centuries as in the Government House on King Street with its impressive and typical Danish architecture. It was built in 1747 originally as home of a Danish merchant and later purchased in 1771 by the Royal Danish Government along with the adjacent house at Queen Cross Street, later they were joined together in 1826. Visitors can go inside and walk up the majestic staircase to enjoy the view of the magnificently appointed Ballroom.
Steeple Building was formerly the Lutheran Church, built by the Danes in 1753 and later restored to house Buck Island small museum of Arawak and Carib artifacts which illustrates the old time workings at the sugar plantation and the chronological history of blacks in the Virgin Islands.
In your visit to Buck Island don't forget the Outdoor Market to put together a picnic or get some typical fruits like mangos, papayas, pineapples and even some bush tea!. The market was founded in 1735 and has as an attraction a well in the center added in 1863.
One thing is for sure, you will find plenty to do in your visit to Buck Island.
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