At 500 acres, Water Island is the larger of the two islands in Charlotte Amalie harbor. A quiet, mostly residential place, Water Island has several miles of paved road good for walking or biking, some nice beaches, and an interesting history. In 2008, a cottage campground opened. There is regular ferry service from Frenchtown.
Water Island’s main attraction is Honeymoon Beach, also known as Druif Bay, a protected, clean, and quiet beach along its southwest shore. Honeymoon Beach is within walking distance of the ferry that runs regularly between St. Thomas and Water Island, and it makes a good day-trip destination, especially if you are staying near town. Most days there is a restaurant selling casual lunch on the beach, and occasionally “da pizza boat” makes an appearance. There is nice snorkeling along the southern end of the beach.
Often referred to as the fourth Virgin Island, Water Island bears the distinction of being the site of a series of black-owned plantations, dating back as early as 1769 when a free mulatto named Jean Renaud had a plantation there with 18 slaves. In 1793 the plantation was sold to another free black man named Peter Tararyn, the commander of the Free Negro Corps, established by the Danes to capture runaway slaves.
In 1944, the U.S. Department of Defense bought Water Island for $10,000 and began to build Fort Segarra, a military fort with barracks, gun emplacements, watchtowers, and underground bunkers. World War II ended while construction was under way; Fort Segarra was abandoned midstream, but not before basic infrastructure, including roads, water pipes, a sewage system, and power lines, was put in place. Following the end of the war, the army’s Chemical Warfare Division used Water Island to test poisonous gases.
In 1950, the Department of Defense leased Water Island to a private developer, who built a hotel and private homes on the island. The hotel was badly damaged by Hurricane Hugo in 1989 and was not rebuilt.
Getting to Water Island
Get to Water Island on the Water Island Ferry (Crown Bay Marina, 340/690-4159, $5 each way), which offers 10 scheduled trips between 6:30 a.m. and 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday. On Sundays and holidays there are five scheduled trips between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. Late-night ferries (9 p.m.) often run on Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday nights, but call ahead to confirm.
© Susanna Henighan Potter from Moon Virgin Islands, 4th edition