Water Island, USVI (Things to Do + 2023 Travel Guide)
If you’re visiting St. Thomas, a day trip to Water Island is an absolute must.
Often considered the 4th US Virgin Island along with St. Thomas, St. Croix, and St. John, Water Island is a thrilling adventure as you explore its winding hills on a golf cart, take in panoramic Caribbean views, investigate the insides of a WW2 fort, and soak up the sun at a white sand beach.
It’s an excellent day trip while staying on St. Thomas or even a fantastic overnight stay.
Below, I will go into detail about everything you need to know to plan an epic trip to the picturesque island — things to do on water island, where to stay, how to get there, and interesting facts and history.
Table of Contents
- How to Visit Water Island in the US Virgin Islands
- Things to Do on Water Island
- History of Water Island in the US Virgin Islands
- Tips for Visiting Water Island
- FAQs About Water Island
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How to Visit Water Island in the US Virgin Islands
Getting to Water Island
The only way to visit Water Island is by stopping in St. Thomas first. After that, you have a few options to choose from on how you’d like to explore the island.
✈️ Fly to St. Thomas, USVI – Water Island is located off the southside of St. Thomas in the US Virgin Islands. To get there, you’ll need to fly into Cyril E. King Airport on St. Thomas. We recommend searching for flights on Skyscanner.
⛴️ Ferry to Water Island – the small residential island is a short ferry ride away from Crown Bay Marina on St. Thomas. If you want to explore the island in its entirety, this is the best way to do it.
⛵ Day Charter – most of the boat charters on St. Thomas make frequent stops at Honeymoon Beach on Water Island. This is a great option if you’re more interested in visiting one of the best beaches in St. Thomas.
Important Visiting Info for Water Island
🛥️ Crown Bay Marina – the Water Island ferry departs Crown Bay Marina on St. Thomas, 7 days a week.
🅿️ Parking – Within Crown Bay Marina, some parking spots have a 2-hour limit or require a permit, so find a spot that’s suitable for a day trip to Water Island.
⛴️ Ferry Schedule – Visit the Water Island Ferry website to learn current rates and schedules.
🌐 Website – VI Now Water Island and Water Island Civic Association.
⛺ Where to Stay – Virgin Islands Campground is the best place to stay on Water Island.
🏎️ Golf Cart Rental – The best way to enjoy Water Island is renting a golf cart from Rachael’s Rentals upon arrival. Be sure to call ahead and reserve one before you go.
📍 Google Maps – Water Island
Things to Do on Water Island
Rent a Golf Cart
Rachael’s Rentals provides golf carts to visitors of Water Island upon arriving at Walter Phillips Landing. Offering daily, weekly, and monthly rates, you can rent various-sized golf carts depending on your length of stay and party size.
Renting a golf cart is the most fun and exciting way to explore all of Water Island on a day trip from St. Thomas. It’ll give you the freedom to enjoy all the sights and sounds the secluded island has to offer.
🏠 Explore Respectfully: As fun as it is to whiz around the island on a golf cart, keep in mind, that this island is home to many. Always respect private property and the customs of the residents who live here.
Atop the hill at Flamingo Point is Fort Segarra, an incomplete World War II-era fortification. In 1944, the US purchased Water Island for $10,000 and immediately began construction of Fort Segarra to protect the nearby submarine base on St. Thomas. However, the war ended before the fort’s completion.
Today, visitors can explore the underground bunker and climb to the top of the observation deck for panoramic views of Water Island, the Caribbean Sea, parts of Puerto Rico, and the three main islands of the US Virgin Islands.
👟 Watch Your Step: Fort Segarra is not set up as an official museum or park. Parts of the underground tunnels have broken ladders, holes, and exposed pipes. Explore the underground bunker responsibly with a flashlight and a good pair of shoes.
Limestone Beach is a stony shoreline on the south side of Water Island. After a short hike, it’s a pleasant stop during your day trip with a golf cart as you sift through the fossilized coral fragments for sea glass and other fun souvenirs.
Heidi’s Hilltop Grill
Formerly Heidi’s Honeymoon Grill, a recent move has shifted the famous food stop to higher grounds with better views. Now known as Heidi’s Hilltop Grill, this is a fantastic place to grab lunch or a few cocktails as you enjoy a stunning overlook of nearby Culebra and Vieques of Puerto Rico.
The only sandy beach on Water Island is lined with swaying palm trees casting a shadow over the crystal blue water of the Caribbean Sea. Among the best beaches in the US Virgin Islands, Honeymoon Beach attracts many visitors via boat charter from St. Thomas and many private boats from Puerto Rico, as well.
The associated beach bar has food and drinks to order while a water sports kiosk offers rentals for beach chairs, umbrellas, and other fun activities to enjoy along the water’s edge. A trip to the secluded beach in some capacity is one of the best things to do while visiting St. Thomas.
Dinghy’s Beach Bar & Grill
Nestled in the corner of Honeymoon Beach is Dinghy’s Beach Bar – one of the liveliest beach bars in the US Virgin Islands. It’s another great place to grab lunch before wading into the waters of Honeymoon Bay (Druif Bay) with a rum cocktail in hand.
While visiting Honeymoon Beach, don’t forget to pack your travel snorkel set. Along the lateral rock faces of Druif Bay, snorkelers will find shallow coral reefs teeming with underwater life. In the center of the bay you’ll occasionally bump into a green sea turtle or two.
Water Island Tours via Boat
Exploring Water Island via golf cart is amazing, yet visiting by boat is equally as fantastic. Most day charters departing St. Thomas frequently stop at Honeymoon Beach as an anchorage for lunch or snorkeling. Hop aboard a St. Thomas boat charter to visit the beach in a unique way.
Virgin Islands Campground
If you want to get away from the hustle and bustle of Saint Thomas, Water Island is a great option for a quiet overnight getaway. Virgin Islands Campground offers cozy eco-cabins for a unique and sustainable night stay.
🏝️ Staying on Water Island? The eco-huts at the campground are our top pick for places to stay on the small island, but you can easily find some other amazing vacation home options on VRBO.
History of Water Island in the US Virgin Islands
15th Century – The Taino were the primary inhabitants of the Caribbean and the greater Antilles including the Virgin Islands. On Water Island, specifically, four Taino campsites have been excavated revealing ancient artifacts.
1493 – Christopher Columbus lands in nearby St. Croix during his second voyage, encountering The Taino which culminated in their first violent interaction.
The Danish West Indies
16th and 17th Centuries – Water Island was given its name by Europeans because of the peculiar amount of fresh water ponds dotted around the island. Scarcely found in the rest of the Virgin Islands, these ponds were used to replenish water supplies for pirates and European explorers as they anchored in the nearby calm waters.
1769 – The Danish lay claims to Water Island as a part of the Danish West Indies (the Virgin Islands).
18th and 19th Centuries – Uncommon for the day, multiple plantations on Water Island were owned and operated by free men of color. Ownership changed multiple times over the years. Some of these plantation ruins are found on private property near Carolina Point.
America Era and WW2
1917 – the United States purchases the Danish West Indies including St. John, St. Thomas, and St. Croix but not Water Island.
1944 – Water Island was purchased by the United States from the Danish East Asiatic Company for $10,000. Construction of Fort Segarra begins immediately to protect the submarine base on St. Thomas.
1948 to 1950 – the US army’s Chemical Warfare Division uses parts of Water Island to test chemical gasses. Afterward, the island was transferred to the US Department of the Interior.
The 4th US Virgin Island
1950 to 1996 – the federal government leases portions of the island to private residents including a developer known as Walter Phillips who subsequently builds homes and a hotel eventually known as the Water Island Colony Club.
1989 – Hurricane Hugo devastates the hotel and other homes on the island. Many leases are not renewed.
1996 – the federal government transfers the island to the local government in the Virgin Islands, officially becoming “the last virgin”. Residents leasing property are given the opportunity to purchase their homes and land.
Today – Water Island is a lovely paradise with only a few hundred year-round residents consisting of a white sand beach, natural ponds, vacation homes, and remnants of military fortifications.
Tips for Visiting Water Island
Day Trip from St. Thomas
The best way to explore Water Island is on a day trip from St. Thomas. Take the ferry in Crown Bay Marina, rent a golf cart upon landing, and hit up all the hotspots around the island including Fort Segarra, Honeymoon Beach, Heidi’s Hilltop Bar, and Limestone Bay.
As a day trip, you’ll want to pack everything you need from St. Thomas before you get on the ferry. Although Water Island has one convenience store and two restaurants, you should consider packing bug spray, travel snorkel gear, sunscreen, a dry bag in case it rains, and a cooler full of food and drinks.
Give Yourself Enough Time to Explore
Give yourself a minimum of 4 hours to do and see everything on the island. But if you want more beach time or multiple rounds of drinks from the beach bar, give yourself at least 6 hours. Additionally, don’t miss the last ferry departing at 6:15!
FAQs About Water Island
Is Water Island worth visiting?
Water Island in the US Virgin Islands is worth visiting as a day trip from St. Thomas or for a week-long laid-back vacation. The small residential island is considered the 4th US Virgin Island with a few hundred full-time residents enjoying island living to its fullest.
Is Water Island a private island?
Water Island is not a private island. Public spaces include Honeymoon Beach, Limestone Beach, and Fort Segarra. However, it is home to a few hundred residents with private property.
Can you stay on Water Island?
For travelers wishing to extend their trip to Water Island, you can stay and book a private home on VRBO or an eco-cabin at Virgin Islands Campground.
Are there cars on Water Island?
There are cars on Water Island but not many. The preferred method of travel on Water Island is by golf cart. There is no public transportation other than a shuttle running visitors to Honeymoon Beach from the ferry dock.
Enjoy your trip to Water Island! Let me know what you loved about it and comment below! Until then, keep planning your USVI trip with our list of the Best Places to Visit in the USVI!
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