St. John, USVI
If you haven’t been lucky enough to visit St John in the U.S. Virgin Islands, you’ve definitely seen it on magazine covers. Trunk Bay on the west side of St. John is one of the most photographed beaches in the world. It’s known for its unparalleled beauty, which is surprisingly undisturbed and undeveloped. There are more than 100 historic sites on St. John, comprised of ancient rock art, architectural remains, and ruins left from windmills, factories, homes and graveyards. More than 5,000 acres–about half of the island–is preserved and protected by the Virgin Islands National Park Service, and how they came to hold that coveted acreage on St John is an amazing story in itself.
A fateful cruise ship stop set the stage for Laurance Rockefeller’s love affair with the Virgin Islands, and more specifically, St. John. Laurance Rockefeller was a 3rd generation member of the Rockefeller family. A venture capitalist, financier and a philanthropist, he was also known for his works as a major conservationist. At an early age, he became aware of the importance of the outdoors to the self’s well-being which he learned from his mentors, that include his father, John D. Rockefeller.
He was spellbound by the island chain’s incredible beauty and was so moved by it that he promptly purchased 5,000 acres on the island of St. John. Rockefeller had formed Jackson Hole Preserve, Inc a a non-profit conservation and education organization, whose sole purpose was to “preserve areas of outstanding primitive grandeur and natural beauty and to provide appropriate facilities for their use and enjoyment by the public.” He acquired the acreage in the Virgin Islands through JHPI and began construction of a resort on Caneel Bay. In 1955, he began developing an infrastructure on the island to provide the resort with power, fresh water and roads. He oversaw every detail of the development personally and then in 1956, he donated the land to the National Park Service, with the caveat that the land never be developed.
In 1962, Congress expanded the boundary of Virgin Islands National Park to include 5,650 acres of submerged lands to protect and preserve the stunning coral gardens and seascapes.
While Annaberg and Trunk Bay are the most frequently-visited park sites, Virgin Islands National Park’s diverse beaches, coral reefs, historic ruins, and hiking trails provide endless hours of exploration and enjoyment, as well as inspiration and opportunities for solitude and reflection. Visitors enjoy a variety of activities on the land and in the water, including swimming, snorkeling and scuba diving; sailing, kayaking and windsurfing; and camping, hiking and bird watching. Some visitors explore the park on their own, while others prefer a two-hour safari bus island tour with a private tour guide. Visitors can enjoy the crystal blue waters on a day boat charter from Pirate’s Paradise Adventures, where they can see the island and its many beaches and bays from a different point of view–and, you can visit the uninhabited islands that surround St. John, USVI.