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Lying on the western coast of St Croix in the US Virgin Islands is the port of Frederiksted, where stately colonial architecture meets the incredible natural beauty of the Caribbean. Beyond the golden beaches lies an elegant period town, surrounded by historic landmarks that still stand strong today – harking back to the Caribbean's troubled past, but now dedicated to informing and educating those who come here.
Beyond the scenic charm of Frederiksted town lies a varied cultural history – particularly from the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, when the islands of the Caribbean were dotted with sugar plantations. A sightseeing tour of the island may give you the chance to see these former estates, and you may even see one of the fortresses that defended the Caribbean from the pirates that once sailed these seas.
Originally built by the island's Danish occupiers in the mid-1700s to defend against pirates, Fort Frederik stands out in pillar-box red against the tropical trees at its back, and the bright blue sea before it. Today the fort is a US national monument, and one of the most popular attractions on St Croix – still bristling with age-old cannons around its perimeter walls. The fort has since become a museum, giving visitors a valuable insight into this modern island's more tumultuous past.
St George Village Botanical Garden
A world away from the imposing cannon batteries of Fort Frederiksted lies the beautiful botanical garden of St George Village, once the gardens and grounds of the Whim sugar plantation. Here bright red flowers and vivid green tropical plants crowd around the old stone walls of the estate, and stretch out down tree-lined paths to lead visitors over hidden bridges and still pools. Wander in the gardens and you'll find the old blacksmith's shop and the overseer's house; grim reminders of a time when slave labour was at its height.
Whim Plantation Museum
Right beside the botanical garden stands the Estate Whim Museum, formerly the stately home of the Whim sugar plantation, and one of the island's most historic sites. Here you'll be able to walk around an old stone windmill once used to crush the sugar cane, which had been tended and harvested by scores of African slaves – and you'll see the old machinery that they once used, dotted around the grounds. Head inside the main house and you'll be able to get a guided tour, with plenty of cultural history to lend context to the glass bottles, tools, workbenches and other artefacts laid out in the original stone-walled rooms.
Frederiksted's restored seafront and bustling town boasts a great selection of boutiques and stalls – the perfect place to pick up fragrances and local food and drink, or ornaments and jewellery shaped like starfish, turtles and seahorses.
Enjoy a beach barbecue at one of Frederiksted's beautiful cafes and restaurants, whether you're looking for Caribbean callaloo soup, a roti curry, or even an American steak brunch. The warm sands and rolling waves of the Caribbean also make the perfect place to relax with a glass of rum.
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