Long time local, Sweeny Toussant, greets me and a small group of visitors in his open-air bus. We are ready to explore the wondrous places of St. Croix. Sweeny, his Safari Tour, and the bright red tour bus are well known icons on St. Croix. This tour should be a lot of fun, with fresh air, new sites, and our own guide!
Sweeny points out the highlights of the Christiansted Historic District as we head North to our first stop, the St. Georges Village Botanical Gardens. Here history and botany abound. Flowering trees, shrubs, and vines are nestled among the ruins of an eighteenth century sugar plantation. Sweeny tells us of the Arawak Indians that had settled at the grounds long before it was a Danish sugar plantation. Both peoples and their presence on the land has made the property a historic place, not once, but twice in the National Registry of Historic Places in Washington, D.C.
After the gardens the next stop is the famous Cruzan Rum Distillery. One of the distillery’s guides took over and explained with pride how one of the world’s finest rums is produced, bottled and distributed throughout the Caribbean and United States right here from St. Croix. After touring the distillery, we were then taken to the guest pavilion where we tasted the finished product and purchased some as souvenirs. Black and white photos of the distillery from centuries ago hang proudly on the walls, reiterating the long and productive life of the Cruzan Rum Distillery.
Still tasting the ambrosial rum on our tongues, we head back to the bus and down the road to Whim Plantation. Here, a large 18th century great house, built with coral and stone, is bonded together with mortar of shells and sugar molasses, standing firmly on the site of what once was a Danish sugar plantation.
Then we went way out west to Frederiksted. Once at Frederiksted, we stopped at a seaside deli in Prince Passage to have lunch. We enjoyed our sandwiches in the shade at the water’s edge, with views of passing ships and elegant sails dancing across the turquoise water. After lunch, we followed along the coastline on Strand Street and our tour turned into a lesson “en Danske”. The Danes not only had an influence on St. Croix’s economy with the production of sugar cane but also on the architecture and urban development, prominently seen in Frederiksted. Strand Street, for example, when translated means Beach Street.
A turn off the coast takes us through a labyrinth of one-way streets and allows us to see the grandiose historical churches in Frederiksted, as Sweeny provides insight into the many different religious groups that sought religious freedom here in the islands. The Moravians for example, were persecuted almost everywhere they formed so they found themselves here in search of solace. Sweeny led us through the streets, and we found ourselves in front of Fort Frederik. We were told why Frederiksted is respectfully called Freedom City, why the towns of Christiansted and Frederiksted have significantly different architecture and what roles the slaved played in the architectural changes.
As we continue along the coast we reach Mahogany Road, which leads us into the tropical forest where an unexpected stop at Mount Pellier Domino Club, home to the beer drinking pigs, invigorating our curiosity. We gathered at the bar to find Norma, the Domino Club’s owner, and inquired about the beer-drinking pigs. She handed us non-alcoholic beer and sent us to a large pen where we found two extremely large and very thirsty pigs standing on their hind legs, begging for another kind visitor to hand them a beverage.
A light drizzle of rain suggested to us that we continue along. From Mahogany Road, we cut over to Rte. 69 which takes us over Parasol Hill, affectionately referred to as “The Beast” by our visiting triathletes, because of its incredibly steep incline. Once at the bottom, we find ourselves on North Shore Road, which follows along the coast, offering picturesque views of rolling hills and the Caribbean Sea. Finally, we continued along the north shore to Salt River and Columbus Landing. Sweeny pulled over so we could snap a few pictures and told us about Christopher Columbus’ landing in the Salt River Bay in 1493.
We continued along the road, and as Christiansted came into view, I knew our tour was coming to an end. In just a few hours I have gained a new appreciation for the places I went today because of Sweeny, our well-informed tour guide. Sweeny’s Safari Tours combines history, politics, religion, education, cultural traditions and botany with a bit of comic relief!
What to bring with you on a Sweeny Safari Tour:
- Plenty of water
- Comfortable walking shoes
- Wear sunscreen (and bring extra just in case)
- Gift shop money
- Umbrella for our short, unexpected showers
This tour is perfect for kids of all ages! Most of all, you will get to see a lot of the island, experience some of the local culture and history, and see some of St. Croix’s popular attractions. Just sit back and enjoy the ride!
- The Four Spirits of St. Croix
- The Marvelous Mango
- Savoring St. Croix Like a Local
- The Spirited History of Caribbean Rum
- Tour Two Historic Forts
- Explore Sugar Mill & Plantation Ruins
- Take Advantage of Duty-Free Shopping
- Reconnect with Nature at the Botanical Garden
- St. Croix Heritage Trail
- Two Rum Distilleries, 39 Flavors of Rum!