Reed Travel Features
WATER ISLAND, U.S. Virgin Islands -- The dateline is not a
Water Island officially became the fourth U.S. Virgin Island in
December, joining the triumvirate of St. Croix, St. John and St.
Fifty acres of the 490-acre island were transferred from the
U.S. Department of the Interior to the government of the U.S.
Virgin Islands in a ceremony attended by Gov. Roy Schneider and
Interior Department officials.
Most visitors who already have been to the U.S.V.I. have driven
by, flown over or sailed by Water Island without knowing it.
It is plainly visible to anyone driving on or walking along
Veterans Drive on the waterfront in Charlotte Amalie.
Water Island is half a mile wide and less than a mile long and
sits in the harbor of St. Thomas one-quarter of a mile from
Charlotte Amalie. Its highest elevation is 300 feet above sea
Water Island is adjacent to the smaller Hassel Island, which
also sits in the harbor.
The U.S. Army used the island as a base in World War I. It was
acquired by the Defense Dept. during World War II for use as a
In 1952, the island was transferred to the Department of the
Interior and leased by a private corporation, which built the Water
Island Hotel several years later.
At the same time, smaller plots of land were subleased for the
construction of private homes, about 200 of which still are
A separate 12-unit hillside property, called Limestone Reef
Terraces, was built in 1957 and purchased in 1979 by its current
owners, Joan and Paul Murray, who operate the apartment units on a
year-round basis for overnight guests and short-term renters.
The Water Island Hotel was damaged seriously by Hurricane Hugo
in 1989 and never reopened. Plans call for the demolition of what
remains of the site.
As one of his tourism goals, Schneider wants to transform Water
Island into the "showplace" of the U.S. Virgin Islands, according
to tourism officials, and to attract a major hotel chain.
Once the island becomes a tourist attraction in its own right in
the U.S.V.I., it will be marketed as an attraction within the
The public roads, beaches, catchment basin, two docks and a
hotel site were included in the initial 50-acre transfer.
The transfer of the remaining acreage will occur in four
separate stages as agreements with homeowners are made final,
according to Allen Stayman, director of the insular affairs office
of the Interior Dept.
The department plans to spend $3.3 million to spruce up the
island for development.
Already, the government of the U.S.V.I. renovated the ferry
dock, built a beach restaurant and paved the parking lot next to
the ferry dock.
A helicopter landing pad was installed to transport dignitaries
and government officials to Water Island for the December transfer
Water Island's Honeymoon Beach, already open to visitors, can be
reached by a five-minute ferry ride from Charlotte Amalie's Crown
The Launch With Larry ferry service departs several times a day
in both directions; a roundtrip ticket is priced at $6, a weekly
pass is $25 and a monthly pass is $80.
Additional evening ferries are scheduled on the weekends.
For ferry information, call (809) 775-8071 or (809) 779-6807.
For information on Water Island, call (800) 372-USVI.