There’s no airport or bridge. The only way to reach St. John is by boat. I sat on the bow as we sailed the short half hour from St. Thomas east across Pillsbury Sound when I saw our neighboring U.S. Virgin Island with new eyes. First, dead ahead were the sure signs of civilization. Cruz Bay is the largest town on this 20-square-mile island with a permanent population of just under 3,000 that swells to nearly 5,000 in snowbird season. Then, and here’s the real story, to the right are hillsides dotted with dozens of buildings, while on the left is a nearly unbroken expanse of lush green from sea to summit. The contrast is spectacular and brilliantly illustrates what makes St. John so different from its sibling Virgins. It’s the combination of pristine park and historical sights combined with all the creature comforts that makes it so much fun to explore.
Meander 12 miles up the Cape Fear River from North Carolina’s ICW and a massive gray battleship from World War II looms off port, the North Carolina. A sternwheeler riverboat appears to starboard, the Henrietta II. Welcome to the historic port city of Wilmington, North Carolina, a major shipbuilding center during World War II that still supports a number of boatbuilders. These maritime icons reside in a city full of historic homes, cobblestone streets, art galleries and shops, fine seafood, and beckoning beaches. Even if it’s your first time visiting, you may find the scenery familiar from its many silver screen and television show appearances, an important part of Wilmington’s more recent history.