I tell folks that what distinguishes the East End from some other areas on the island is – it has a pulse. There’s a lot of activity nestled in the harbor hamlet of Red Hook. Here you’ll find the ferry terminal to St. John and the British Virgin Islands (BVI), boat rental companies, a large medical practice, a postal service, a drug store, gift stores, restaurants and bars and an outstanding grocery store called Moe’s. If you live on the East End, you never have to go too far for the proverbial quart of milk.
The East End is also home to the St. Thomas Yacht Club where many a world-famous sailor has learned the ropes. The Virgin Islands Montessori School and International Academy, a toddler through grade 12 independent school, is located on the East End offering a Montessori education for the youngsters and the International Baccalaureate program for older students.There are also several waterfront condominium communities on the East End, for folks with a more limited budget than the East End traditionally requires, or for people who want the convenience of not caring for a home. The drawbacks? The East End is hotter and drier than the Northside or even the West End of the island. And, there’s a degree of hustle-bustle here which may not appeal. The real estate is also pricier than elsewhere on the island.
If you like privacy, spaciousness and that country feeling, the West End may well be your destination. It’s a sleepy community, where many folks have lived for generations in well maintained, sometimes modest homes, and whose gentle topography offers tillable land for many of the island’s vegetarian, Rastafarian families. Farmers’ markets are a common feature on the West End – but that’s the extent of any shopping. No stores. No gas stations. While prices are more affordable on the West End than other areas, the West End is also home to the ultra high-end community The Preserve at Botany Bay, where seven and even eight-figure homes are slowly rising on large parcels of land overlooking sweeping ocean cliffs. The University of the Virgin Islands, a designated HBCU (Historically Black College or University), is also located on the West End, as is the Reichhold Center for the Arts which sponsors world-class artists and performances throughout the year in an open-air amphitheater. The West End is close to the St. Thomas airport, and is a 20-minute ride into downtown Charlotte Amalie. The drawbacks? Well, as accessible as the airport and downtown are, the West End is remote. While remote is soothing for some, it’s inconvenient for others.
Lush is the word that describes the Northside of St. Thomas. Here you’ll find bountiful vegetation –outsized leaves and trees and plants rising tall and strong. The Northside faces the Atlantic, which brings cooler breezes than the Caribbean. While there are plenty of waterfront homes on the Northside such as in the gated communities of Peterborg and Mahogany Run, there are many more moderately priced homes nestled into the island’s hilly topography, which means you could have views that clobber those of oceanfront dwellers by virtue of their breadth. Small groceries, or bodegas, are scattered about the Northside so you’re never really going to go without that quart of milk – but it might be a hike to find it. And from most locations, you’ll need to plan at least 20 to 40 minutes to get to work or shopping. The Northside hosts the only real surfing beach on St. Thomas. Tucked into unexpected places, is an assortment of charming even elegant restaurants. Civilization can surprisingly be just around the corner. The drawbacks? The Northside has a lot of long, winding roads and conveniences are generally a distance away.
Many residents of the Southside wake up in the morning to the site of behemoth cruise ships floating slowly into harbor. At dusk, they watch these magnificent vessels, festooned in lights, disappear gently into the horizon. The Southside, including Frenchmans Bay and Bolongo, is a mixture of working and middle-class residences, as well as high-end oceanfront villas, all located within earshot of Havensight and downtown Charlotte Amalie. Havensight is a shopping destination for tourists, as well as a draw for local residents courtesy of a handful of restaurants and bars that offer a bustling nightlife. The Southside is also home to Antilles School, a prominent independent, college preparatory school for toddlers through 12th grade. The drawbacks? The Southside faces the Caribbean and is hotter and drier than points north and west on the island. Depending on where you are on the Southside, conveniences may not be that readily at hand.