Charlotte Amalie, U.S. Virgin Islands

Photo: Blackbeardscastle.com
Photo: Blackbeardscastle.com

It’s only a few weeks until Halloween. Everyone is busy searching for the perfect costume. Your niece will wear her Elsa dress until at least Thanksgiving, your best friend will once again add “sexy” to the beginning of whatever skimpy outfit she chooses, and her dog is in hiding, hoping to avoid the collar that’s supposed to turn him into a ferocious lion. This year, you could dress up like a pirate . . . or ditch the costume—and the holiday—to live like one instead.

Blackbeard’s Castle is an old pirate hideout on St. Thomas. It sits on Government Hill, overlooking Charlotte Amalie, the capital of the US Virgin Islands. Originally called Skytsborg Tower (Sky Tower), the Danes built the castle in 1679 as a watchtower to prevent attacks against waterfront Fort Christian. Edward “Blackbeard” Teach later used the tower to keep his own lookout, though no one is really sure when its name changed. Today, it’s a National Historic Landmark with amazing views over the harbor.

After climbing 99 steps up from Charlotte Amalie, you’re greeted with life-sized copper and bronze pirates, as well as old cannons. Don’t worry, that’s where the feeling of Halloween ends. Explore the circular, stone tower. See traditional West Indian furniture in the 1847 Britannia House, one of the island’s last remaining wooden houses. Walk among the tropical plants, the beautiful flowers, and the waterfalls in the botanical gardens. Visit the Pedersen Estate, an archaeological site from the 1820s. Then check out the old slave quarters at the Greek Revival Haagensen House.

Photo: Blackbeardscastle.com
Photo: Blackbeardscastle.com

When the crowds arrive from the cruise ships, head down the hill to explore the rest of St. Thomas. Go to Fort Christian, the oldest colonial building in the US Virgin Islands, which Blackbeard’s Castle was built to protect. See nurse sharks, stingrays, and sea lions at Coral World Ocean Park. Go snorkeling at Coki Beach, sunbathe at Magens Bay, or windsurf at Secret Harbour. Or, to really escape the crowds, jump on the ferry and head to nearby St. John.

By the time you return to Blackbeard’s Castle, the crowds will be gone. Enjoy the quiet pool that’s partly shaded by the tower. Relax on the four-poster bed in your room. And grab a Virgin Islands Liquid Sunshine Ale a the bar to watch the sun set. You have a view of Hassel Island, Water Island, the departing cruise ships, and the sparkling water below. No tricks, treats, or costumes needed.

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