Exploring Water Island & Fort Segarra

water island dock

Sometimes when you live on a tiny island, you like to go and explore other tiny islands. I had family in town for the past couple of weeks, and I decided to take them exploring last Friday. So we hopped on Busy Bee Charters and headed out to Water Island.

For those of you unfamiliar with Water Island, it’s actually considered the fourth Virgin Island. Who knew! It’s located just south of Charlotte Amalie on St. Thomas. Check out the map:

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United States acquired Water Island for just $10,000 back in 1944. They purchased it so they could begin constructing a military base of sorts, which was intended to protect military installations on the neighboring island. So they started to build Fort Segarra, although it was never actually completed. Plans called for barracks, gun emplacements, watchtowers and underground bunkers, but World War II ended before its completion so naturally work stopped.

What was constructed, however, still stands today and it’s pretty darn cool. We checked it out Friday and took some pics for you all. Check them out:

water island fort sign

water island fort

Southernly view toward St. Croix from Fort Segarra

Southernly view toward St. Croix from Fort Segarra

Easterly view toward St. Thomas and St. John

Easterly view toward St. Thomas and St. John

One of the very cool things about Fort Segarra, in terms of exploring, is its underground tunnels. When coming up to the fort, you will see a small path to your right. Walk down the path for about two minutes and take a left. You will see an entrance to the tunnels. Be very careful though as it appears to have been used as a party spot, so there is some broken glass and uneven floorboards.

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Entrance to the tunnels

Entrance to the tunnels

water island tunnel

After walking through the tunnels, you will come to an old ladder made of rebar. You can climb up this if you choose, but be careful. If you opt to climb up, you will end in the middle of the fort. You will then have to either climb back down or squeeze through a narrow opening to get out.

water island stairs

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Pretty neat, right??!!

And here are the details on how Water Island went from being a military base to the fourth Virgin Island courtesy of vinow.com:

In 1950 the Department of Defense turned Water Island over to the Department of the Interior who then leased it to a private developer by the name of Walter Phillips. The annual rent for the island was $3,000 dollars. The lease was for 20 years and the developer constructed a hotel and homes. Walter Phillips sold the master lease for Water Island in December 1965 to the Water Isle Hotel & Beach Club under the ownership of Edward McArdle. McArdle expanded the hotel and built/sold some private homes. The lease was renewed in 1972 for another 20 years. In 1989 Hurricane Hugo severely damaged the hotel and it subsequently closed. The lease ran out three years later and was not renewed.

Water Island was transferred by the federal government to the USVI territorial government on December 12th, 1996; making Water Island the 4th member of the US Virgin Islands. Residents living on Water Island during the transfer were allowed to purchase the land and homes that they occupied.

Today Water Island exists as a somewhat private island to its 161 residents (2000 Census). The island remains largely un-commercialized and is maintained by members of the Water Island Civic Association and residents along with intermittent assistance from the Virgin Islands’ government.

For those of you looking to visit Water Island, you have two options: private boat or ferry. The good thing about taking a private boat is that you can visit at your leisure. Oh and you don’t need a passport to visit Water Island, so it’s great for those of you looking to get on the water but stay in US waters. You can also take a ferry from St. Thomas. Here is the schedule:

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Once you get to Water Island, by private boat or ferry, the only way to get to Fort Segarra is by renting a golf cart. There are a couple on island, so Google will be your friend for this one. :)

Happy exploring and happy Monday everyone! Have a great week!

4 comments for “Exploring Water Island & Fort Segarra

  1. Mike Mullen
    February 27, 2017 at 9:48 am

    I believe Water Island was the basis for Herman Wolk’s book “Don’t Stop The Carnival” as he resided on the island at the time and was a friend of my father.

  2. Nancy J Brown
    February 27, 2017 at 11:01 am

    Yes! “Don’t Stop The Carnival”, a must read for those who have only been around a few years, and a great read for those who LIVED it!

  3. Karen H.
    February 27, 2017 at 5:14 pm

    The beach at Water Island is pretty cool, too! There’s a nice beach bar there.

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