Whether your vacation is on St. John or you are visiting St. Thomas and want to head over to St. John for the day – you will be taking a boat to travel between the two islands.
Things to Know
- St. John does not have an airport. Travelers must fly into the Cyril E. King Airport on St. Thomas (airport code: STT) and then continue to St. John by boat.
- You can travel between St. Thomas and St. John using a public ferry or a car barge; how to directions on taking both are available below. You can also travel between St. Thomas and St. John by private water taxi/boat. Find more information on the Virgin Islands Water Taxis page.
- There are two ferry departure points on St. Thomas for the passenger ferry to St. John; one is in Charlotte Amalie and the other is in Red Hook.
- There is a ferry terminal in Charlotte Amalie that is used for ferries going to the British Virgin Islands. The ferry from Charlotte Amalie to St. John does not leave from that terminal.
- The car barge from St. Thomas to St. John departs only from Red Hook.
- Once in a while people confuse St. John (the island in the Virgin Islands) and St. John’s (the capital city in Antigua). Antigua is a different Caribbean island, not part of the USVI, and it is 210 miles away from St. John. Mixing them up can be a pricey mistake if you have to change your flight or cancel hotel reservations. So remember the island in the USVI is St. John (no s).
How to take the Passenger Ferry
From St. Thomas to St. John
Step 1: Choose a ferry: Charlotte Amalie to St. John; or Red Hook to St. John. The Charlotte Amalie ferry is closer to the Airport (about 3 miles; 10 minute drive in low traffic); and also to the Cruise Ship Docks (about 1.5 miles; 7 minute drive in low traffic). The Charlotte Amalie schedule has 3 departures a day. There is no terminal, the ferry picks up right off the Charlotte Amalie waterfront. The Red Hook ferry is about 10 miles from the airport, about a 35 minute drive in low traffic, and about 8-9 miles from the Cruise Ship Docks. The Red Hook ferry has departures every hour on the hour from early morning to midnight. There is a ferry terminal in Red Hook with benches and a small bar. Reservations are not required for either ferry. Check the Ferry Schedule for more details, ticket prices, and schedules.
Step 2: Get to the ferry. So you’ve chosen which ferry you want to take; now you need to get there probably from the airport, cruise ship dock or your hotel. You should try to be at the ferry at least 15 minutes before departure. You can take a taxi, rent a car and drive yourself or try public transportation. If you are at the cruise ship dock and taking the Charlotte Amalie ferry, you could walk; it’s about 1.5 miles and would take about 30-35 minutes. If you are driving yourself; there is a paid parking lot in Charlotte Amalie called Fort Christian Parking Lot – it’s a short 2-3 minute walk from the ferry. And if driving to the passenger ferry in Red Hook there is a paid parking lot at the Red Hook Ferry Terminal. If it’s full there are a couple paid parking lots on the hillsides across the street.
Step 3: Buy your tickets. For the Charlotte Amalie ferry you buy the tickets from the crew once the ferry arrives. For the Red Hook ferry you buy the ticket at the terminal. You can purchase a one way ticket, or round trip. There is a surcharge for luggage. Credit cards are not accepted; cash only.
Step 4: Board the ferry. Hand your ticket to the ferry attendant, get on the ferry and enjoy the ride. The ferry boats have enclosed seating on the main deck, and open air seating on the top deck. From Charlotte Amalie to St. John the ferry ride takes about 35 minutes. From Red Hook to St. John the ferry ride is about 15 minutes.
Step 5: Arrive in Cruz Bay, St. John. From there you can explore Cruz Bay on foot. Take a taxi to visit the island. There is a taxi stand at the end of the ferry dock. You can walk to a car rental company and rent a vehicle. If you are staying on St. John and your hotel or villa representative is meeting you – they will usually meet you near the end of the ferry dock.
From St. John to St. Thomas
Step 1: Select a departure time. Ferries depart from Cruz Bay Ferry Dock. Check the Ferry Schedule to select the departure time that works for you. Arrive at Ferry Dock at least 15 minutes prior to departure.
Step 2: Buy tickets. If you already have your ticket, proceed to the waiting area. If you need a ticket there is a ticket booth; specify whether you want a ticket for the Red Hook or Charlotte Amalie ferry. The waiting area is covered and gated; an attendant opens the gate when the ferry is ready for boarding.
Step 3: Board the ferry. Hand your ticket to the ferry attendant, get on the ferry and enjoy the ride. You may want to double check with the attendant collecting the ticket that you are boarding the correct ferry (to Red Hook or to Charlotte Amalie).
Step 4: Arrival in St. Thomas. If your destination is Red Hook and you need a taxi, there is a taxi stand at the Red Hook Ferry terminal. If your destination is Charlotte Amalie, there are typically taxis in the area.
How to take the Car Barge
From St. Thomas to St. John
Step 1: Choose a departure time. The car barges depart from Red Hook on St. Thomas to Enighed Pond, St. John. There are two companies that operate car barges. Check the Ferry Schedule page for more details, ticket prices, and schedules.
Step 2: Drive to Red Hook. The car barge and passenger ferry terminal are right next to each other; each has its own entrance. Arrive about 25 minutes prior to departure time. There is a port tax of $3 per Car, small SUV, Motorcycle; $4 per truck, van, large SUV. The port tax is paid to an attendant in a booth just at the entry area for loading on the car barge.
Step 3: Waiting area. An attendant in the car barge loading area will typically ask what barge you plan to take; and instruct you on where to place your car. Wait in your car until the barge is ready to be loaded.
Step 4: Boarding the car barge. The barge attendants will direct driver’s onto the car barge, and indicate where to park on the barge. You will reverse your vehicle onto the car barge.
Step 5: Buy tickets. Once on the barge, you can either stay in your car, or you can get out and sit on the upper deck. An attendant will approach you at your car, or on the deck, to sell you a ticket. You can purchase one way or round trip. No credit cards, cash only. A receipt will be provided; and the return ticket if you purchased a round trip fare. When purchasing your round trip ticket, double check that your return ticket can be used on the other barge service; and also check the return times. The return times are often listed on your ticket/receipt.
Step 6: Enjoy the ride over. If you are sitting on the deck, start heading back to your car once you get close to the dock area in St. John. The arrival place is Enighed Pond, just outside Cruz Bay.
From St. John to St. Thomas
Step 1: Choose a departure time. There is only one departure point for the car barge to St. Thomas, and that is Enighed Pond. There are two companies that operate car barges. Check the Ferry Schedule page for more details, ticket prices, and schedules.
Step 2: Drive to Enighed Pond. There is an attendant outside the loading area that will ask you which car barge you intend to take; or if you already have a ticket they might ask to see the ticket so they can direct you to the correct car line for that barge.
Step 3: Boarding. Wait in car line until the attendant directs the line to start moving toward the barge. You will reverse your vehicle onto the car barge. The attendant will instruct you on where to park on the barge.
Step 4: Buy tickets. Once on the barge, you can either stay in your car, or you can get out and sit on the upper deck. An attendant will approach you at your car, or on the deck, to sell you a ticket or collect your existing ticket. You can purchase one way or round trip. No credit cards, cash only. A receipt will be provided; and the return ticket as well if you purchased a round trip fare. Be sure to ask if the return ticket can be used on another barge. Also confirm the return times – usually they are printed on the receipt.
Step 5: Enjoy the ride over. If you are sitting on the deck, start heading back to your car once you get close to the dock area in Red Hook, St. Thomas.