Best Islands to Live On: St. Thomas, USVI

best islands to live on st thomas usvi main photo

Magens bay is his daughter’s sandbox. After all, this spectacular mile-long stretch of sand is in Corby Parfitt’s backyard. Why not wile away this Saturday — or any day — here? It’s just a few minutes by boat from the family’s airy home atop Tropaco Point on St. Thomas’ north coast . And daughter Ava-Jayne loves it. “She’s grown gills,” Corby says.

The whole Parfitt family has changed since moving to the U.S. Virgin Islands. Corby was once a marketing director cramped in a San Francisco cubicle. Wife Lisa was an occupational therapist who felt stuck too. “We needed more adventure in our daily lives,” she says. The USVI offered that — the nature of St. John, the communities of St. Croix, all with the ease of moving to a U.S. territory. But they settled down four years ago on the USVI island closest to the mainland, St. Thomas, because of a unique offering: Home Depot. That store has been essential for Corby’s new business, a real-estate company. With such relatively easy access to materials and under building regulations similar to the U.S. mainland’s, Corby has reshaped his career.

While a boat ride east is Magens Bay, north is Inner Brass, a 125-acre cay he can see from his house. On the cay, he’s supervising the construction of a new solar-powered cottage, that island’s sole building. When he’s not on-site or at home, Corby is at his office in the fishing village of nearby Hull Bay, checking e-mails while surrounded by lush trees heavy with coconuts, genip and soursop. Today, Corby can’t even remember how to spell “cubicle.”

Lisa and Ava-Jayne have blossomed too. Lisa has found meaningful work at the Roy Lester Schneider Hospital , where she helps rehabilitate stroke victims. And St. Thomas has rich opportunities for a little go-getter like Ava-Jayne, who attends Montessori school; takes swimming, guitar and yoga classes; and loves to feed the sharks and rays at Coral World Ocean Park. But her greatest joy is found at home. “I’m lucky to live by the sea and walk to a little beach,” she says simply.

The big beach of Magens Bay is their weekend treat, with kid-friendly waters lapping on the sand. It’s St. Thomas’ version of the town commons. This Saturday, a family with classmates of Ava-Jayne strolls over to the Parfitts. The girls celebrate the impromptu reunion. The grown-ups talk about the group run from earlier in the day and heading to a jazz club tonight. Ava-Jayne flits among everyone. “She’s not afraid of strangers,” Lisa says, “because down here you don’t have to be.”

The family seems to know everyone on the beach. The Parfitts are locals now. And the only job Corby has to tackle today is a simple one: crack a sandy coconut for his daughter.