With its pristine coastline and lush rainforest our approach into St. Kitts has made for one of my favorite “Land Ho” moments.
As the sun brightly shined, pops of olive, lime, emerald, and pear randomly scattered the hillside and mountain tops. All of these distinct hues of green made me feel like I was standing in Home Depot’s paint department starring at the color palette wall trying to decide which one I loved most.
The peaks of the dormant volcano Mount Liamuiga on St. Kitts and Mount Nevis are also spectacular backdrops while at anchor in the bays.
St. Kitts is the more outgoing sister of the two-island nation. Stretching 65 square miles and Nevis just 36.
Starting with the bustling Capital of Basseterre, a plaza modeled after London’s Piccadilly Circus, complete with a Victorian-style clock tower. Known by the locals as Little Ben. The Circus is a busy commercial area just a block from Port Zante and the Cruise ships. Tons of shops, restaurants, bars, etc. Can’t say I was super impressed by this “attraction”. If anything its great for people watching, because theres always a flurry of activity.
We arrived as Carnival was underway. They celebrate Sugar Maz November – through New Year’s. Per usual Carnival is loud, fun, colorful. And we were excited to participate in eating of all the local street food!
We learned early on that there’s no perfect anchorage in St. Kitts due to its exposure. It’s basically like anchoring off of a wall. But with some careful planning and right weather conditions it *can* be a decent place to be.
There are 3 main anchorages to choose from:
- Basse Terre, which sits in a NW to SE manner, so if the wind is east or south the anchorage is very choppy. We saw two boats with rails in the water, yikes.
- Frigate Bay + S Friars Bay, at the Southern peninsular of St Kitts are small and anything out of the east is not good for here.
The better alternatives, in our opinion, are:
- White House Bay + Ballast Bay, are more southeast but both should be calm from the north swell. We stayed in Ballast Bay, and enjoyed a peaceful evening. Both bays are quiet, serene, and you can easily dinghy between the two. However, with some really bad weather on the horizon our time here was short and we decided not to chance it.
Hired Taxi driver – With Christmas 2 days away, rental cars were sold out all over the island. So, through Christophe Harbour Marina we were able to rent a private driver, Terrance, for a pretty decent rate ($120 4 hours) Split between two couples! We hit up all the hot spots and then some.
Salt Plague – One of the best spots on the island. Great vibe, go for sunset and order the ceviche. We snacked, drank and soaked up the warm atmosphere on Christmas Eve. The dinghy dock at Christophe Harbor Marina is super nice and easy to tie up to. From there you can follow the golf cart path, nicely groomed and lit, over to the restaurant & bar.
Christophe Harbor Marina – Luxury super-yacht marina, a large portion of the property is still being developed (i.e Golf Course, Hotel, Customs House) but the grounds that have been completed so far are beautifully designed. Offering Freeholder berth ownership opportunities, Luxe boutiques, art gallery, dockside kiosk offering a variety of food and beverage. Very State-of-the-art!
Insider tip: Sugar & Salt Gourmet Market offers free rum tastings 🙂
St. Kitts Scenic Railway – “Last Railway in the West Indies” runs for 30 miles around the island, with views of the mountains, beaches, and plantations. This unique experience allows visitors the opportunity to see the island in a very short period of time. Totally would have done this had we found out about it sooner AND if it were cheaper – $128 pp.
Sir Timothy’s Hill – The most beautiful view I’ve ever laid eyes on. Sir Timothy’s Hill is magical, you get a full view of the mountainous Southeast Peninsula. In addition to the Atlantic on its left, the Caribbean on its right, and the volcanic peak of Nevis rising in the distance. In awe of its beauty…a must see in St. Kitts!
The scenic overlook gets a bit nuts, as its not a very big parking lot. Also you may find some locals with monkeys allowing you to take pictures for $5, if that strikes your fancy
Brimstone Hill Fortress – Offers the second best view in St. Kitts. It’s a beautifully preserved treasure of the 18th century. The lush green against the blue ocean and sky makes for a very romantic landscape. You also have great visibility of the surrounding islands. It’s $10 each to enter. The ride up to the top is slightly nerve wracking, cars/buses just squeeze through some very tight entrances. We were surprised to see a snack bar near the base of the fort serving up burgers and drinks, including alcohol…we bought two ice cold Stags and climbed our way to the top!
Sadly, we didn’t get to do any of the hikes within The Central Forest Reserve National Park, which includes all land on St. Kitts above 1000-feet in elevation. The reserve covers about a quarter of the entire island and a chain of dormant volcanoes. The highest peak, 3800-foot Mt Liamuiga. In addition to summit hikes, there are a number of trails that lead across the lower slopes.
Same goes for Nevis. Our friends, Nick and Sara of SV Borealis, were able to experience a pretty unique hike that I wasn’t even aware of when I did my activities research. Its called ‘the source’ – check it out! 🙂
Nevis, is Kitts little sister, though she is small enough to see in a day, she’s also big enough to explore more than once. There are remains of old plantations and sugar cane mills around the islands and both have done a good job preserving the architecture and history. In Nevis, we found the FREE moorings at Pinney’s Beach to be very good and with several laid-back beach bar/restaurants close by. Nevis has a ‘no anchor’ rule in order to protect the marine environment. This dual-island offers a lot. However, I must admit Nevis was our favorite!
We avoided clearing into St. Kitts and purposely went straight to Nevis first. We’d read and also heard of how difficult it can be checking in there and that your chances of getting boarded were high. However, that’s not to say that Nevis doesn’t have its own issues.
Starting with its dinghy dock. That’s not really a dinghy dock, it’s a ferry pier and a very busy one at that if the cruise ships are in. Staff monitoring the ferry dock says to tie off “here”. Which here is close to shore, lined with giant rocks and due to the swell the waves are crashing pretty violently. Which we strongly refused, as that’s just dangerous. The water police intervened and told us, no, you can’t actually tie off on the right side as we were directed, we have to go to the other side of the dock. We did, and even then continued to get moved around. We experienced this both times while visiting Nevis.
They don’t really seem to care and the ferries are number one priority here. So, make sure to bring your stern anchor!
Of all the customs offices we’ve been to, the staff is very serious and thorough in checking all paper work and passports. If the cruise ships are in, they take priority with the customs office and you could wait a long time. They are very persistent in having you commit to an exit date, so don’t think you can just guess or say I’m not sure. Be prepared for a check in/out process that’s both tedious and time consuming.
Sunshines Restaurant / Bar – Home of the famous “killer bee”, a rum concoction. We had dinner with cruising pals, SV Borealis, we ordered 2 fish/2 chicken and it was a pretty fantastic meal. Despite the mosquitos nibbling at my legs.
Scooters – Coolest way to see Nevis! This was one of our favorite things that we did on this beautiful little island! We loved the freedom of being able to explore at our own pace. Super fun and easy to operate! Kevin at Nevis Scooter Rentals was great! He met us in Charles town, helped us get a temporary driver’s license (required), and picked up the scooters when we were finished. Great price too! +1869-664-7717
Bath House & Hot Springs – FREE! The water was scorching hot but absolutely divine for your bones. As we arrived, it was empty and all to ourselves but over time we discovered that it’s part of the island tours so a flow of cruise ship people comes by every 15 minutes or so. They don’t stay long, just long enough to dip their toes.
Charlestown Food Stalls – This location doesn’t show up on google maps, but a 17 minute walk from the Charlestown pier are 5 food stalls made out of shipping containers. Inexpensive and fantastic lunch spot! We found lamb Gyros on the menu, $8 US for a giant portion. Delicious!
Rams Grocery – Across from the food stall containers and stocked with all the items we love. It been a while since we’ve seen a well-stocked grocery store with all our favorite brands perfectly situated on the shelf.
Hermitage Great House – is known to be one of the oldest wooden houses in the Caribbean. Give or take about 400 years old! Rooms, Cottages, and Villas are available and the reviews on them are nothing but 5 star excellence! The house itself is very charming with lovely areas to lounge about, a fun little bar, and outdoor patio where you can order ice cream. I personally loved seeing all the antique furniture, tea sets, and paintings.
Golden Rock Inn – Golden Rock is Nestled in the hillside of Nevis, you’ll feel like you stepped into another world. The property features an outdoor sculpture garden, tiered pools and stone steps. In total awe of finding this gem by accident, we decided to enjoy the ambiance and grabbed a table for lunch. Starting with the feta and watermelon salad and ending with the Chicken Roti and Lobster salad sandwiches. YUM!
Nisbet Plantation – With only 36 rooms it spreads out over 30 lush beachfront acres and the property is historic and oozes nostalgia from days gone by. Princess Diana and Prince Charles vacationed here in 1992. So, if it was good enough for Lady Di, its good enough for you!
Lovers Beach – Unpopulated and Romantic, from the Atlantic side you get a pretty view of St. Kitts in the distance. Don’t let the bumpy ride on the scooters deter you, it’s not that far off the beaten path. It was worth it for its beautiful soft sand. Oh, and Prince Harry was recently here releasing baby turtles into the ocean.
In our exchanges with other cruiser friends St. Kitts and Nevis didn’t seem to rank high on the list of potential destinations. And while we can certainly agree with the reviews that “It’s not 100% cruiser friendly” or that “It’s difficult to check in and out”. We went anyways! Open minded, just like Turks & Caicos, because it was on our cruising bucket list. And we are very happy we did!
Cheers from the Caribbean!