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Wednesday, February 1, 2023

St. Kitts Nostalgia – How a Three-Month break became a three-year adventure

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My first visit to the island was to attend the St. Kitts Music Festival in 2017. Never has a place left such an impression on me, especially in such a short time – and I have been to over 50 countries and made more than 200 trips abroad.

What made it so special was the beauty of the island, the openness and infectious humour of everyone I met, the food, the beach, the feeling of safety and so much more. I had to return! On the second trip, a year later, I was on a mission to answer one burning question: would I still love the island if I went alone and without an exciting festival to attend? Well, I got hooked on St. Kitts because six months later, I moved there with my daughter. Initially, we stayed for a three-month break, during which she attended school, and we enjoyed Caribbean living. Three months turned into three years; moving to St. Kitts was my greatest decision ever.

Allow me to take you on a tour around the island so I can show you all my favourite spots. Twice weekly flights from London with British Airways take you to Basseterre, where your adventure begins. You have many hotel options around the island to suit all preferences and budgets. Still, my favourite is chosen for its unbeatable location at the end of the southeast peninsula. The Park Hyatt sits on the pristine beach of Banana Bay, which overlooks the island of Nevis and its majestic volcano. The hotel’s world-class spa, luxurious rooms and impeccable service will make it very difficult to leave.

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On its doorstep, you’ll find Coconut Farm, a wonderful organic farm with some holiday cottages for rent and a café complete with hammocks in the shade for that sway-in-the-wind vibe we all love. On Saturdays, they host an early morning yoga class inviting you to roll out your yoga mat between the coconut trees. You can’t leave without picking up some exotic fruits, artisan bread, hand-made cosmetics by Cariborganics and the best rotis you’ll find in St. Kitts.

Walk a few minutes further to Cockleshell Bay, where you will find Spice Mill restaurant. Try their fresh mahi mahi fish for lunch or dinner, while ot-ing on that view. Warning! You will be persuaded by the waiters to savour their delicious Hibiscus Margarita, made with locally produced hibiscus spirits infused with locally grown sorrel. You won’t regret it!

The best sunset is undoubtedly enjoyed from the rustic Discovery Bar, on Friars Bay. This is an excellent area for swimming, as the Caribbean Sea is so warm and calm.

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Frigate Bay is the tourist hotspot, with an array of hotels, a golf course, restaurants and bars for ‘limin’, including The Strip. Friday night at ZanziBar is the place where you show off your best moves to DJ Legal’s hottest island tunes.

The charming capital, Basseterre, traces its roots back to 1627 and is one of the oldest settlements in the Eastern Caribbean. Street vendors provide an authentic taste of everyday island life. A short stroll takes you to vibrant Port Zante, where you can shop your heart out at the duty-free boutiques.

At the weekend, I like to drive to the countryside and visit Wingfield Estate, a restored rum distillery from the 1600s that now produces Old Road Rum. It also hosts an excellent rum tour, which tells you all about the history of sugar and rum production in St Kitts.

Only a few minutes away is Romney Manor, which was owned and run by successive Earls of Romney for centuries. The history of this area is astonishing: it was once home to Sam Jefferson, ancestor of former American president Thomas Jefferson. Today, the property is occupied by Caribelle Batik, where you can witness the techniques behind this fascinating craft, which is utilised for stylish clothing and gift items – all available to buy. After shopping, grab a slice of Caribelle’s delicious rum cake to enjoy in one of the seating areas in the immaculate botanical gardens or under a majestic 400-year-old saman tree (also known as a rain tree). Brimstone Hill Fortress National Park is your next stop on the island. This is an awe-inspiring UNESCO World Heritage Site of historical, cultural and architectural significance, which was built by slaves and completed as a military strongpoint in the 1790s. It was reputed to be as impregnable as the Rock of Gibraltar!

Brimstone Hill Fortress, National Park, St.Kitts

After exploring the fortress, head to Dieppe Bay, from where you can see St Eustatius, Anguilla, St Barts and St Maarten/St Martin in the distance on a clear day. Here you have two options for lunch: upscale Arthur’s or the rustic Mogsie’s, where the proprietor will grill freshly caught lobster right in the shack.
A 10-minute drive away is Black Rocks, a dramatically jagged black coastline formed of lava from Mount Liamuiga. The volcano, located in the island’s northern half, last erupted 1,800 years ago and attracts nature lovers and hikers from all over the world.

The final stretch along the Atlantic coast offers a delightful opportunity to admire local villages and witness the simple beauty of everyday Kittitian life. The St Kitts Scenic Railway is the best way to explore this part of the island and is an unforgettable excursion. The railway line was built in 1912 to deliver sugarcane from the fields to the central sugar mill in Basseterre. Known as “the last railway of the Caribbean”, it continued operating until 2005. Today, the line provides a unique way to discover the northeastern part of the island from modern double-deck passenger carriages.

As you sit back in your seat sipping a complimentary drink, you can admire incredible natural vistas, including coastlines, cliffs and lush green vegetation dotted with farms and reminders of the old sugar estates, with their windmills and chimneys.

These are just a handful of my favourite activities, but you will want to create your special memories. And when you do, don’t be surprised if you feel the urge to pack up and move there too!

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