St. Kitts is more than just a beach island
By Tab Hauser
GoNOMAD Senior Writer
The Caribbean island of St. Kitts can make any vacationer happy. It has nice beaches and several attractions worth visiting.
When combined with good food and local spirits, you have a wonderful couples or family getaway.
Kitts is located 51 miles south of St. Martin and two miles north of its sister island of Nevis. The island is 18 miles long by 5 miles wide. St. Kitts is a scenic place. Here you will find the best beaches in the lower, narrower section to the south and the tall mountains to the north.
St. Kitts Beaches: Time to Lime
The number one attraction in the tropics is the beaches. St. Kitts has several of them on the Atlantic and Caribbean sides. When it is “time to lime” go to the leeward or Caribbean side. We avoided the beaches on the Atlantic due to the rough surf and wind.
The leeward beaches offer soft sand that appears darker due to its volcanic mix. The surf here during our visit was almost lake-like.
All three locations below had beach clubs that served drinks and food and offered lounge chairs and umbrellas. Some had a small charge for their use, while others had you buy lunch or drinks for their use.
The beach shacks offered reasonable prices. On Cockleshell Bay, a few places sold beer for $3.
Cockleshell Bay Beach is at the southern end of the island. It has a beautiful view of Nevis. The popular Reggae Beach Bar and Grill is sectioned off to the east.
We liked the food there but found it a bit crowded. There is more room on the beach on the other side of the taxi dock. (Insider tip: Ask for the non-cruiser rate on their chairs rentals at Reggae)
South Friars Bay is a pretty stretch of sand. It has four beach bars with the upscale Carambola on the northern side. We enjoyed lunch at the moderate-priced Shipwrecks on the southern end of the beach.
Frigate Bay is the closest to the capital and the smallest beach. There are several beachside restaurants with lounge chairs. We stayed at Timothy’s Resort here because it had its own section of sand away from the day visitors.
St Kitts Off the Beach
For those that want a beach break, St. Kitts is worth exploring.
St. Kitts Scenic Railway
If you like trains, a good way to view the island is on the St. Kitts Scenic Railway. It was completed in 1926 and is known as the “last Railway in the West Indies”.
Their three-hour excursion takes guests on a circle around the island. The first 18 miles are via a narrow gauge diesel train and the last 12 miles are by sightseeing bus.
The fun starts with an open bar upon departure. (I did not realize Piña Coladas make a wonderful breakfast drink.)
During our clickity-clack run at 10 mph, an announcer told us the train’s history as well as points of interest on the route.
These included bridges, scenic views, mountains, churches, and ruins of sugar plantations.
On board, two St Kitts traditional masquerade dancers performed for tips. http://www.stkittsscenicrailway.com
Fairview Great House and Rum Tasting
The restored Fairview Great House & Botanical Garden is an example of classic colonial architecture that was built in 1701.
Part one of this tour started with an energetic guide named Tasheba. She explained the history of the house and then led us around the various rooms.
Here we saw period furniture. This included four posted beds, desks, wooden commode toilets, and a dining table for 16.
Visitors were allowed to enjoy the views of the Caribbean Sea and Nevis from the large balcony.
The house tour continued to the kitchen where we viewed the original volcanic stone and brick oven. It finished in the stone basement where there is a room dedicated to St. Kitts slavery past. Kan Tours
Part two of the visit continued to a lecture room complete with a slide show on the Shipwreck brand of flavored rums mixed in St Kitts. (www.brinleygoldshipwreck.com)
Guests were given tastes of a four-year-aged spiced rum along with four flavored rums. After the tour, take a stroll around the 2 ½ acre garden or take a dip in their pool.
UNESCO Fortress with a View
The Brimstone Fortress National Park is one of St. Kitts most popular destinations.
Sitting majestically at 800 feet high on 37 acres, it was once called the Gibraltar of the West Indies. It is multilevel with walls seven to 12 feet thick and canons all around.
Brimstone’s history began in the 1690s with several cannons placed atop it.
It was considered complete in the 1790s and is one of the best-preserved fortifications in the Western Hemisphere.
Restored rooms of the fort act as a museum detailing what life was like.
Even if you are not a fan of military history, come to this side of St. Kitts for the views of the nearby islands.
On a clear day, you can see St. Martin 50 miles away. www.brimstonehillfortress.org
Wingfield Estate and Old Road Rum
The Wingfield Estate is a former sugar plantation founded in 1625. On the grounds are the picturesque ruins of the sugar and rum production.
This includes the lime kiln, St Kitts’ tallest stone chimney (step inside for a cool view), and an aqueduct that powered the mill.
There is also an excavation of one of the earliest rum stills in the New World where it is reported that Thomas Jefferson’s great, great, great grandfather sipped from.
Wingfield is also the home of Old Road Rum . For a small fee, you will be given a detailed tour and tasting of this imported rum made for them.
For those that wish to learn and appreciate rum, take the one-hour “sommelier style” class for $50.
Afterward, you will truly appreciate this fine spirit. I enjoyed this session along with sipping their 12-year-old rum and craft cocktails that followed. https://www.oldroadrum.com/
Batik at Romney Manor
The Romney Manor, adjacent to the Wingfield Estate had its start in 1626 by Thomas Jefferson’s ancestors. It is claimed to be the first permanent plantation settlement in the Caribbean.
The manor sits on landscaped grounds with an impressive 400-year-old saman tree.
The house has pretty shutters, shingles, and gingerbread on the roof lines. Inside there is nothing original.
Since 1976 the house and grounds have been the factory and store for Caribelle Batik. These are pretty fabrics made from painted-colored wax. In the center of the store is an artist.
She explains while she paints, how batik is made. The store sells all types of clothing, accessories, and art.
Admission to the Wingfield Estate is good at the Romney Manor. www.caribellebatikstkitts.com/
Fun With Rum on St. Kitts
Owner and Master Blender Roger Brisbane runs a chemistry lab like no other under the Spice Mill Restaurant. For over an hour, Roger has guests sit at stations complete with beakers, hibiscus, different natural spices and flavors, an alcohol hydrometer, and a personal bottle to mix it in. There was also a muddler and martini shaker.
Roger in his class talks about why he likes the hibiscus plants and his infusion process for tequila and gin.For our class, we were directed to take his aged rum and infuse it with any of the ingredients in front of us.I went easy on cinnamon and clove but added a little more vanilla and ginger. Afterward, we checked our alcohol volume and labeled our bottles to take home.
As a bonus, Roger, using a mini-still made some hibiscus-infused gin that made the perfect gin and tonic. www.hibiscusspirits.com
St. Kitts Food
St. Kitts offers a meal for any taste and any budget. Below are places I tried and liked.
The Carambola Beach Club has an excellent three-course Caribbean dinner for $40. Ala Carte ordering is also available. Service was flawless.
The Spice Mill is fine dining as close to the sea as you can get. The menu is continental and Caribbean. https://www.spicemillrestaurant.com
Bellemont Farm to Table
The Bellemont Farm has a splendid farm-to-table intimate dinner limited to ten served on a rustic 30-foot table. The setting is elegant with views of the sea. During dinner, a large fire roared nearby.
Dinner is served family style with each dish explained. A welcome cocktail and wine are included for the $150 price. My minor complaint is that the wine should have been stepped for this price. https://bellemontfarm.com/food-farm-table
Serendipity located in Basseterre has a view of the harbor. The menu is continental with a good choice of seafood, lamb, beef, and vegetarian. Service was excellent and friendly.
For beachside casual: Shipwrecks, The Monkey Bar, and The Reggae Beach Bar and Grill
The North Square Food Truck Court at independence square is where Kittians go for a fast lunch. We tried the Rastafarian vegan truck for something different.
Sprat Net serves dinner of fish, lobster, ribs, chicken or pizza. On certain days there is live music. Prices are reasonable and seating is on picnic tables. Get here 10 minutes before sunset.
When staying on St. Kitts, extra care should be taken when searching for a place. If you are booking a beachfront hotel or condo, make sure the beach is usable to your standards. The Atlantic side can be rough and rocky.
We stayed at the Timothy Beach Resort because it was on Frigate Bay, which is a calm leeward beach. The resort offers spacious rooms and has a small pool with a restaurant. We splurged $40 extra for the large one-bedroom unit with views of the sea.
If you want to see the sites and dine around, I recommend a rental car from Ry-Lux.
While their cars are a little older, they have good rates and good service. https://www.facebook.com/ryluxerental/ (My tip for British-style driving is to put a “post-it note” on the inside windshield saying “think left” directly under your line of site)
For St. Kitts events, accommodations, restaurants, and attractions click here
Read my story on St. Kitts’s sister island Nevis, click https://www.gonomad.com/216284-nevis-nice