It's a bright, glorious morning in St. Kitts, one of the Caribbean's most beautiful islands and a popular destination for cruise visitors.
While Cruiseable has a solid, comprehensive travel guide to Saint Kitts and Nevis, my wife and I wanted to share our own experience from a recent Eastern Caribbean cruise on Independence of the Seas in the hopes that you might be able to come away with a new idea or two if you're planning to visit.
This was our fist trip to St. Kitts, home to just 35,000 residents. Now we understand why so many cruisers love it.
Here's how we spent our day.
First stop: Port Zante
Port Zante is where the cruise ships dock, and you can't miss the bright yellow cruise building. The port is small, with only two piers, so no more than two cruise ships can dock at the same time. The terminal was clean and not overly crowded. The port is surrounded by an open-air market — surprise! — catering to cruise visitors.
On the ship we'd arranged a shore excursion, and after a brief wait in line we were off on an air-conditioned bus for "The Essential St. Kitts Tour"!
Local landmarks in Basseterre
Exiting the port and after a few quick turns, you are in Independence Square in the nation's capital of Basseterre. The park is surrounded by a number of important government and social buildings including the Co-Cathedral of Immaculate Conception Catholic Church. This area is aptly named Independence Square, marking its transition from a slave market to a joyful reminder of St. Kitts' independence from Great Britain.
Next along our route, the bus made its way by the Police Station with its easy-to-spot red door and through a small district of banks and financial offices. It then entered the public square called the Circus that contains the Berkeley Memorial Clock. The clock, built in 1883 and named after a local landowner and political figure, is one of the most recognizable landmarks in St. Kitts.
The bus continued its journey, making its way past a government building, St. George’s Anglican Church and Warner Park, home to the national sport of cricket. We made a loop around to Bay Road, which hugs the water, where we were able to see some egrets. Driving for only a few minutes more, we were at Wingfield Estate. The ruins, which date to 1625, were the home to a mighty sugar mill, tobacco and rum distillery.
Caribelle Batik at Romney Manor
Finally, we arrived at our first stop, Romney Manor on Old Road Town in Basseterre. Go ahead and get the bad Mitt Romney jokes out the way!
Romney Manor is a 10-acre site that is home to magnificent gardens and natural landscapes, including the 350-year-old Saman tree that looms over the property. Once owned by Sam Jefferson II, the great great great grandfather of Thomas Jefferson, the great house was renamed Romney Manor following its acquisition in the early 1600s by the Earl of Romney. It now doubles as a historic site and as home to Caribelle Batik, makers of beautiful handwoven fabrics that are sold on the island (though to be perfectly honest we couldn't tell the difference betweeen the batik products and machine-made garments).
The highlight for us was the time we spent wandering around the estate and seeing the tropical plants, flowers and the well-kept grounds.
Brimstone Hill & Fort George Citadel
The ride to Brimstone Hill National Park took about another 30 minutes or so. During the drive, the tour guide spoke about modern-day St. Kitts and answered questions from the crowd. Apparently, any foreigner can become a citizen of St. Kitts if they make a charitable donation of about $300,000 (USD) to the government. My wife and I are happy to remain visitors.
Reaching the park, our bus began its winding ascent to the summit, where the massive fortress is located. Along the way, we spotted many vervet monkeys which originally came to St. Kitts during the African slave trade.
The construction of the fort took over 100 years to complete and is recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage site. There are several areas of the fort and with only 45 minutes to explore everything, we had to hustle.
Instead of heading first to the main attraction, Fort George Citadel, we made our way to nearby ruins, the remains of Fort Charlotte, which once included the governor’s quarters. Currently all you can see are the four pillars of what was once part of the fort’s structure.
After a time, we made our way over to Fort George to climb what seemed like a never-ending flight of stairs, but the climb was worth it. From atop you can see clearly out to the Caribbean and the closest island, Saint Eustatius.
This site also houses the Fort George Museum, which contains a variety of exhibits that depict the life of the island's inhabitants in the 1700s and the soldiers who were stationed there.
After a lot of picture-taking, we began our trek back down the stairs, and I made a quick jaunt over to see the remains of the Prince of Wales Bastion, home to several cannons that had the firepower to reach ships out at sea.
Back to the ship we go
Taking the same winding road down from the fort, we were on our way back to the ship. Back on the main road, we could see our ship off in the distance. A few turns more and we passed the Carib Brewery, home to the St. Kitts official beer. Back at the port, I would grab one — hey, it was afternoon by now. It tasted like a Budweiser to me.
We arrived back at Port Zante just before 1 pm. We said thank you to our driver with a well-deserved gratuity and entered the port area to do some bartering — I mean shopping — before getting back on board the ship.
The Essential St. Kitts tour was a great introduction to a beautiful island which we are happy to be visiting again soon!