Nevis holiday guide
This conical island with a dormant volcano at its centre lies sixty five kilometres west of Antigua. Nevis has a largely undeveloped coastline of white-sand beaches fringed by palm groves. Restored plantation houses—many of them now inns—stand above the ocean, among hills cloaked in tropical forest. Sitting in a rocking chair on a clapboard porch, reading a good book or admiring the view, is a common pastime on Nevis holidays. But there is also a good selection of land- and water-sports and historic sites to visit. In Charlestown, the capital, the Bath Hotel and Spring House was where British colonists took the waters; and at the Hamilton Estate you can walk around sugar plantation ruins.
The port and capital, Charlestown, has a collection of 18th- and 19th-century architecture. These include restored ‘blouse and skirt’ buildings, so-named because of their stone-built ground floors and wooden upper storeys with fretwork verandas. The Museum of Nevis is set in a Georgian-style stone building at the edge of town, and displays an overview of the island’s history. Ferries leave the port daily for neighbouring island St. Kitts which you can explore as a day trip.
Eating and drinking
The island’s restaurants serve international dishes enhanced by West Indian fruits and vegetables. Think steak with coconut shrimp and sweet-potato fries or lamb chops with a tamarind glaze. For the truly adventurous, traditional goat-water is a soup made with tripe, goat head, and vegetables. Afternoon tea is a daily ritual in Nevis, and served on the terraces of plantation-house inns.
Active pursuits in Nevis
Much of Nevis’ interior is only accessible on foot, horseback or mountain bike. Trails such as Upper Round Road head through villages and forest, and around former cane fields. The Golden Rock Nature Trail takes walkers through the territory of a troop of African Green Monkeys. Nevis also has a Robert Trent Jones II designed golf course. Its elevated greens give views of the ocean and the neighbouring island, St. Kitts.
Columbus stumbled upon Nevis in 1493, but did not come ashore. The British claimed the island in 1628, planting sugar cane and other crops; harvests were so bountiful that Nevis was nicknamed ‘Queen of the Caribbees’. The island was also a centre for the slave trade, with enslaved West Africans landing here before being sent on to other British colonies. These industries made Nevis one of the richest islands in the colonial Caribbean. Admiral Nelson was stationed here in 1785 to protect British interests, and married Nevisian Fanny Nisbet on the Montpelier Estate. Their story is told in the Horatio Nelson Museum in Charlestown.
Nevis’ north, east, and west coasts are lined with beaches. Lover’s Beach, a kilometre and a half of white sand on the north coast, is perfect for romantic strolls and beachcombing. It has a desert-island feel and rarely more than a handful of visitors. At Nisbet Beach Club, to the north-east, hammocks are tied between the trunks of tall palms that dot a thick carpet of sand met by calm, turquoise ocean. Water-sports, including kayaking and deep-sea fishing, are available from Oualie Beach and Pinney’s Beach.
The gift shops at the islands’ main attractions, such as Nevis Botanical Gardens, sell unusual souvenirs, handicrafts, and art work. The Cotton Ginnery Mall, housed in a restored cotton-processing warehouse in Charlestown, is home to a small group of craft vendors who sell hand-made clothes, jewellery, and rugs. At City Market, near the port, stalls display jars of hot sauce, honey, and pouches of spices, alongside tropical produce such as pineapples, mangoes, and fresh coconuts. Nevis pottery, made from the island’s red clay, is sold at the Newcastle Pottery.
Nature in Nevis
The rich volcanic soil of the island lowlands encourages exotic blooms—such as bougainvillaea, hibiscus, and allamanda—to grow wild. Botanists will also enjoy the cultivated flora at Nevis Botanical Gardens. Around ninety species of palms and sixty of orchids frame lily ponds, and the Rainforest Conservatory, inspired by the hot-houses at London’s Kew Gardens, features heliconia, crotons, and anthuriums.
Inland from the white-sand beaches, the island rises steeply; and in the south, undulating hills are covered in tropical forest with acacia trees, prickly pear cactus, and white cedar. Walking trails criss-cross Nevis’ interior, and lead to abandoned plantation ruins and sugar mills overgrown with creepers. The highest point of the island is Mount Nevis at 985 metres. You can climb the dormant volcano with the help of a guide.