Caribbean Cruising '23: St Kitts

Suzanna Pinder on 01 March 2023
St Kitts is known as a green and fertile island, with a long rainforest clad mountain range leading down to large flat plains, perfect for farming and for many generations a major player in sugar cane growth. Today many of the old plantations have been turned into boutique hotels and restaurants, with tourism now the islands main income.

Arriving to Port Zante in the islands capital, Basseterre, we were immediately welcomed by our friendly neighbour, Up Town. Once a music industry mogul, Up Town now has a quieter life, living on his boat selling homemade Swizzle, a delicious fruity rum punch made to a generations old recipe using homegrown mangos and passion fruit (he grows the fruit at a rental property he owns, not on his boat, in case you were wondering!). Soon after our arrival a bottle had been cracked open to sample and over the following few days we saw a regular trail of customers from fellow cruisers to local hotel owners arriving to collect orders. I have loved some of the entrepreneurship we have seen cruising around.

St Kitts is a popular cruise stop, with a new ship arriving each day and the shopping precinct next to the quay a bustling affair. By day it was full of tourists haggling over souvenirs, enjoying the traditional street entertainers and indulging in highly decorated bowls of rum punch. However, once the ships had departed each evening, the music was cranked up and the locals descended to enjoy the outdoor bars and food shacks until the early hours of the morning – a totally different scene!

A favourite tourist attraction of St Kitts is the scenic railway. Originally built to collect sugar cane, it is now an enjoyable way to see the lesser visited east coast, passing through stunning countryside, past remote villages and offering wonderful Atlantic views. Throughout the trip we enjoyed narration from a very jolly hostess, pointing out the sights and telling us about the history of the island. We were entertained by onboard dancers in traditional dress and well refreshed with hosts preparing delicious punch and distributing sugary treats at strategic points as we passed famed plantations. The islanders enjoy the train too, waiting by the track to wave and cheer as it passes by.

As with many Caribbean islands, St Kitts was battled over by the Europeans and for a while was inhabited by the English in the middle and the French at either end. Worried about sea invasion, in the 1600’s British military engineers designed a dominating fortress, Brimstone Fort, building it with the immense strength of African slaves on a 780 foot high volcanic hill, offering commanding views of five neighbouring islands and impenetrable access. Today the fort is an interesting visit. Well preserved it showcases the history of the island, the remarkable construction and how life would have been living at fort. The wonderfully steep road leading up to the fort not only proves how difficult construction must have been, heaving up the building materials, guns and supplies, but passing through the lower rainforest we saw many lovely wild African green velvet monkeys, descendants of the original monkeys brought to St Kitts as pets by the plantation owners.

The majority of hotels and resorts are to the south east of the island, where most of the beautiful sandy beaches tend to be, such as Frigate Bay and South Friar’s Bay. This end of the island is also home to some great restaurants and beach bars, including the infamous Reggae Beach Bar with picturesque views towards Nevis and Shipwreck Beach Bar, with both offering great rum punch and fun music on certain nights.

Sadly St Kitts is our last island before heading back to Antigua for the end of our 2023 Caribbean sailing season. Combined with our 2022 sailing exploits, I have now visited virtually all islands between Barbados and Grenada in south, up to Puerto Rico in the north – so if you are looking for your own Caribbean adventure, get in touch!