On a cruise this past December we stopped in St. Kitts. It has been a number of years since we visited and a lot has changed. The center of town is The Circus with Berkeley Memorial in the middle of the circle. The Circus was the town’s focus, including nice arts and crafts shops and anchored by the Ballahoo restaurant. On this trip, the Ballahoo was still there, but the shops have been replaced by banks and commercial businesses.
It appears that the Port Zante area has expanded by a number of square blocks and that most of the Circus shops have relocated there. The Port Zante shopping center was developed by a partnership of private developers and the government over a decade ago and, in 2013, a cruise ship pier was opened. The success of the cruise ship project has initiated a pier expansion which will begin in 2018.
While Port Zante has its’ share of duty free regulars like Diamonds International it also has some real local gems that you should seek out. One of the island’s biggest successes over the years has been Caribelle Batik. Started in 1974 they have earned a reputation for quality clothing, wall hangings and accessories. The factory and main gift shop are located at Romney Manor but an outlet store can be found at the port.
While most Caribbean islands have their own rums with associated bragging rights, St. Kitt’s claim to fame has rested on a unique cane distillation. In the 1980s Baron Edmond de Rothschild established a distillery with the intent of creating a unique cane spirit more akin to vodka than rum. This clear, highly filtered spirit was named CSR for Cane Sugar Rothschild and developed a sizable following. In 1996 the distillery was sold to Demerara Rum the distillers of El Dorado in Guyana. Demerara has maintained a presence on St. Kitts and CSR is still blended and bottled here and remains associated with this island.
Points of interest in Basseterre include the National Museum near Port Zante and St. Georges Anglican Church a few blocks up the hill. The church’s outer walls are of heavy stone and the roof is covered in slate and its’ founding dates back to 1635.
Sited on the southwest coast of St. Kitts, about 12 miles from town, is Brimstone Hill Fortress, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This fortification is a complex of walls, cannon placements and buildings established by the British in the sixteen hundreds to defend the island. It is also the largest fort in the Caribbean.
If you are looking for beaches, watersports and snorkeling, head out to the southeastern tip of the island to Cockleshell Bay and Turtle Beach. The area features nice beaches, windsurfing and excellent near-shore snorkeling. Cockleshell is a popular destination for locals for a day of beach, swimming and picnics. The beach is home to Reggae Beach Bar & Grill that serves good food and drinks. We prefer Turtle Beach for snorkeling but it does have less facilities nearby.
On past trips to St. Kitts we have been lucky enough to travel out to Ottley’s Plantation Inn with local friends for either lunch or dinner. It is a great property that includes a number of guest rooms and an excellent restaurant. On this last visit we learned that Karen Keusch and the Lowells have sold the property but the web site assures everyone that, after the transition, the new owners have promised to keep up the tradition of quality and service.
If you are going to be spending some time on St. Kitts there is regular ferry service over to Nevis which is St. Kitts sister island. The trip is well worth the time as Nevis is less developed than St. kitts and has some really spectacular premium resorts including The Four Seasons .