I loved the relaxed and authentic Caribbean charm of St Kitts, one half of the twin island nation of St Kitts and Nevis. There’s something for everyone as you discover the island’s history, take a rainforest walk, get active on the water or lime like a local on one of the island’s beaches. Here are my top 10 things to do in St Kitts, especially things to do near the cruise port or if you’re visiting on a cruise.
1 A relaxed walk around Basseterre
If you’re looking for things to do in St Kitts near the cruise port, start your island visit with a stroll around St Kitt’s relaxed island capital of Basseterre. From Port Zante pass through the archway of the Old Treasury to the Circus roundabout (St Kitts has no traffic lights!) and spot the green Berkeley Memorial clock, a well-known St Kitts landmark. On Fort Street and Bank Street, you’ll pass market stalls and food vendors selling anything from fruit smoothies, to local lunchtime dishes.
Nearby is the shady Independence square which was once the island’s slave market. The small doors at the base of nearby colonial houses lead to basements where the slaves slept before they were sold. On the square is the delightful Gallery Café, where you can see the work of local artists and take refreshment in the small café and courtyard garden.
2 The Old Treasury and National Museum in Basseterre
For things to do in and around St Kitts cruise port, visit The Old Treasury, an impressive 19th century building built of black volcanic stone, on the edge of Port Zante. The central archway is known as ‘The Gateway to Basseterre’, since visitors would pass through it from the port and upstairs you’ll find the small National Museum.
While the displays are charmingly old fashioned, there are plenty of fascinating insights into the history and culture of St Kitts, with colorful carnival costumes and national dress on display.
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3 Sugar history at The Wingfield Estate
The stone chimneys and windmills of a once thriving sugar industry can be found all over St Kitts and at Wingfield Estate you can visit the ruins of an old sugar mill for an insight into the sugar industry. The aqueduct once brought water from the slopes of Mount Liamuiga to power the mill wheel and the old rum distillery has been uncovered, with plans to start making rum again in the future. If you are wondering what to do in St Kitts from the cruise ship, the estate is included in many cruise excursions and island tours s but there are information signs if you visit independently by taxi and entry is free.
4 Romney Manor and Caribelle Batik
Adjoining the Wingfield Estate is Romney Manor, the estate’s Great House named after the Earls of Romney who owned it for 200 years. Surrounded by botanical gardens with green lawns and flowering shrubs, the sounds of birds and glimpse of butterflies makes this a peaceful setting where the gardens blend into the rainforest. Wonder at the stories that the majestic 400 year old Saman tree could tell and visit the Caribelle Batik workshop where you can buy a colourful batik handicrafts and clothing. (there’s a small entrance charge)
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5 Step back in time at Fairview Great House
At Fairview Great House you’ll glimpse the lifestyle of a wealthy plantation owner in the 18th century. There are elegant porches and balconies, a dining room laid with antique silver and upstairs the bedroom where Prince Charles stayed when the house was a hotel.
Some tours also include a rum tasting or cookery demonstration and after your visit you can enjoy the well-kept gardens. The house is close to other historic sites such as Wingfield Estate and Brimstone Fort so best reached by taxi as part of an island tour. (there’s a small entrance charge)
6 The canons and views at Brimstone Fort
A winding road brings you up through narrow stone gatehouses to Brimstone Hill Fortress, a UNESCO World Heritage site that was built by the British colonial powers in the 17th and 18th Centuries. Known as ‘The Gibraltar of the West Indies’ the fortress supported the ambitions of the English to dominate the sugar rich islands of the Caribbean, and this is one of the best things to do in St Kitts from your cruise ship.
There’s a visitor center close to the car park and the most spectacular views are from the top of the stone citadel with an impressive array of canons pointing in all directions. The fort can be reached by taxi and is included on most island tours. Entrance $10US
7 A Rainforest walk
The mountains that form the backbone of St Kitts are covered with natural rainforest, teeming with birds and home to the Vervet monkeys. The most demanding walk is to the top of Mount Liamuiga, best done with a local guide and requires a good level of fitness. For a gentle self-guided walk, follow the trails on the Wingfield Estate under the Sky Safari zipwire where the cries of people zipping over your head mingle with the sounds of nature. A stream trickles beside the trail and aerial roots and vines tangle in the tree canopy. To learn about the forest trees and medicinal plants in the rainforest, we recommend hiring a knowledgeable guide such as O’Neil Mulraine for your rainforest walk.
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8 The St Kitts Scenic Railway
This narrow gauge railway was built in the 1920s to deliver sugar cane from the plantations around the island to the processing factory in Basseterre. While sugar production has ceased, visitors can still board the double-decker St Kitts Scenic Railway passing over the steel bridges with views over the fields on the slopes of Mount Liamuiga. Rum punch is served while the guide gives an entertaining account sugar industry on St Kitts and at the end you’ll return by bus or by catamaran. The 3-4 hour round trip is best booked as a cruise excursion since the timetable varies depending on the ships in port.
9 Get active on the water
There are plenty of watersports options on St Kitts, from glass-bottomed kayaks to exhilarating flyboarding, using water jets that shoot you high in the air. While most beaches will have kayaks, snorkels or paddleboards to rent, the best range of watersports can be found at St Kitts Watersports on Cockleshell beach. Ask about their jet-ski safari where you’ll be taken to the best snorkeling spots nearby. A half-day catamaran trip will give you an ocean side perspective of St Kitts and normally includes lunch with a stop for snorkeling. Book as a cruise excursion or through the websites of Bluewater Safaris or Leeward Islands Charters.
Ask about their jet-ski safari where you’ll be taken to the best snorkeling spots nearby. A half-day catamaran trip will give you an ocean side perspective of St Kitts and normally includes lunch with a stop for snorkeling. Book as a cruise excursion or through the websites of Bluewater Safaris or Leeward Islands Charters.
10 Chill on the beach
If all this activity sounds too much and you just want to lime like a local, we recommend a taxi ride to the beaches on the South East peninsula. Cockleshell Bay is one of the most popular beaches on St Kitts, with a wide range of beach bars and sunbeds to rent, although it can get crowded if there are a few ships in port. For a quieter option, try South Friar’s Bay where you can rent a sun lounger at the Carambola Beach club or bag a hammock at the more rustic Shipwreck Beach Bar at the other end of the beach.
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Where to stay on St Kitts
Visiting St Kitts on a cruise is a great way to get a taste of the island, but one day is never enough! So if you like what you see why not return for a longer stay? If you do here are some great hotels that we recommend;
Ocean Terrace Inn – with colourful contemporary style, this is a great mid-range choice if you want to stay within walking distance of St Kitts, with great views over the harbour. There’s a beautiful landscaped pool area to relax and it’s easy to access all the other attractions of St Kitts by taxi. Read my review here and you can check prices and book through Booking.com
Ottley’s Plantation Inn – for classic Caribbean luxury, this old style plantation house hotel has it all. You’ll stay among beautifully kept gardens, either in the Great House or in private bungalows in the grounds. This hotel is a short drive from Basseterre so you’ll need to hire a car or take taxi excursions to see the island. Read my review here and you can check prices and book here
Rockhaven B&B – This colourful bed and breakfast is a private home with just two rooms, offering fabulous views towards the ocean from the terrace. The rooms sing with colour and incorporate local antique furniture and traditional caribbean touches, while breakfast is home cooked and delicious. Read my review here and you can check prices and book through Booking.com
If you’re looking for luxury accommodation, we suggest Kittitian Hill or Marriott’s Resort. Although I didn’t stay at these hotels I did visit them and they would be my choice for a luxurious stay on St Kitts.
Visitor Information for St Kitts
To plan your visit to St Kitts check out the tourism board website at www.stkittstourism.kn or follow their social media channels: Twitter @StKittsTourism | Facebook | Instagram | Google+ | Pinterest |
British Airways flies to St Kitts from London Gatwick twice a week on Saturdays and Wednesdays with the flight going on to nearby Antigua. There are regular ferries every day to Nevis, with a journey time of 45 minutes from Basseterre, making it easy to plan a combined stay on both islands.
My visit to St Kitts was hosted by the St Kitts Tourism Board and some of the experiences and meals mentioned in this article were provided on a complimentary basis. Some of the links in this article are affiliate links which provide a small commission to support this blog.