Nevis Offers the Authentic Caribbean Experience You’ve Been Missing
There’s something incredibly captivating about the view of Nevis’ majestic volcanic peak. My family and I never tire of seeing it, shrouded in cloud and towering above the coastal communities that cling to its shores.
Known as the Queen of the Caribees, the island’s pristine natural landscapes and endearing ‘rush slowly’ approach to life have an alchemic effect on me. As soon as I step onto its shores I can feel the stresses and strains of reality evaporate, and the island’s therapeutic nature begin to take hold.
I’m quite convinced that Nevis is unique amongst the islands of the West Indies, and I’m not the only one who’s noticed. Famous faces such as Princess Diana and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau both visited the island to retreat from the world, safe in the knowledge they could escape media attention. American superstars Beyonce and Britney Spears have also found solace on its shores.
The European History of Nevis
Inhabited from as early as 2000 BC, relics from tribes such as the Arawaks and the Caribs have been unearthed on the windward side of Nevis after periods of bad weather. However, it was explorer Christopher Columbus who first sighted the island and laid claim to it for the Europeans during his 1492 Spanish-based transatlantic maritime expedition. He gave it the name Las Senora de las Nieves (Our Lady of the Snows), which was no doubt inspired by Nevis Peak’s seemingly permanent blanket of cloud.
After the British colonised Nevis in the 16th century, the tiny island enclave slowly rose to fame as the richest of all the sugar economies in the British West Indies. A sought-after bolthole in the Caribbean Sea, the French saw benefit in controlling the island’s riches and a number of battles for ownership ensued.
Wreaking havoc for the plantation owners it was this period of uncertainty, along with beet sugar production in Europe and the abolition of slavery, that contributed to the fall of the sugar industry and the end of the island’s wealth.
Despite its unassuming appeal, Columbus isn’t the only historical figure who found themselves captivated by the island’s natural beauty. Nevis played a key role in the development of Horatio Nelson’s career and is also the birthplace of one of the Founding Fathers of the United States, Alexander Hamilton. Both are celebrated in the Museum of Nevis History where artefacts from their lives are on display.
Where to Find the
Real Caribbean on Nevis
When you arrive on Nevis it’s likely you’ll feel as though you’ve taken a step back in time. Unlike many of the islands in the West Indies, Nevis has retained its authentic appeal partly thanks to restrictions on development and heavy taxes on items like cars and electronics.
If you wander along the beach at Cades Bay you’ll find colourful fishing boats upended on the sand, their hulls still dripping with sea water as fishermen sit mending their nets in preparation for the following morning. Time your visit right and you could see them casting their nets from the shore. A skilled task it requires a team of two or three men to cast and collect the giant nets from the water, and another to protect their catch from pelicans circling overhead in anticipation of a free meal.
Indian Castle is perhaps Nevis’ most remote beach. Wild and untamed it sits on the windward side of the island and on a clear day offers views of neighbouring Montserrat. It’s here you’ll find the remnants of the once thriving Nevis Turf and Jockey Club. Built by the Lupinacci family who have lived in the Great House of the historic Hermitage Plantation for almost 40 years, the occasional calendar of race meets were, at one time, the place to be seen.
Plantation properties such as Montpelier, Golden Rock, Hermitage, and Nisbet offer insight into times past, their elegant Nevisian stone buildings lovingly restored after periods of neglect. Golden Rock in particular stands out from the crowd. Restored from near ruin by unlikely owners New York artists Brice and Helen Marsden, their unorthodox approach to interior design and landscaping has transformed the plantation’s structures, once consumed by the jungle, into a chic island hideaway. Visit for lunch and enjoy a stroll through the property’s extensive gardens.
It would be a shame to visit Nevis and not enjoy the Caribbean’s most loved local product, rum. South African born Nevis resident Mark Theron produces Clifton Estate Rum right here on the island, it boasts a subtle blend of spices and is easy on the palate. Visit the L&L Rum Shop in Charlestown to sample this and other Caribbean rums.
Of course, if it’s authentic Caribbean views that you’re after, a hike to the top of the 3231 ft high Nevis Peak can’t be beaten. I’d advise that you take a guide as the route isn’t clearly marked and can be treacherous after heavy rain, and perhaps leave the rum tasting until afterwards.
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