NEVIS ISLAND GUIDE

After visiting Nevis for many years, I feel qualified to share these tips with anyone wanting to spend time in this idyllic place. My guide is light-hearted and impartial and I hope will be useful!
Things to do while staying on Nevis – some personal recommendations by travel writer Oliver Gray.

(Updated March 2024)

* For convenience, all directions start at Oualie.

1. Try out the hot springs
Drive down to Charlestown and through the town. Keep your eyes peeled for a small green sign pointing to the right saying Baths. You can park there and entrance to the baths costs nothing. It is said that years ago a famous Hollywood actress tried to buy the baths and turn them into a luxury spa. The Nevis government said that they should be open to all, so the tradition remains that you can access the waters for nothing. There are several different entry points and you can loll in the 100 degree Fahrenheit healing waters. It’s a secret that a few tourists find out about. It’s by no means luxurious but it’s authentic and a great place to meet the locals. Just nearby is the excellent Nelson Museum (although it keeps unreliable opening hours) and the abandoned Baths Hotel.

2. Check out The Botanical Gardens
Continue driving along the same road round the Island anti-clockwise until you see a sign for the botanical gardens pointing to the right. The gardens are beautiful, tranquil and well-maintained and you can easily spend an afternoon here peacefully wondering around. There is a Thai restaurant on site but it’s seldom open. You could afterwards have a cocktail in the nearby Montpelier Great House. This place was famously visited by Princess Diana and family (and is currently for sale, if you have a few million to spare).

3. Visit Golden Rock
This is an absolute must. Continuing down the same road, after about a mile, follow a large red sign up the steep hill to the left. Here you will find one of the world’s most legendary hotels, set in incredible tropical rainforest gardens. Golden Rock is famous for its amazing lobster sandwiches and boy, do they live up to their reputation. Home made bread stuffed with fresh lobster, they also come with French fries and salad. They aren’t cheap but they will keep you going all day. Afterwards you can wander round the grounds and, if you dare, go out the back and try and make up your way up the hill to the “Source”, accompanied by green vervet monkeys and goats.

4. Go to Oualie Bay
It’s a place full of character and is more down-to-earth than some of the up-market resorts. Some of the beaches on Nevis can be quite steep to enter but at Oualie you can ease in safely. There may be a little seaweed but there are no rocks and there’s always something fun going on to watch while you are lying on the beach. In common with all other beaches on Nevis, it is public and there is no obligation to purchase anything. No one will hassle you and it’s almost always very quiet and peaceful. If you do eat there you’ll find one of the cheapest options on the whole island. Try their Rotis, they are lovely but leave plenty of time for them to be prepared, as it takes a while! Enquire about their live music (normally Tuesdays and Sundays, and of wildly varying quality depending on which musicians turn up) and BBQ evenings.

5. Visit Chrishi Beach
If you want to feel sophisticated, this is the place to hang out. From the price point of view it is the opposite end compared to Oualie prices and the clientèle is up-market, so it’s a good place for a special treat. Their brunch is recommended. On the attractive beach are scores of free sun loungers but entry into the sea is pretty steep and the waves can be big. Here you can watch the Sea Bridge car ferry going in and out. Chrishi’s owners are Norwegian and in recent years it has become a hub for the island’s flourishing film making industry.

6. Have a meal at Indian Summer
For the first few times we came to Nevis we thought it seemed silly to go to an Indian restaurant, but when we eventually did, we didn’t regret it. It has a tremendous reputation and lives up to it with very large portions and tasty food. You’ll never finish it but they supply you with take-away containers, so you end up with two meals for the price of one.

7. Have a Killer Bee at Sunshine’s
Probably every visitor to Nevis will end up in Sunshine’s at some stage. It’s not as easy to find as it used to be because there are no signs from the main road. Turn right by the smart new shopping development and follow a green sign to Pinney’s Beach. At the end of the road you will find a series of beach bar restaurants, including Lime, Double Deuce and a pizza place, plus a new artisan brewery. Sunshine’s is the very last one you will come to. It feels pleasingly authentic, especially as the owner Sunshine himself holds court there every evening. The food is excellent and the Killer Bee punches more than live up to their reputation as strong and tasty. Definitely do not have more than two. Sunshine is no fool and the high prices do reflect the fact that it’s only steps away from The Four Seasons resort and is a favourite place for its wealthy customers to go for a bit of real Island life, so don’t expect your evening to be cheap. However, you will be gifted a huge plate of fresh salad as soon as you sit down, hardly leaving any room for the main meal!

8. Go somewhere nearby on foot
From Oualie, you can wander along the main road for about a mile. On the left you can go through the woods to an almost completely deserted beach (Lover’s Beach), where there are display boards explaining the life cycle of turtles. A bit further along, turn right and visit the fascinating, historic Cottle Church. This is a very moving experience, because it contains detailed display boards with explanations of the shameful history of slavery on the island. If you still have energy, go a small distance further and have a cocktail at the recently renovated and re-opened Mount Nevis Hotel. You can hang out by their swimming pool and the view is sensational. They do food as well.

9. Take the bus
Buses around the island are frequent and extremely cheap and fun as well, with lively chat and loud music. There are bus stops every few hundred metres (look for a number plate with H on it) but the buses will stop anywhere if you signal to them. It’s a much cheaper option than a taxi if you don’t fancy driving or maybe want a drink, but they don’t go much later than around 7 p.m. There is a pretty bus station in the centre of Charlestown where you might have to change onto a different bus depending on where you want to go.

10. Go to town
It is definitely worth spending at least half a day in Charlestown. It’s a lively and characterful place and the Alexander Hamilton Museum is definitely worth a visit. From there are you can walk down to Pinney’s Hotel. Walk through its grounds and that will bring you to Pinney’s Beach, by far the most impressive stretch of sand on the island. Just outside town on the main road is the Artisan Village, a sweet place where local craftspeople sell their wares from brightly-coloured cottages. You can wander along as far as Sunshine’s, which is a great place to catch the sunset. The collection of beach bars here is being rapidly upgraded and Lime has added Lime Cabanas, a large beachfront restaurant that is aimed at the cruise ship passengers who are boated in from St Kitts. Here you will get a nice lunch for a reasonable price.

11. Visit the Heritage Village. It’s a fascinating glimpse into the past in the form of a folk museum based around an abandoned sugar mill. You can just wander round (free) or spend 10 EC dollars for a guided tour. It is near Golden Rock, on the other side of the road. If you are feeling adventurous, you can drive all the way down Hanley’s Road to the remote Windward Beach, where Princess Diana was chased by paparazzi in 1993.
12. Learn about the culture and history of Nevis. Apart from the Heritage Centre, other places highly recommended to visit include Fort Ashby and the New River Estate. Fort Ashby is a gem but hard to find, tucked away opposite the Funky Monkey buggy hire place near Indian Summer. The fort itself is an amazing place, complete with huge intact cannons. The New River Estate is situated on the other side of the Island in Gingerland, near the Heritage Centre, but again, you have to keep your eyes peeled for the difficult-to-spot signage. You will be rewarded by a fascinating insight into rum and sugar manufacture and detailed but sobering information about slavery.

13. Brief further recommendations and gourmet delights:
For special meals, you can go into the hills to Bananas restaurant and art gallery (it’s well signposted off Bypass Road). The owner of Bananas has recently taken over L’Escale, which is just round the corner from Oualie – you can’t miss it and it’s walkable. The theme here is French cheeses and fine wines and it has a Bistro ambience. Or head for the Yachtsman Grill in the Hamilton Resort and Spa. Here is also arguably the best beach on the island for swimming. You can use their recliners too and maybe have a pizza (outstanding) or a cocktail afterwards. Their rum punches are superb. We ended up going there every day, as the beach is so perfect.
If you fancy a really special meal, try Luna, a fine-dining establishment on the Cliffdwellers site, where the food and ambience are exceptional and you pay a lot for them! By contrast, and arguably even more fun, go round the corner to Dewdrops, a delightfully authentic restaurant where you will pay much less but still get a truly lovely meal. Either of these places can be reached on foot from Oualie if you are fit, or you can drive there in five minutes.
Buy a crate of Carib – it’s cheaper that way. You can buy direct from the depot, which is situated next to the Valu Mart supermarket on the edge of Charlestown.
Have a really authentic Nevisian dining experience at Wilma’s Diner in the heart of Charlestown. Wilma cooked for Princess Diana and thus carries the motto By Royal Appointment. Other recommended authentic local establishments include Beauties, in Cox Village, and Rosie’s Patties, which is outside Charlestown near the commercial harbour.
Also just near Fort Ashby is the Barefoot Beach Bar. It’s part of the Nelson Springs resort but you can just walk in for a drink or something to eat. Their speciality is sushi.
The Nisbet Plantation resort is a very interesting place with information about the relationship between Fanny Nisbet and Horatio Nelson. You can still take a look but sadly it has now been abandoned and is derelict. It’s quite near the airport, where there are a couple of shops and also a good pizza restaurant called the Runway Grill. It’s cheap and cheerful and you can eat in or take away while checking out the parked private jets. Also near the airport is a lovely bar and restaurant called Drift, owned by the Canadian proprietors of Luna. It’s a sensational place for a sunset cocktail or a smart meal. If you know and love the TV series Death In Paradise, Drift is just like Catherine’s Bar (although a little more up-market!)
Fruit and veg stalls can be found at various locations around the island to supplement your supermarket shops. We are not sporty types, so can’t tell you much about golf, watersports, fishing and cycling but there are good facilities for all these, mainly based at Oualie.
If buying petrol in the smaller petrol stations, remember they only take cash, not cards. Whenever you pay anywhere in US dollars, the change will come in EC dollars. It’s useful to have a small supply of each in your pocket.

Have fun and please let us know about any other discoveries you may have.

PS. For our visit in 2024, my wife gave me ten Rum Punch tokens for Christmas.

Rum Punch Top Ten Chart
(Non-drinkers avert your eyes, all opinions subjective (and hazy)

1. Yachtsman Grill – strong and tasty, a perfect sundowner.
2. Sunshine’s (Killer Bee) – still an amazing experience but trading on its reputation – now small in size and served in cheap plastic cups.
3. Luna – owner Vicki has created her own recipe featuring Bajan rum.
4. Lime Cabanas (Snake In The Grass) – in the heart of the tourist area but still good value.
5. Indian Summer (Bombay Punch) – their own take on the tradition.
6. Mount Nevis Hotel – fruity and sophisticated.
7. Dewdrops – not very potent but extremely cheap.
8. Bananas – heavy on the lime.
9. Oualie Bay – nothing special.
10. Four Seasons – a total rip-off at double the price and half the quality of anywhere else.