Tourism, Travel, & Information Guide to the City of Basseterre in Saint Kitts and Nevis, West Indies.
Basseterre is the capital of the Federation of St. Kitts and Nevis. The islands of St. Kitts and Nevis are two of the Leeward Islands in the Lesser Antilles, which is an archipelago of the West Indies in the Caribbean.
Basseterre is located in the southern part of the island of St. Kitts. It is in the St. George Basseterre Parish, which extends south to the Narrows, a two mile wide channel between St. Kitts and Nevis that connects the Caribbean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean.
Basseterre is the main entry point for tourism to St. Kitts and Nevis
by cruise ship. The island is separated into parishes (districts).
Basseterre is home to lots of fascinating historic sites to visit, has a few prominent medical schools, and a 125 acre golf course, botanical gardens, and the National Museum, among countless other cultural treasures and more. This page is your starting guide to this unique travel destination.
In 1623, Sir Thomas Warner, a British explorer, settled with his family on St. Kitts. He returned to England and then sailed back to the island with additional British settlers the following year. He established St. Christopher's island as the first successful British colony in the West Indies.
A French explorer named Pierre Belain d'Esnambuc arrived on the island in 1625 after a battle with a Spanish fleet. Warner allowed the French to establish a colony on part of the island.
After a plan by native Caribs to re-take the island was discovered, the British and French massacred the natives at a site subsequently named Bloody Point in 1626. The British and French colonists then partitioned the island. The French established the northern city of Capisterre and the southern city of Basseterre. The British held the central areas of the island.
In 1651, the island was purchased by the Order of St. John. In 1665, the island was purchased by the French West India Company. Wars in the second half of the 17th century led to the French gaining control of the entire island but British settlements being restored by treaty. However, in 1713, after the French once again gained control of the Island, the Treaty of Utrecht was signed, which relinquished the island to Great Britain. Britain then established the capital in Basseterre in 1727.
St. Kitts was governed as a member of groups of Caribbean islands, including the Leeward Islands and the West Indies Federation during the 19th and 20th centuries. Nevis and Anguilla were other members of the federation and were united with St. Kitts in 1882. In 1967, the three islands became an independent state of Great Britain. Anguilla seceded from the state in 1976; and in 1983, St. Kitts and Nevis gained independence from Britain.
The sugar industry made St. Kitts a wealthy colony for hundreds of years.
Initially, European contractors worked the sugar plantations, but they
were supplanted by African slaves, until slavery was abolished in 1834.
The industry declined after this. Sugar plantations were bought by the
government in the mid-20th century.
In 2005, the government shut down the industry due to large financial losses and the threat of further losses due to declining sugar prices and competition from other islands.
Vibrant and eclectic, the city of Basseterre and the island of St. Kitts draw tourists who desire not only a relaxing vacation on pristine beaches, but also a second dimension of culture and heritage in their travels. The island entices with historic buildings and ruins, colorful festivals and handicrafts, and gardens that harken back to the colonial era.
Basseterre's festivals offer music, dance, pageants, costumes, competitions,
performers, and food that reflects the multi-national heritage of the
island. Carnival, which takes place from mid-December to the New Year,
is Basseterre and St. Kitts' most important festival.
The Wild Mas, or Masquerade, is one of the most exciting features of the carnival. Dancers with tall headdresses and masks perform a multitude of dance forms, with elements from the African and European roots of the island's residents. Dancers on stilts and "Actors" who perform acrobatics and stunts keep the crowds on their feet.
Basseterre also hosts the St. Kitts music festival in June. The festival features local talent as well as world renowned performers.
Artists on St. Kitts produce red pottery in much the same way that it was made centuries ago. Batik is a more modern tradition on St. Kitts. The historic Romney Manor is home to Caribelle Batik, where the art of Batik has been taught and batik garments and decorations sold since 1974. Visitors flock to the Romney Manor not only for the batik but also to enjoy the lush gardens.
Tourism to St. Kitts usually begins in downtown Basseterre, where cruise
ships dock, or just outside the city at the Robert L. Bradshaw International
Basseterre and her surrounding area have a wide range of places
to stay, ranging from affordable and charming smaller hotels and
bed and breakfasts to luxurious 4 star resorts. Most hotels on
the island are located in Basseterre and the beach areas just to
the southeast of the city.
The most well-known attractions of the city are located in walking distance of each other.
The Old Treasury Building and National Museum: Constructed in 1894
in Georgian style and built with local stone, this former government
administrative building now houses the National Museum.
Independence Square: Originally called Pall Mall Square, Independence Square is the social and commercial center of Basseterre. A fountain marks the center of this park area, where tourists and residents go to relax or enjoy a picnic lunch.
The Church of the Immaculate Conception: Located just to the east of Independence Square, this church was built in 1927, after the original church, dating back to 1856, was demolished on this site.
The Circus and Berkeley Memorial Clock Tower: To the southwest of Independence Square lies the Circus, modeled after Picadilly Circus in London. The clock tower was built in Glasgow and dedicated to the former President of the Legislative Council of St. Kitts, Thomas B. H. Berkeley, in 1883.
St. George's Anglican Church: The largest church in St. Kitts, the building that currently exists dates back to 1867. This church, and the buildings that it replaced, suffered damage from several disasters, including a major earthquake, hurricanes, and fires.
Many people visit St. Kitts to relax on the pristine beaches. Resorts
dot the southern peninsula of the island, both on the Atlantic side
and the Caribbean side, but tourists need not stay at one of these
resorts to enjoy the many beaches of the area.
Some of the best beaches are South Friars Bay, South Frigate Bay, and White House Bay on the Caribbean side; North Friars Bay, Conaree Beach, Half Moon Bay, and North Frigate Bay on the Atlantic side; and Cockleshell Bay, Banana Bay, and Majors Bay in the Narrows.
Opportunities abound on St. Kitts to enjoy watersports of all kinds. Kiteboarding, jet skiing, diving, snorkeling, kayaking, surfing, wakeboarding, and sailing are some of the water-borne adventures tourists can partake in around the peninsula.
Just east of Basseterre is the Royal St. Kitts Golf Club, with an 18-hole course overlooking the both the Caribbean sea and the Atlantic Ocean. The clubhouse also offers dining with a view at the Clubhouse Grille.
On the outskirts of Basseterre is the Fairview Great House and Botanical
Gardens. This 1701 villa has been restored with period furnishings
and fixtures. The Nirvana restaurant at the villa serves a Creole-fusion
cuisine. Tourists also come to enjoy the gardens, which are home
to tropical wildlife, including monkeys. Tourists can also swim in
the villa pool or sunbathe on the pool deck.
About 6 miles northwest of Basseterre, Romney Manor and its botanical
garden and the adjacent Wingfield Estate offer tourists a view into
St. Kitts' colonial and pre-colonial past. Romney Manor was a 17th
century sugar plantation and is now home to Caribelle Batik, a batik
art studio that opened in 1974.
Strolling the grounds, visitors can see abundant tropical flora and fauna, including vervet monkeys. The Wingfield Estate was a 17th century sugar plantation that utilized a water wheel and aqueduct in sugar processing. The ruins of the aqueduct still exist. This estate was owned by Sam Jefferson, the great-great-great grandfather of U.S. President Thomas Jefferson. Outside the estates are Carib petroglyphs.
The Brimstone Hill Fortress National Park, located on the Caribbean
side of the island up the coast, is a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Designed by British colonists and built by African slaves from volcanic
stone, the polygonal fortress offers majestic views of mountains,
sea, and the historic town of Sandy Point. Built from the 1690's
to the 1790's, now houses a museum.
The St. Kitts Scenic Railway: The railway was built between 1912
and 1926 and used to transport sugar from the plantations to the
processing plant until 2005, when the sugar industry was shut down
by the government. The double-decker train that transported sugar
now carries tourists to see plantation houses, old sugar mills, and
natural areas of the island. The 30-mile tour takes 3 hours and includes
segments on buses.
Mount Liamuiga: Hikers can climb this extict volcano, with its lush rainforest and panoramic views from the top. Guided tours are available which originate in Basseterre. The hike is strenuous and steep in sections.
Flights to St. Kitts are available from the U.S., Canada, and Europe. International flights land at the Robert L. Bradshaw International Airport just outside Basseterre. Flights are also available from other Caribbean islands, including St. Martin, St. Thomas, and Antigua.
Cruise ships usually dock at Port Zante in Basseterre. Cruises that include stops in St. Kitts can be booked from all the major cruise lines.
Car rentals are readily available in Basseterre, but international drivers must obtain a driver's permit. Tourists can also rent scooters and ATV's. Taxis and private minibuses are readily hired in Basseterre, and some provide tours.
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a tour on the St. Kitts Scenic Railway
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