Looking to escape the stresses of modern life? Try Nevis. Tranquil, charming, unhurried and unspoiled, all the adjectives used to describe this tiny Caribbean island -- only 12.8-km-long by 9.6-km wide -- are true.
Nevis is a short ferry ride away from its sister island St. Kitts and perfect for a daytrip, especially if you like to combine relaxation with sightseeing. It has plenty of attractions. Here are just a few:
Botanical Gardens of Nevis
One of the island's prettiest places, you should budget at least 40 minutes to stroll around this garden in the shadow of 985-metre-high Mt. Nevis. See the roses and the orchid terraces with statues of leaping dolphins; venture into the rainforest conservatory where rare plants grow amid thundering waterfalls and Mayan-like sculptures; or enjoy tea in the recreated plantation-style greathouse, where the upstairs affords wonderful sea views. The 3-hectare garden is also home to towering palms, egrets, herons, fountains and lagoons.
The ferry from St. Kitts will deposit you steps away from Main St. in Charlestown, the capital, which is easy to explore on foot. Founded in 1660, the town has several historic buildings -- some made of stone such as the courthouse, and others with elaborate gingerbread fretwork and wooden shutters. The Museum of Nevis History is in a rebuilt Georgian-style house originally built in 1680. It may have been the home of American patriot Alexander Hamilton. The remains of a Jewish cemetery and synagogue are also worth seeing.
Nevis has several historic inns that were former sugar plantation estates. These include the Hermitage, with its old-style West Indies cottages and opportunities for horseback riding; the Old Manor Hotel, which is built of stone and surrounded by pieces of antique plantation machinery; and the elegant Montpelier Plantation Inn.
Two other plantation inns have recently been renovated: Nisbet -- billed as "the Caribbean's only historic plantation inn located on the beach," -- and the Golden Rock Hotel -- an 18th-century estate with seven cottages that is now owned by American abstract artists Helen and Brice Marden.
You can drive yourself -- or hire a cab -- to follow the Nevis Heritage Trail. Starting in Charlestown, road markers lead to 25 sites around the island. Along the way, you'll learn about the slave trade, military history, sugar industry, and see Fort Charles, the Coconut Walk Estates -- with the largest windmill on the island -- and pass several churches including St. Thomas Anglican, the island's oldest, built in 1643.
Old walking trail
If you prefer to walk, lace up your sneakers and head for the Upper Round Road Trail. This 14-km route passes villages, quaint West Indian homes, ruins, a rain forest, fruit orchards and vegetable gardens. Constructed in the 1600s, the path was part of an extensive road system built to provide access to estate cane fields and communities that once surrounded Nevis Peak. Now the trail is a favourite place for hiking, horseback riding and mountain biking.
All things Horatio
One of the most famous historical figures with ties to Nevis is British naval hero Horatio Nelson. The admiral arrived on the island as part of an assignment that involved tracking illegal trade between England's Caribbean colonies and the U.S. While here, he fell in love with Fanny Nisbet, a young widow who he married on March 11, 1787.
Learn more at the Horatio Nelson Museum of Nevis, which is said to hold the largest collection of Nelson memorabilia in the western hemisphere. On display are china, figurines, vases, and hundreds of art works depicting Nelson's life. Later, visit St. John's Figtree Church, built in 1680, which has a copy of the couple's marriage certificate on display.
Built in 1778 and reputed to be the first hotel in the Caribbean, the Bath Hotel was a popular place in the 19th century, and not just among the English landowners on Nevis. Some of its best-known guests have included Nelson; physician Sir Frederick Treves, author of The Elephant Man, who also wrote a travelogue of the island; poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge; and Prince William Henry, Duke of Clarence (and later King William IV of England) who travelled two months by ship to get here.
Today, the hilltop building at the south end of Charlestown houses the Premiers' Ministry. The nearby Bath Spring house is no longer in use but you can take a dip in a small thermal spring outside.
What's the Caribbean without time spent on the beach? Of all the island's beaches, Pinney's, on the west coast, is one of the most beautiful. No wonder the Four Seasons built a hotel along the 6-km-long stretch of golden sand and palm trees. Other options are Newcastle Beach -- good for snorkelling; quiet Lovers Beach; and Oualie Beach, which provides excellent opportunities for water sports from snorkelling and fishing to windsurfing and kayaking.