St Kitts - Abbey Travel, Ireland

St Kitts


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Welcome to St Kitts

St Kitts

Officially known as St Christopher, the island was named by Christopher Columbus on landing there in 1493, but it wasn't until it became an English colony in 1623 that its name was shortened to St Kitts, by which the island is known today.

A lush, verdant island, St Kitts is the larger of the twin-island nation and is more developed than Nevis, however neither island has succumbed to the usual tourist trappings, and St Kitts remains a naturally unassuming, uncrowded destination that is a true gem in the Caribbean crown. Dominated by an extinct 3,792ft (1,156m) volcano, the island is covered in green vegetation and sugar cane fields, and is ringed by sandy coves, coral reefs and clear waters. Most beaches to the north are black sand due to the volcanic nature of the island, but the beaches at the southern end, including Frigate Bay, Banana Bay, Sand Bank Bay and Cockleshell Bay, are what beach-gurus dream of: deserted stretches of fine white sand; while those yearning for waves will find Atlantic surf along the east coast.

However there is more to St Kitts than splendid natural surroundings and beaches. An explosive history of slave revolutions and colonial contention during the 18th century has left the island with a rich heritage of architecture, as well as sites such as the impressive fortress at Brimstone Hill, which was constructed to defend the wealth, and to protect the wealthy, of the island. During the prosperous days of the sugar industry, St Kitts as the oldest and richest colony in the Caribbean boasted 68 sugar plantations in total. With the abolition of slavery, and the production of beet sugar in Europe, the surge of wealth finally came to an end, and today the once prolific factories and windmills lie in ruins among the abandoned sugar plantations. St Kitts was the last island in the Caribbean to persist in the production of sugar cane, but the industry has been discontinued due to the high costs involved.

Information & Facts


St Kitts experiences a warm climate all year round. The temperature is moderated by cool sea breezes but there are no major seasonal changes. Rainfall is more prevalent in the months from May to November, when temperatures are on the increase.

English is the official language.

The official currency is the East Caribbean Dollar (XCD), which is divided into 100 cents. It is tied to the US dollar at a rate of US$1=EC$2.70. Most businesses accept US Dollar notes as payment, but change is given in EC$. Travellers cheques and major credit cards are widely accepted, and major currencies can be exchanged at banks, with US Dollars the cheapest to exchange. Most banks are closed on weekends, but provide 24-hour ATM services.

Local time is GMT -4.

The capital town of St Kitts, Basseterre retains a certain charm from its elegant days during British and French colonisation, although its British heritage is more evident than its French past. Buildings such as St George's Anglican Church, originally built by the French in 1670, has suffered through fires, earthquakes and hurricanes and was rebuilt in 1869, while the Circus, styled on London's Piccadilly Circus, is a central piece of Georgian architecture that centres on the bright green Berkeley Memorial Clock. Streets lined with interesting shops and boutiques radiate out from the small roundabout. The domed Treasury Building, or customs house, on the waterfront stands testament to its heyday as a centre for sugar production, as does Independence Square, site of the original slave market that was built in 1790. It was renamed to commemorate the independence of the island nation from Great Britain in 1983.

The immense fortress situated atop an 800-foot (244m) hill was named the 'Gibraltar of the West Indies', and the citadel, boasting 49 guns, is protected by seven-foot (2m) thick walls. What started in 1690 took almost ten decades to complete, built largely by African slaves, and the scale and grandeur of the fortress was representative of the importance of St Kitts during the 17th and 18th centuries, and of the wealth that required such defence. Today the indomitable military complex affords incredible views from its commanding position, as well as a small museum, a film recounting the history and restoration of the site, and tours of the officers' quarters, hospital and ammunition stores.

If St Kitts can be described as a tennis racquet-shaped island, the Frigate Bay Peninsula is the narrow handle, stretching down towards Nevis, which connects the racquet head to the widened end of the handle to the southeast. The peninsula is unique in that it offers beaches on both the Atlantic and Caribbean coast; South Frigate Bay on the leeward side offers calm waters ideal for swimming, snorkelling and a variety of watersports activities, while North Frigate Bay on the Atlantic coast is battered by waves perfect for bodysurfing, and is one of the most scenic beaches on the island. As a result it has also attracted most of the resort and hotel development along the coast.

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