The Essential St. Kitts Tour Review
Basseterre, St. Kitts
Highlight: What’s cooler than standing on top of Fort George Citadel at the Brimstone Hill Fortress National Park, looking over the Caribbean as you pretend to fire a 300 year old cannon at the invading armies. The fort has a variety of museum exhibits that portray life on the island in the 1700s. Great architectural remains and fantastic views are sure to impress.
What’s Missing: The tour includes a great narration of the highlights on the island, but it is done while driving in the tour bus making it difficult to get a glimpse at everything and even more difficult to take pictures of the structures such as Berkeley Memorial Clock and the St. George’s Anglican Church. There were only two “stops” on this trip-the Fortress and Romney Manor.
Main Takeaway: If you have never been to St. Kitts, like us, and you are into history and culture then this tour is highly recommend. The tour includes about 30 minutes at Romney Manor and about 45 minutes at Brimstone Hill Fortress to explore at your leisure. The total tour takes only a few hours allowing you to see and experience most of the major attractions, while still affording the opportunity to walk around the shops and open air market at Port Zante or venture into downtown Basseterre.
Complete The Essential St. Kitts Tour Review
It is a BRIGHT and Beautiful Morning in St. Kitts
One reason we decided to do our 2014 Independence of the Seas 8 day Eastern Caribbean cruise was the opportunity to visit St. Kitts. We had never been to the island but from what we had heard, cruisers simply love it. After our brief stop, we feel the same way and can’t wait to return to St. Kitts to explore the island some more on Adventure of the Seas this August 2015!
DB and the Princess at the St. Kitts Welcome Center Near the Ship
Port Zante is where the cruise ships dock. The very bright yellow cruise building can’t be missed. The port is small with only two piers, so no more than two cruise ships can dock at the same time. The size is one of the things we liked most, as the newer port terminal was clean and not overly crowded.
Upon walking off the ship, we took our customary photos then headed over to our meeting location for this shore excursion. With only 10 or so minutes before our tour was about to start, we were given colored wrist bands and directed to wait in a line. Before long, we were escorted to an air conditioned bus where we met our tour guide, and we were off on The Essential St. Kitts Tour!
Trip through the Center of Basseterre to Romney Manor
Exiting the port and a few quick turns, you are in Independence Square. The park is surrounded by a number of important government and social buildings including the Co-Cathedral of Immaculate Conception Catholic Church. This area is aptly named Independence Square as it was once home to the slave market on St. Kitts.
Police Station in downtown Basseterre
Next en route, the bus made its way by the Police Station, with its easy to spot red door, and through a mini-financial district- by that I mean a bunch of banks. It then entered the roundabout-which is referred to as the circus- that contains the Berkeley Memorial Clock. This clock is one of the most recognizable sites in St. Kitts and is popular with both tourists and locals. It was built in honor of a famous politician on the island. While we did not get to stop, I was able to nab a photo of the landmark through the bus window.
A Photo – Sort of – Berkeley Memorial Clock
The bus continued its journey, making its way past the government building, St. George’s Anglican Church, and Warner Park, home to the country sport of cricket. We made a loop around to Bay Road which hugs the water where we were able to see some egrets. Driving for only a few minutes more, we were at Wingfield Estates. This architectural site was home to the first working estate, tilling tobacco, sugar, and rum. Again, our bus did not stop, but I attempted to grab a few pictures of the remains through the window.
Entering Wingfield States
Caribelle Batik at Romney Manor….What exactly is that?
Finally, we had arrived at our first stop, Romney Manor. Go ahead and get the bad Mitt Romney jokes out the way!
DB in front of the Saman Tree
Romney Manor is a 10-acre site that is home to magnificent gardens and natural landscapes, including the 350 year old Saman tree that consumes over ½ acre of the property. We were able to walk around the estate and get some great pictures of the gardens and back drop.
Gardens at Romney Manor
We then entered the manor to learn a little bit about Caribelle Batik. To be honest, we were half paying attention during the presentation (hey, at least I’m honest), but it appeared to be a very intricate and time consuming process that involves dye and wax.While they did look pretty, I could not tell the difference between these handmade batiks and machine made clothing.
By this time, we were closing in on thirty minutes, the time allotted by our tour guide, so we made our way back to the bus. Many more tour buses had lined the parking area since our arrival, but we were able to locate our bus without difficulty. Other fellow passengers were trickling back as well but of course, there would be a couple of older ladies with no regard for time that ended up delaying our bus. The driver and fellow passengers were getting a bit annoyed, and someone (I swear it was not me) might have even mumbled something like “just leave them”. Eventually, they showed up with some bags of merchandise and no apology for being late. With all of us now boarded, it was on to our next stop, Brimstone Hill Fortress.
Let’s Blow This Sucker Right out of the Water
The ride to the Brimstone Hill National Park took about another thirty minutes or so. During this drive, the tour guide spoke about modern day St. Kitts and answered questions from the crowd. Apparently, any foreigner can become a citizen of St. Kitts if they make a charitable donation of about 300K to the government (U.S.D). Guess the Princess and I will remain just visitors of the island!
Getting Ready to Ascend The Hill
Reaching the park, our bus began its ascent to the top where the fortress is located. This road is extremely narrow and winding—a driving nightmare—but our driver handled it like a pro. At one point, the bus was not able to make the tight turn so needed to back up before reattempting, making the Princess a bit nervous as she was sure we were going to fall right off the side of the mountain. At another point, we needed to pull off the road to allow another bus going in the opposite direction to pass. Good thing these drivers do this every day!
Along the way, we encountered many vervet monkeys which were transported during the African slave trade and are now populous in St. Kitts. I was able to grab a few shots through the bus window.
This Little Guy Was Just Enjoying a Roadside Snack
During the final ascent to the fortress, there are a series of very narrow archways through which the bus must pass. By the looks of the opening, there was no way our bus was going to make it without hitting one of the sides. Commenting on how they gave him the brand new bus, our driver was able to maneuver through the narrow space without a scratch, making it look effortless.
A Tight Squeeze Passing Through the Gates
Arriving at the massive fortress, I was already excited. This place was just awesome! The Princess, on the other hand, was focused on the steep climb ahead of us to get to the top.
The construction of the fort took over a hundred years and is recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage, a site of historical, cultural, and architectural significance. There are several areas of the fort and with only 45 minutes to explore everything, I made sure the Princess and I hustled to get as much in as possible.
The Main Fort – Fort George
Instead of heading first to the main attraction, Fort George Citadel, we made our way to ruins that were adjacent to the bus. These were the remains of Fort Charlotte, the location which once included the Governor’s quarters on the fortress. Currently, all you can see are the four pillars of what was once part of the fort’s structure.
To our left was a long, narrow building whose roof line was ground level to our parking areas. These were the officers’ quarters. We actually did not have time to walk down to see the inside of this building.
A View of Saint Eustatius from atop Fort George
Given our time was limited, we then made our way over to Fort George to climb what seemed like a never ending flight of stairs, but getting to the top was well worth it. There, you could see clearly out to the Caribbean and the closest island Saint Eustatius. Other attractions in Fort George included the cannons that had the firepower to reach ships out at sea. A man and his toys—who wouldn’t want to load up one of these cannons and let something fly!
A Signature DB Pose – Ready. Aim. Fire.
This site also contains the Fort George Museum. The museum includes a variety of exhibits that depicted the life of the soldiers who lived there as well as the inhabitants of the island. We did not have a chance to go through all of the exhibits, and actually a few of them were closed for refurbishment.
Taking many pictures on top of the fort and in the museum complex, we were running out of time. We began our trek back down the stairs, and I made a quick jaunt over to see the remains of the Prince of Wales Bastion, while the Princess stayed behind to capture a photo of me at this area. Mostly rumble now, this was one of main centers for protecting the port and contained enough firepower to reach invading ships at sea.
DB off in the Distance at the Bastion
With time almost up, we made a quick stop into the gift shop which was very small and had nothing really worth purchasing, so we headed back to the bus. Wouldn’t you know it, the same two ladies felt the need to keep their streak alive being the last ones back on the bus, AGAIN!
Back to the Ship We Go
Taking the same winding road down from the fort, we were on our way back to the ship.
Along the drive, the driver made a weird detour into what was mostly a residential area. The streets were a bit narrow, and he had to navigate around many parked cars. He described this as a newer neighborhood and an example of modern architecture and lifestyle of the more affluent Kittians. Maybe it was just us, but we thought this was a bit voyeuristic.
Back on the main road, we could see our ship off in the distance. A few turns more and we passed the Carib Brewery, home to the St. Kitts official beer. Back at the port, I would grab one—hey, it was afternoon by now. It tasted like a Budweiser to me.
We arrived back at Port Zante just before 1pm. We said thank you to our driver with a well-deserved gratuity and entered the port area to do some bartering—I mean shopping—before getting back on board the ship.
The Essential St. Kitts tour was a great introduction to a beautiful island which we are happy to be visiting again soon!
Have you visited St. Kitts and taken an island tour? What is your favorite thing to do on the island? Drop us an anchor below to let us know what you love about the island. Help your fellow cruisers pla the perfect day in St. Kitts.