Contributing editor Kristin O'Meara explored Nevis. Her report
CHARLESTOWN, Nevis -- Tell people you've been to Nevis
(knee-vis) and watch what happens.
Inevitably, you'll be met with a quizzical look and asked, "Uh,
where is that exactly?"
Although Nevis is in the same neighborhood as a handful of
better-known islands, such as St. Maarten, Montserrat and Anguilla,
most folks have not heard of this 36-square-mile hideaway.
Its near-secret status is surprising, given the presence of its
star property, the Four Seasons Resort Nevis, which has had 10
years to boost the profile of this serene little island.
Nevis caters to a specialized sort of traveler, one with money,
time and taste.
Here, the best things to do are the simplest: swimming in the
sea; walking the beaches, or contemplating the cloud formations
that hover around Nevis Peak, the island's highest point.
Nevis Peak is evidence of the island's volcanic past. Many 18th
century homes and buildings come from its igneous rock, especially
in Charlestown, the sleepy capital.
To call Charlestown a city is an overstatement. During a quick,
bumpy ride through its neat, narrow streets, I saw few tourists and
no tourist traps.
Instead, its well-kept buildings are the product of Nevisians'
efforts to protect the island's historic and placid charm.
The most boring place in town is the police station, where it
appears that nothing ever happens. Crime is just not a big issue
I discovered a surprising taste of Americana at the Museum of
Nevis History, the restored birthplace of Alexander Hamilton, who
was born on Nevis in 1757.
Just a few steps from the museum's stone walls, waves splash the
shoreline, and from the shaded courtyard, the horizon takes on
The museum houses an array of artifacts; old black-and-white
photos; typed signage, frayed a bit at the edges, and several
handmade instruments, including a guitar built from a tin container
A popular daytime activity on Nevis is visiting beaches.
The three main strands are Pinney's Beach and Oualie Beach on
the Caribbean coast and Nisbet Beach on the Atlantic.
However, not every visitor makes a daily, lemming-like dash to
the water's edge.
Nevis' hillsides are dotted with restored plantation inns, and
each is appealing enough to warrant a beachless afternoon.
On the uphill drive to visit several inns, I learned that air
conditioning is not needed because the temperature drops at the
First stop was Montpelier Plantation Inn, four miles from
A curious, mud-brown dog met our group with good humor after we
unceremoniously roused her from a nap.
The inn is set on 60 acres along a narrow, hilly road that
separates it from the site of Admiral Horatio Nelson's marriage in
1787 to a well-connected widow named Fanny Nisbet.
Clearly, the Nelsons were onto something, because Montpelier
today is a popular spot for nuptials.
Most couples exchange vows beneath the branches of a gnarled
ficus tree, which fronts the circa-1700 manor house.
It's easy to see why this plantation inn attracts high-caliber
guests, such as the late Princess Diana, with its inviting public
rooms, open-air dining areas, tennis court, pool and sugar
The 16 hillside guest units offer sea views and cool
The inn's private beach is 25 minutes away by car, but a daily
trip really is not necessary in this peaceful setting.
Next stop was the Hermitage, farther east and higher up. As we
glimpsed the dollhouse-like structures that dot the property, a
surge of genuine "oohs" rose from my group.
In the densely forested setting, we prowled among the 12
improbably cute, charmingly pastel cottages.
Described as Nevisian colonial, the 12 West Indian-style
structures are furnished with antiques and dominated by massive,
The cottages encircle the 250-year-old Great House, an airy yet
solid structure decorated with antiques, chintzes, oriental rugs
Richie Lupinacci, the young son of owners Richard and Maureen,
explained that the cottages had been brought to the site from
elsewhere on the island.
He also said that curious vervet monkeys come close to peer at
These monkeys, which are found on Nevis and St. Kitts, have dark
green and black faces, chins, hands and feet.
Flowers, fruit trees and towering palms are everywhere, and like
a secret garden, the grounds seemed an excellent place to hide
Alas, we could not tarry long. As our bus pulled away, a
ponytailed Richard Sr. came to the door, lit a big cigar and waved
For a cooling respite, we headed for the leafy Botanical Garden
This privately run facility is elegantly laid out and manicured
with the precision of a golf course.
The soothing sound of rushing water can be heard almost anywhere
on the grounds, thanks to an array of carefully placed ponds,
streams and fountains.
We walked through its rose and vine garden and explored its rain
forest conservatory, which was topped off by a waterfall spewing
from a Mayan-style statue.
That evening, our group dined at the Old Manor Hotel, a third
plantation inn with an open-air veranda outside the Cooperage
The mountain air was downright chilly, but the food was good,
the staff gracious and the property, not surprisingly, unique.
We walked the grounds among massive stone structures that had
once housed the plantation's workers.
The property's round pool glowed in the distance, and the guest
room we visited was spacious, with dark wood furnishings and wooden
As we made our way outside, the power and the lights cut out, in
true island fashion.
Absolute darkness engulfed us. Reflexively, everyone looked up
at the only source of light.
There were so many stars, familiar ones, the same stars that we
see back home, but now they seemed much closer.
That moment in the darkness made it abundantly clear that we
were tiny beings on a tiny rock in a very big ocean.
Before long, someone flicked on a flashlight, and we picked our
way over the flagstone walkways.
Soon the hum of generators kicked the lights back on, but that
moment in darkness had revealed something.
Nevis is a very small place. A very rare place. Keep it to