Port Zante & Beyond

June 12, 2014 2 Comments

Cruise ships dock at Port Zante, a 27-acre fully loaded open-air cruise terminal.

Situated in Basseterre Bay, Port Zante is just a few blocks away from downtown Basseterre, the capital of St. Kitts. It is also the location of the Basseterre Ferry Terminal, from which ferries regularly make the 45-minute trip to St. Kitts’ sister island, Nevis. Colorfully dressed street performers greet cruise guests upon arrival, while emerald-green mountains provide a picturesque backdrop for the peaceful waterfront promenade.

The duty-free shopping district in Port Zante calls to savvy shoppers with more than 60 stores offering stellar bargains on an array of goods, with a focus on watches, fine jewelry, diamonds, and colored gemstones.

Basseterre’s charm stems from its distinctive mix of colonial-French and -English architectural styles; pastel-colored gingerbread homes are bordered by pedestrian-friendly streets. The city was officially founded in 1625 by the French—their first Caribbean settlement. However, the British had set up shop on the island two years prior. The two Old World powers initially shared the land, but the relationship regressed into a 150-year-long power struggle. The Treaty of Paris finally settled things in the Brits’ favor in 1783.

The impressive brown-and-white Georgian-style estate behind the port’s main shopping area is the Treasury Building, circa 1894. It houses the National Museum of St. Kitts, where visitors can discover the stages of the island’s varied history from precolonial times to the present. Exhibits feature ancient artifacts, artwork, maps, and other island memorabilia.

Most streets in Basseterre lead to the Circus, an octagonal plaza similar to London’s Piccadilly Circus. The focal point of the Circus is the Berkeley Memorial, in the form of a clock and drinking fountain erected in 1883 in honor of a past legislative member and estate owner. The memorial celebrated its 100th birthday the same year that St. Kitts gained independence from Britain.

In Independence Square just east of the Circus stands the towering gray-stone Church of the Immaculate Conception. The structure was first built in 1856 but replaced by the more modern edifice in 1927. South of the square, the Georgian House is an outstanding example of 18th-century architecture.

The nearby St. George’s Anglican Church, circa 1670, is representative of the enduring Kittian culture. The phoenixlike church has been destroyed and rebuilt four times since its original construction. Amazingly, the original wooden pipe organ inside has survived each reincarnation.

Sit down to a leisurely meal of stewed saltfish, spicy plantains, coconut dumplings, seasoned breadfruit, and more.

Revel in the beauty of Romney Manor, a 12-acre botanical paradise set amid meticulously maintained tropical blooms, exotic palms, flowering shrubs, and delicate orchids.

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