Winter 2018 • 47
46 • Vacations
Boasting just one paved road, the
tiny island of Nevis, where monkeys
call and the jungle beckons, is
ready-made for off-roading.
By Tim Johnson
While off-roading in Nevis is a great way to explore inland,
this tiny island is also loaded with adventures on the water.
Sliced through and separated from St. Kitts by a strip of
aquamarine, one day I decide to dive right in.
Rolling out on The Narrows in a sturdy catamaran, wind at
our backs, our gregarious, dreadlocked guide narrates our
half-day voyage – behind us, partially shrouded in cloud, the
crown of Nevis Peak, and ahead of us, the soaring ridges of
We take mere minutes to near the shores of St. Kitts, soon
steering into a previously hidden inlet and dropping anchor.
While all appears calm on the surface, there’s a lot going on
down below – part of a marine protected area, the ocean’s
floor here includes both hard and soft coral, sponges, sea
grass, conch breeding grounds. Sea birds and three species
of sea turtles nest on the beaches.
Strapping on snorkel and fins, I make my way to the back
of the boat, dropping down into the warm, clean sea, soon
surrounded by flashing, colourful biodiversity, tropical fish
COTTLE CHURCH RUIN ©TIM JOHNSON
VIEW OF NEVIS FROM ST. KITTS
STONE MILL RUIN ©TIM JOHNSON
POLARIS RANGER ©TIM JOHNSON
Later, I run my machine to the end of a dirt track and climb out,
taking a moment to wander around inside the handsome shell
of the Cottle Church. Built in 1824 as a place for white family
members of plantation owner John Cottle to worship together
with his slaves, it was never consecrated by the Anglican Church
as interracial worship was illegal at the time.
I finish – as all journeys in the Caribbean should – at the beach.
Heading down near the water, I spot Sunny Beach and its seaside
bar. With any luck, they’ll have a rum cocktail waiting. Parking my
Ranger, after a day of hard driving, I figure I deserve it.
With just a single, 36-kilometre strip of blacktop skirting
the shore, running through the main settlement of
Charlestown and encircling the flanks of lofty Nevis
Peak, the untamed area inside that ring seems like
a secret garden. Sitting in blue Caribbean waters and
much quieter than neighbouring St. Kitts, Nevis has its
place in history – the birthplace of Alexander Hamilton,
favourite stop for Christopher Columbus and early
home to British naval commander Horatio Nelson.
But ultimately, despite its reputation for luxury, Nevis
is a wild place.
And so I climb into an upscale ride, called a Polaris
Ranger, with chunky tires built for the undulating
countryside, but WITH a comfy seat and a little roof
overhead shielding me from the tropical rays. Leaving
the blacktop, which features “monkey crossing” signs,
and quite a few wild sheep and goats now turned loose,
left over from plantation days, I turn the wheel inland.
Climbing slowly toward the Peak, I’m soon surrounded
by sugar cane, once the island’s bumper crop and
source of wealth.
On this island with no casinos and no large cruise ships,
stops range from quirky to inspirational. Bumping
under thick canopy, sometimes steering hard, up and
down hills, I see the ruins of stone mills and cotton gins,
taking in views of neighbouring islands Antigua and the