Rush slowly in Nevis
Discover the island of Nevis in the heart of the Caribbean, as well as a luxurious sanctuary full of abundant wildlife and beautiful ocean waves
Imagine staying in a fairytale-like vine-covered sugar mill tower, or a colourful West Indian cottage in the middle of a tropical Garden of Eden; where monkeys play, birds eat out of your hand and wild plants grow. This is the Golden Rock Inn — an exclusive, stylish and intimate hotel on the island of Nevis in the Caribbean.
Owned by renowned artists Helen Marden and her late husband Brice, the resort is a haven for creative souls. Built in 1801, the foliage-wrapped resort, which was formerly a refinery, is awash with pops of modern colour that stand out strikingly against the shrubs and trees Helen and Brice planted with their own hands. Here in a hilltop oasis, shrouded in jungle, you’ll find the perfect canvas that evokes the true art of travel. With so many beautiful scenes to paint from every angle, it is an artist’s dream. Peer through the leafy canopy that frames the misty volcanic landscape of Mount Nevis and be inspired by nature’s perfect muse.
The resort is named Golden Rock thanks to the glorious sunshine that bathes the face of the peak every morning. While the Mardens’ own artworks are very valuable — and they have their very own art studio on-site to create more — they prefer to showcase the works of local artists. Instead, their artistic flair and minimalist style are reflected in the colourful but eclectic furniture in the snug and relics from their travels.
A REFRESHING CARIBBEAN PARADISE
You’ll begin to discover the real authentic Caribbean from the moment you step off the plane at Robert Bradshaw Airport in St Kitts. From here, take a cab to Reggae Reggae Beach where a speedboat waits to whisk you across to Nevis. The experience is made even more magical when the tropical rain pours down to invite a beautiful double rainbow to arch over the verdant island. The transfer takes six minutes, just enough time to sink a cold Carib beer or Ting.
Upon arrival, the noise of birdsong engulfs you and you feel as though you are in a heavenly land. After being handed a welcome rum punch, you are directed to a table on the balmy terrace for a refreshing afternoon tea with shortbread. Immediately you’ll be struck by the romantic and rustic haven cocooned within 40 acres of tropical landscape that winds up the verdant slopes of Nevis Peak as you enjoy views of the Caribbean Sea, Montserrat and Antigua.
Nevis offers a slower pace of life to its sister St Kitts and is still relatively undiscovered. While on the island, make Golden Rock Inn your home. This enchanting boutique hotel has just 11 rooms and is one of those places you discover once in a lifetime and offers an escape like no other.
Stepping down from the mill building in this magical landscape is a cluster of brightly painted cottages that reflect the heritage of the estate. Paradise Cottage is surrounded by wonderful fig trees and has a terrace offering views through the garden to the sea. Inside, a gorgeous hardwood floor runs throughout with a king-size bedroom and a living area containing a chaise lounge and desk.
Dar Cottage is a free-standing cut-stone cottage with a queen bed, stylish furnishings and a terrace overlooking the award-winning gardens and Mount Nevis. Additionally, eight hillside rooms command stunning views of the ocean, mountain, garden or pool. These include three duplex cottages: Scarborough, Mt Pleasant, and Morningstar; and two freestanding properties called Coco Walk Cottage and Winward Cottage. They all feature a king or two single beds and a private terrace adjoined to the adjacent room, making it perfect for families. All the cottages offer great privacy, each with its porch overlooking the ocean and the islands of Montserrat and Antigua.
The Garden Room is a stunning West Indies-style cottage with a queen-sized bed, bathroom and porch. All the rooms are decorated in amazing colours and textiles, each reflecting the liveliness of Caribbean heritage allied to Helen’s artistic style. The colours bounce against the stone and hardwood elements, evoking a free spirit which warms your soul.
BOUNTIFUL FORESTS AND STUNNING WILDLIFE
Time seems to melt away here, so a four-day break can feel much longer. The hardest decision is whether to sit by the pool, or nibble some delicious food on the shaded patio area with a domed pavilion built by the famous architect Edward Tuttle.
The wild jungle makes a stunning backdrop, which was designed and planted by the owners and Miami designer Raymond Jungles. Head gardener Keith is available for guided tours, talking about the botanical healing plants and exotic flowers like fragrant frangipane to prickly pear cactuses and the national bloom of the flamboyant that grow here.
You’ll also find tall palm trees, bamboo, banana plants and even a sausage plant tree. This habitat is home to birds, bats and lizards as well as monkeys and wild donkeys. Golden Rock is home to more than 60 species of palms, including the rare talipot palm and an impressive collection of cycads, and seed plants bearing a resemblance to palms and ferns that date back approximately 280 million years.
The main building, lobby, bar, restaurant, and kitchen are all fashioned out of lava rock, forming an elegant contrast to its magnificent red shutters. The old refinery is covered in vines and rises out of the jungle as the honeymoon suite. It has two beds downstairs and a double upstairs, making it perfect for families. There are also six hillside rooms and two standalone cottages painted in bright colours.
The Rocks restaurant, helmed by James Eaton, provides an al fresco fine dining experience. Breakfasts are legendary with American waffles, lobster hash, cereals and a variety of local fruits. The tame birds swoop down and eat out of your hand, which is very endearing and a magical experience that makes you feel like Mary Poppins.
Lunchtimes are busy, and popular with guests and locals, who come from far and wide just for the lobster sandwich. Evenings see the terrace illuminated by the flicker of candles and the pale moonlight. Start with a conch chowder followed by the lobster linguine. Alternatively, choose the rack of lamb or the seared tuna. Portions are very generous so if you have room for dessert, Analise’s famous ginger cake does the trick.
For a liquid taste of the island, try the house punch or a dark and stormy rum while nibbling sweet homemade cookies made by Analise. All day, the chirping of birds provides a soothing backdrop .The hum of crickets, calls of the bats and singing tree frogs form a backdrop to lure you to blissful relaxation.
THE SERENITY OF THE CARIBBEAN OCEAN WAVES
However, if you want to get on the pulse of the island, you should head down to Pinney’s Beach and Sunshine’s Bar and Grill for an infamous killer bee rum punch. Bar owner Sunshine began by selling beers and chicken to tourists. Now, he also provides a potent concoction made up of island rum, bitters and a secret ingredient only he knows – making his bar one of the most popular on the island. There’s a saying that one killer bee is enough — maybe even two — but if you have any more you’ll be in trouble.
This is the place to be seen –– and you’ll be in good company. Famous faces from Beyonce, Jay Z, Michael Douglas, Catherine Zeta-Jones and Prince Harry have all visited, as have the Prince and Princess of Wales. In fact, the princes first visited the island with their late mother, Diana, the former Princess of Wales.
Sunshine’s vibe is infectious, but as you move further down the beach, you’ll find plenty of other bars where you can pull up a stool and watch the sunset. Watching the waves break over the Caribbean sea as you cradle a cool beer and listen to the soothing sounds of reggae is nothing short of heavenly.
The capital of Nevis is Charlestown, and this is home to the Alexander Hamilton Museum, which is the birthplace of the man who inspired the current West End musical.
Get up close with Nevis history at the heritage centre and see the very first homes where the Carib Indians and native Nevisians used to live. Learn about the historical rum and sugar industry by visiting the New River estate, where the great house, cistern and sugar works offer a glimpse into the past. Nevis produces delicious fruit, including 44 varieties of mango – there’s even a festival dedicated to it in July – and the best place to pick them is in Cades Orchard, where you can also harvest dragon fruit, star apples and more.
While you are exploring the island, Passions is also a place where you can get good authentic food and be served with a smile as you enjoy rich Caribbean classics.
Overall Nevis is a special place which offers an escape from the everyday into a surrealist and enchanting encounter which extends beyond the traditional beach break. And Golden Rock is the perfect place to stay and experience just that.