Located at the juncture of the Windward and Leeward islands, St. Kitts is still well off the beaten path for most visitors to the West Indies. However, just within the past 3 or 4 years the local political leadership has decided to begin developing a tourism industry to replace the production of sugarcane, which has been the mainstay of the island's economy for three centuries but is no longer profitable. With a new dock, new airport, and a new resolve on the part of the island's inhabitants to begin promoting tourism, the face of this idyllic spot is destined to change forever. Those who want to see the real Caribbean, should get there soon.
The colonial style houses of the capital city, Basseterre, give it the look of a picture-perfect West Indian port. A necklace of small villages hugs the coastline. These are surrounded by green pastures and fields of sugar cane. The center of the island is dominated by dormant volcanic peaks which rise into the clouds. Shaped like a cricket bat, St. Kitts is five miles across at the widest point and 23 miles long, with a total area of 65 square miles. The population is about 40,700.
The first permanent European settlement on the island of St. Christopher, or St. Kitts, as it is now known, was established in 1624, although the island was already inhabited by native Carib Indians. The Carib chief granted permission to English Captain Thomas Warner to create the first settlement. The French privateer Pierre Belain d'-Esnambuc and his crew weren't far behind.
For the next 80 years or so the British and French struggled for control of the island. The 1783 Treaty of Versailles gave the British dominion over St. Kitts and it's near neighbor island, Nevis. St. Kitts became a British Crown Colony in 1877, and Nevis united with it five years later.
In 1967, the federation of St. Christopher, Nevis and Anguilla was declared a state. Shortly thereafter, Anguilla dropped out of the union and the state of St. Christopher and Nevis was declared totally independent on Sept. 19, 1983. In 1988, the name St. Christopher was officially changed to St. Kitts.