Nisbet Plantation: A Homey, Charming and Storied Stay
There aren’t many resorts I’ve stayed at where I instantly felt at home. But something about this particular place on Nevis made me feel exactly that way the first time I visited two years ago. So when I had the opportunity to revisit Nevis recently for the new Mango Festival and stay at Nisbet Plantation Beach Club again, I jumped at the chance.
And this time, it really was like a homecoming. Nisbet's staff is seriously one of kind; they have won awards for their hospitality talents. And they all remembered me and welcomed me back with open arms. Even the guests all seem to know one another -- this spot has a huge number of repeat visitors mostly from the U.K. -- so it really does feel like one big family reunion even among strangers.
A Truly Grand Entrance
But upon arrival, your first impression might not be so warm and fuzzy. It’s actually a little intimidating. A cannon guards the long driveway leading to the resort, and a rock wall bastion topped by an ancient stone archway leading to nowhere looms overhead. All are remnants of an old sugar mill, one of many that that once fueled the island’s economy.
Then you arrive at The Great House, an impressive abode that serves as the resort's main dining room. It’s rather imposing, and you might feel like this will be one of those stuffy mausoleum types of formal stays. But you’d be wrong. inside, you'll find the cheery lemon yellow cottage that serves as the reception area and meet the sunshiny staff, and the entire atmosphere changes in an instant. As you are led to your room, and the expanse of emerald green lawns flanked by towering palms and dotted with lovely little cottages leading to an aqua sea emerges, you’ll definitely feel the refreshingly inviting vibe that surrounds this enchanting holiday community.
Upscale Country Comfort Accommodations
Nisbet has 14 superior rooms, 10 deluxe garden suites, 6 lower deluxe junior suites, and 6 upper premium junior suites -- all housed in charming cottages with screened-in porches or expansive decks. The multiple hurricane-shuttered windows and doors allow for easily capturing the constant trade winds, so you can turn off the air conditioner and rely solely on the ceiling fans if you like.
In keeping with the resort's country escape style, there are no televisions or clocks. Free resort-wide WIFI will keep you connected if you must know what’s going on in the rest of the world, but chances are by the second day you won’t care anymore. The bathrooms are luxe, with top-shelf amenities, and the interior décor is Caribbean chic: all rattan furniture and bright splashes of color from local art. The accommodations at Nisbet are much more homey than a hotel, and you can see the sea from most of the verandas.
Superb Seaside Lounging
Built around 1778, Nisbet Plantation was the only historic plantation in the Caribbean located on the sea. This unique setting affords additional benefits compared to the other converted sugar mill planation resorts on the island, which are all mountainside. And the’ve taken great care to ensure that your seaside time is as comfortable as possible.
Multiple hammocks and shaded beach chairs, plush lounges and couches, a surfside hot tub, and a lovely beachfront pool all invite you to seriously relax. The sand is soft -- an interesting mix of volcanic black and light tan -- and the warm sea is very swimmable, with manmade breakwaters keeping the waters calm. Beachside service and a colorful beach bar keep you sated throughout the day, and sea kayaking and snorkeling are also options if you can pry yourself out of the hammocks. And if you still aren’t relaxed, Nisbet also has a full service spa on site.
Eclectic Dining & Extras
Dining runs the gamut from casual comfort food like coconut French toast and mango pancakes at seaside Coconuts for breakfast, to lunch eats like shrimp quesadillas at Sea Breeze Beach Bar and a daily, British-style afternoon tea served in the courtyard of the Great House. If the weather is inclement, tea is served inside in an inviting lounge where guests can enjoy board games, a library, and the resort’s only television. Just off the lounge is the wooden bar with talented barkeep “Kaddie" behind the pine mixing up incredible signature cocktails, and sometimes there is soft live music at night.
For dinner, the Great House becomes more formal but no less friendly. Choices range from a collection of elevated British standards like roast beef and Yorkshire pudding to interesting fusions of island flavors focused on the catch of the day. The fine fare is complemented by incredibly efficient and friendly service, as well.
Whether you decide to dine on the grand screened-in verandah, or among the fine antiques in the interior, you’ll be greeted by Maitre‘d extrodinaire Pattersen Fleming. He is a Nisbet legend who owns over 6,000 ties given to him by guests over the years, and he makes it his business to wear the right tie the night those guests return (sometimes he has to change several times an evening)!
“Patty” is also the fun character who hosts Nisbet's new Pub Crawl: he takes guests to five or six off-radar bars to meet the locals and party Nevisian style. Also new is the resort's “Nevision Nights on the Beach” on Mondays, with local food, drink, and arts and crafts. And Thursdays has always been the traditional BBQ on the beach blow-out, with live local music and potent rum punch.
Also, if you’re flight leaves in the very early hours, the resort thoughtfully bring a cold breakfast to your room the night before so you won’t leave the resort on an empty stomach. Now that’s service! And if all that feasting and imbibing starts taking its toll, there is a small fitness center and tennis courts on site, as well.
Many Memory Lanes
The lush 30-acre property is awash with history, but beyond its sugar planation past and ruins, its most famous claim to fame is the fact that Admiral Horatio Nelson met his wife-to-be, Fanny Nisbet, here: she was the niece of the plantation owner. The Avenue of the Palms, a long line of 200-year-old trees leading to the sea, are testament to the fact that after the sugar mill heyday, Nisbet became a coconut planation for awhile. You’ll also see tiny baby palms with plaques sprouting around the grounds, planted to commemorate special occasions for Nisbet guests like weddings and anniversaries.
The staff has its own history as well, with many being quarter-century veterans and some even have their children working here now, too. Their authentic affection for the resort is palpable; it is their second home. It is also a second home to General Manager Tim Thuell and his wife, who recently returned to take up the reins again after a few year hiatus. They had raised their children on Nevis during their seven years managing the property back in the 90s, and they are delighted to be back.
Friendly Folks Keep Guests Coming Back
Nevis is one of the most friendly islands I have ever visited, and once you’ve stayed at this very special seaside spot, you’re bound to feel as if you always have a holiday home to return to. It’s no wonder Nisbet guests keep coming back for more. "We love what we do here, and it shows," says Thuell.