The British picked Basseterre as the colonial capital in 1727, and, despite hurricanes, earthquakes, floods and fires, the city has prospered. Today, the island's largest and only true city is a pleasant mishmash of things past and present. Although you'll see some fine examples of West Indian architecture—arched doors and balconies detailed in lattice—you'll encounter crumbling concrete-block structures, too. An eclectic assortment of upscale shops aimed at tourists abuts dusty stores selling home appliances to islanders. At lunchtime, the narrow sidewalks fill up with islanders in business attire and visitors dressed in shorts and T-shirts. The result is an unpretentious charm that's often missing in Caribbean towns that have been sanitized solely for benefit of tourists.

About 7 mi/11 km north of Basseterre, on the main road that circles St. Kitts, you'll come to Old Road Town, where the first colonists landed in 1623, led by Sir Thomas Warner, who later became the first British governor in the West Indies. (Warner is buried in the graveyard of St. Thomas' Church, in the village of Middle Island. His epitaph, in his own words, boasts of his position in the colonies: General of My Caribee.) A historical marker notes the landing, but there is little else to see in Old Road Town. Just a bit farther on down the main road, there's a turnoff that leads to an area where you can view Carib rock drawings.

Farther along the coastal road, near the village of Bell Vue, Black Rocks is a gnarled outcropping of rocks that juts out of the Atlantic along the island's northeast coast. A volcanic eruption that sent lava spewing into the sea created the unusual rock formations, which are definitely worth a look and a few snapshots.

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