Nevis' small capital, captivating Charlestown, boasts an impeccable assemblage of skirt-and-blouse houses, in keeping with residents' often old-fashioned attitudes. A few scruffier, more modern buildings are around but overall the town is more attractive than its neighbour's capital, Basseterre.
Charlestown's traditional attitudes can be seen in the 1825 courthouse on a day when someone is being tried for swearing in public; admittedly now rare, you would see the defendant sitting in a draconian crib-like prisoner's box. Check out the upstairs library with its heavy-set ceiling braced by mahogany gunwales. Hot outdoor springs near the 1778 Bath House (closed since the 1950s but always rumoured to be reopening soon) at the south end of town are fed by volcanic sulphur, and remain as invigorating as when Lord Nelson's troops bathed in them; bring a towel and don your suit in advance, as there are no facilities. The water temperature is a constant 40°C and is not the place to cool off but the springs do have reputed therapeutic properties.
The best place to garner some island background is at the quaint Museum of Nevis History on Main St (Mon– Fri 8am–4pm, Sat 9am– noon; US$3). The informative collection of odds and ends occupies the main floor of a Georgian-style building on the grounds where Alexander Hamilton was born in 1757. Near the hot springs at the opposite end of town, the Horatio Nelson Museum on Building Hill Rd (Mon– Fri 8am–4pm, Sat 9am– noon; US$3) focuses on Lord Nelson, who came ashore in 1785 and wound up marrying the governor's niece, Fanny Nisbet. While the collection consists mainly of kitsch and some pilaster copies of Nelson's Column, it gives a captivating overview of Nelson's Caribbean adventures. Along Government Road lies a remnant of another chapter in Nevisian history, a Jewish cemetery whose oldest stone dates from 1684. It is thought that a nearby grey-stone building served as a synagogue.
Just a fifteen-minute walk from the Charlestown pier, you'll find by far the most popular beach on Nevis, Pinney's Beach. Some areas of sand are open to the public around Sunshine and Chevy's beach bars, though the best-manicured area belongs to the Four Seasons resort. At the northern end of the four-mile-long beach you'll find a smattering of rusty cannons and crumbling bastions belonging to Fort Ashby, one of eight fortifications that defended the coast in the 1700s.