Nevis was first settled about 2000 years ago by Amerinidians who travelled north from what is now Venezuela. Many centuries later Columbus saw the island and gave it a name, but he did not set foot on it. Colonial settlement on Nevis began with the British in the early 1600s.

Nevis rapidly became the center of the British Caribbean sugar trade and slave trade. The island produced exceptionally large amounts of sugar on its numerous sugar cane plantations, and became known as "The Queen of the Caribbees". The Bath Hotel just to the south of the capital was a spa hotel built in 1778 next to the Bath hot spring. This appears to have been the very first tourist hotel in the Caribbean.

Horatio Nelson was stationed on the island for a while when he was a young naval officer, and during that time he met Frances Nisbet, who he married in 1787. American founding father, Alexander Hamilton was born on Nevis in 1789, and lived on the island until he was eight.  There are local museums honoring both of these gentlemen.

A history of Nevis, which can be ordered over the web or bought on the island is Swords, Ships, and Sugar by Vince Hubbard . The author, who still resides on Nevis, writes in a lively style, and has managed to unearth many entertaining stories from Nevis' past. 

Many architectural ruins of old sugar-plantation 'great houses', with their mills and associated buildings can be found scattered all over Nevis; some of these handsome old buildings have been converted into hotels, restaurants, dwellings, or remain as historic landmarks.

There is also the Nevis Heritage Village waiting to be explored.