Built in 1778, the Bath Hotel in Nevis was the first tourist hotel in the Caribbean. It was a rather grand "spa" hotel, and it rapidly became a very successful venture, attracting many wealthy European visitors who were hoping to treat their various ailments using the healing waters of the nearby volcanic hot spring, the "Bath Spring", and perhaps more importantly, to enjoy the social scene at this tropical spa hotel on what was then the busy colonial island of Nevis.

Visitors included the poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge, who stayed in the Bath Hotel for several months. Both Horatio Nelson and his friend Prince William, Duke of Clarence, heir to the throne of Britain, attended parties at the hotel. All in all it was very fashionable, and it was considered quite the place to be during the 1780s.

The Bath volcanic hot spring still has a good flow rate all year round, and it turns into the Bath Stream, a small warm stream, which runs downhill into the south end of the nearby bay, Gallows Bay, which itself is located at the southern end of Charlestown, the capital of Nevis. There is also a nearby village called Bath.

The main building of the Bath Hotel was constructed on a hillside above the spring, such that from one side the Bath Road meets the top story of the hotel, and from the other side the hotel is three, rather grand, stories high. Originally one walked down on that side through terraced gardens full of tropical flowers to reach the two-story stone bathhouse, which was supplied with water by a pipe that ran directly from the hot spring.

Bath Hotel

In more recent times the buildings and the gardens were no longer in constant use, and for a while the area was not given any routine maintenance and upkeep. The buildings however remained almost intact, and people continued to use open-air bathing spots for therapeutic purposes. It is currently not possible to use the 18th century bathhouse, because over the years the supply pipe to the bathhouse from the volcanic hot spring source became blocked with gravel from storms.

As a visitor, it is still possible to treat your various aches and pains by immersing your body (or feet or whatever) in the very hot volcanic waters of the Bath Spring, a beneficial spa that is free of charge, as long as you are comfortable with an outdoor bathing place. There are currently two bathing spots: the more recently constructed one has a good roof to protect you against the sun, and is designed like a tiny swimming pool with steps on one side and a railing on the other three. If you wish to immerse your body, you can wear a swimsuit if you like, or go in in your underwear if that is easier for you. The extremely hot volcanic spring water is great for soaking in for brief periods of time (not more than 15 minutes), but do not try to drink it, as it contains a lot of volcanic salts.

As for the hotel building itself, a few years ago the top floor of the building of the Bath Hotel was rennovated, and was used for a couple of years by the Nevis police force while the new Charlestown police headquarters was being built. Currently the hotel building has been restored, and is being used as government offices.

The Bath Hotel and hot spring is an interesting place to visit, especially for people who enjoy colonial history and architecture. Nearby attractions include the Nelson Museum at Belle Vue, and Government House (which is not open to visitors but which can be admired from outside the fence.)