Anse Marcel on the north coast of French St. Martin
French Side Excursions and Sightseeing
A good place to begin is Marigot's numerous boutiques and restaurants followed by a side trip to its bustling port, La Royale Marina. From there, visit the St. Martin Museum inn Sandy Ground Road or climb the stairs to the restored Fort St. Louis for a panoramic view of the entire French capital.
From Marigot, one might continue northeast toward Grand Case, stopping first at intimate Friar's Beach, then turn inland for a short drive through a tree-lined country road leading to Paradise Peak, at 390 m (1278 ft), the highest point on the island. Next up is Grand Case, whose acclaimed restaurants have earned this charming beachfront town the title "Gastronomic Center of St. Martin."
Continuing to the east, Anse Marcel is a pretty bay with luxury hotels and Orient Bay includes a sensational beach with a clothing-optional section. Not far from here is the pastoral hamlet of Orleans (also called French Quarter), the islands oldest French settlement. Lovely little cases (small houses) are set in meadows that blossom with hibiscus, bougainvillea, wisteria and flamboyant. From here, there are a number of secluded coves and beaches, and at Oyster Pond there are so many scenic and nautical delights that it's easy to miss the French-Dutch border crossing.
Just west of Marigot, the strip between the lagoon and the sea at Baie Nettlé is a popular resort area lined with hotels and restaurants. The westernmost part of French St. Martin is Terres Basses, an exclusive area that is famous for the spectacular beaches of Baie Longue and Baie Rouge, the renowned La Samanna hotel and some of the finest private villas in the entire Caribbean.
Excursions to the neighboring islands of St. Barth and Anguilla are available by helicopter and may include island tours and lunch in the fee. Tours operate from Anse Marcel and from Espérance Airport near Grand Case.
Please click here for a directory of French St. Martin sightseeing and excursion options.
Dutch Side Excursions and Sightseeing
Most road signs are written in Dutch, but use of the international road symbols help eliminate confusion.
Starting just west of the airport, the village at Maho Bay offers shopping malls, restaurants, casinos and other night life, beautiful resort and villa complexes and a popular beach. Continuing east along the narrow isthmus separating the Simpson Bay Lagoon on the north and Simpson Bay on the south, enjoy the beautiful lagoon and sea views and note the wealth of watersports options available to visitors in this area of the island.
Further east is the largest town and capital city of Philipsburg, home to numerous shops, restaurants and inns, many in restored Colonial style houses. The duty free shops along Front Street are a mecca for shoppers, offering a vast array of items at substantially reduced prices. At Wathey Square, seek assistance and information at the Tourist office if needed, and stop to see the historic Courthouse, which was built in 1793. Since then, the building has fulfilled many and varied functions including the Commanders home, a firehouse, a jail, and the post office. Captain Hodge Pier off the square offers good views of Great Bay, one of the most popular cruise ship stops in the Caribbean.
The Sint Maarten Museum in Philipsburg has a permanent display featuring the historic forts built on both the Dutch and French sides of the island, as well as rotating cultural exhibits and a collection of antique maps. The ruins of two historic forts guard the entrances to Great Bay. Fort Amsterdam, constructed on the western edge of the bay in 1631, was the first Dutch fort in the Caribbean. Remains of a Spanish-built fort, constructed during Spains brief occupation can be seen at the eastern edge of the bay near Point Blanche.
North of the Great Salt Pond near Madam Estate, a small zoo features local fauna and flora. Heading northeast from there, stop at Oyster Pond on the border, starting point for the Dutch and French citizens whose legendary foot race in opposite directions divided the island and established each countrys boundaries in 1648. Take the scenic drive south from Oyster Pond toward Dawn Beach to enjoy the spectacular sea views and a look at charming St. Barthélemy across the channel, as well as numerous quaint West Indian houses. Stop at Dawn Beach for snorkeling, considered by many to be the best on the island.
Land excursions to points of interest on the island are available, ranging from a two hour taxi tour to a luxury limousine ride for up to 8 people, complete with stereo and a fully stocked bar.
Excursions to the nearby islands of St. Barthélemy, Saba and Anguilla are available by boat or helicopter.
Please click here for a directory of Dutch St. Maarten sightseeing and excursion options.
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