St. Martin/St. Maarten Tours, Sightseeing

Baie Longue, St. Martin, Saint Martin, Sint Maarten, St. Marteen tours, sightseeing, excursions
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FRENCH SAINT MARTIN

A good place to begin is in Marigot, capital city of the French side, with its numerous boutiques and restaurants, followed by a side trip to its bustling port, La Royale Marina. On the waterfront, a large open-air market offers fresh fruits, vegetables and fish as well as a broad selection of arts and crafts from local artisans and from around the world. Visit the St. Martin Museum on Rue Fichot in Marigot, 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 Pic Paradis / Paradise Peak, at 424 m (1391 ft), the highest point on the island. At the foot of the mountain, Loterie Farm, a former sugar plantation, now offering a tropical garden with labeled flora and fauna as well as a zip-line obstacle course and small water park. Next up is Grand Case, whose charming traditional buildings house the island's most acclaimed restaurants, which have earned this charming beachfront town the title "Gastronomic Center of St. Martin." Overlooking Grand Case plain is the Hope Estate Archaeological site with its remains of an Arawak village.

Continuing to the east, Anse Marcel is a pretty bay with a marina and luxury hotels. Then, heading south along the eastern shore, Orient Bay includes a sensational beach with a clothing-optional section and a wide variety of accommodations, restaurants and water sports. Follow the Route du Galion to the Butterfly Farm, which houses butterflies from around the world in a vast tropical greenhouse. Not far from here drive through the pastoral hamlet of Orleans (also called French Quarter), the island’s oldest French settlement. 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.

If one were to head west from Marigot, the strip of land between the Simpson Bay lagoon and the sea at Baie Nettlé is a popular resort area offering water sports and 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 Rouge, Plum Bay, and Baie Longue, home to 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 ferry, small plane or helicopter; some may include island tours and lunch in the fee. Tours operate from Anse Marcel and from Espérance Airport near Grand Case.


DUTCH SINT MAARTEN

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 water sports options available to visitors in this area of the island.

Further east along the island's southern shore is the Dutch side's 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 Commander’s 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 Spain’s brief occupation, can be seen at the eastern edge of the bay near Point Blanche.

North of the Great Salt Pond near Madam Estate, Sint Maarten Park includes in interesting zoo and 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 country’s 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.

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