Imagine a Caribbean island with a Dutch flavour, mile after mile of velvety sand beaches, a coastline of lagoons ideal for every kind of water-sport and a cosmopolitan day to night vibe, and you have St. Maarten. Dutch St. Maarten is the southern side of the island of two halves, with French St. Martin making up the northern side. Feel the Dutch influence in capital Philipsburg with the ruins of Fort Amsterdam built to protect the city from the buccaneers of old, and Fort Willem with its awesome views out over Great Bay, Little bay and Philipsburg.
Philipsburg itself is a lively cruise shop port and echoes its roots as an ancient Dutch trading centre with winding streets of duty free shops and boutiques to explore. For beaches, take your pick between Maho Bay Beach for windsurfing and that epic sight of planes almost skimming the surf as they come in to land, Simpson Bay Beach for water-skiing and Dawn Beach, Oyster Pond and Guana Bay for snorkelling and windsurfing.
Then there’s the annual carnival. This explosion of parades, concerts is celebrating its 50th year in 2019 with the invite to ‘Come, Experience Life’ on this exciting island.
Airports / Gateways / Flying times
Airport: Princess Juliana International Airport.
Gateways/Flying Times: There are no direct flights from the UK. Air France fly from Heathrow via Paris, and KLM from Heathrow via Amsterdam. There are local connecting flights from Antigua. Paris: 8 hours 50 minutes. Amsterdam: 9 hours.
The average temperature in St. Maarten is 26ºC with 45 inches of rainfall annually.
St. Maarten takes its food very seriously. In capital Philipsburg, there’s everything from restaurants serving jerk and roti, to beachside cafes, Peruvian, Chinese, French or Dutch fare to big chains like Hard Rock Café!
Dutch is the official language. English and Spanish are also spoken
For nightlife, St. Maarten really knows its stuff! Maho Village in St. Maarten promises a mini Vegas complete with casinos, restaurants, boutiques and a vibrant resort atmosphere. If you still want more, there’s a club or two around too and 15 casinos to try your luck at.
As well as the historic forts of Philipsburg, the city’s 18th century courthouse complete with bell-tower and topped with a pineapple was the home of the founding father of the city- John Philips- a Scottish Dutch Navy captain. The pineapple is said to be a symbol of welcome for people in the city. And from the pineapple to the guavaberry and the intriguing sounding Guavaberry Shop, also in the city, and where you can buy aged rums, liqueurs and hot sauces in all kinds of tropical flavours. Then, take a visit to the St. Maarten Zoological and Botanical Garden.