I love, love, love St. Maarten!!! I think it’s my new FAVOURITE place on the planet….I was only here for a short time but as soon as I set foot on the island I felt at home. It had everything I could possibly want; peace, tranquility, white sandy beaches and aqua blue water, beautiful landscapes, great food, and….wait for it….DUTY FREE shopping!
Great Bay Beach, Philipsburg
Philipsburg, the capital of the Dutch side
St Maarten (in Dutch) or St Martin (in French) is a very unique island due to half of the island belonging to the Dutch and the other half to the French, (in fact the only place in the World where an island is shared by two countries). Here’s a little map showing the border….
I landed in Philipsburg at the southern end of the island. It’s also the Capital of the Dutch side and the major port-of-call for cruise ships of St Maarten. There were SIX cruise ships in Port the day I was here….
Cruise Ships in Port
Strolling along the Boardwalk
There are plenty of tourists shops and restaurants to cater for the crowds, and there are thousands of shoppers on cruise days, but there’s also plenty of places to find a quiet spot to take in the harbour’s true beauty as well. You can lay on the beach and watch your floating hotel to make sure it’s not going anywhere without you!
White Sand and Aqua Water
The streets of Philipsburg fill a narrow stretch of land between Great Bay Beach and the Great Salt Pond on the other side. Two main roads cut across the length of Philipsburg – Front Street and, yes, Back Street. Front Street, the main shopping street, is lined with duty-free shops offering everything you could possibly imagine, from high end boutiques like Chanel, to local native craftsellers, with loads of jewellery shops and liquor stores thrown in. There are lots of little alleyways leading to little arcades full of independent shops and courtyards filled with flowers, and of course all the streets are lined with palm trees!
Independent shops down the little side streets
The Shopping area of Old Street, Philipsburg
Shops down the side street
Front Street, Philipsburg
The Old Courthouse on Front Street
St Maarten’s Church
Great Bay Beach
Great Bay Beach can be seen from the cruise ship terminal and is a great beach to visit. It’s right in the heart of Philipsburg. There are watersports and jet skis, chairs and umbrellas to rent, bars, restaurants and shopping and you can easily spend the day here. The sand is soft and white, the aqua blue water is calm and not deep and stretches for over a mile from the cruise harbour at one end, to the start of Little Bay Beach round the peninsular, at the other end.
Great Bay Beach
The Boardwalk along Great Bay Beach is such a relaxing place to sit, with little wooden tables under lofty palm trees, lined with numerous bars and restaurants on the edge of the beach. I sat here drinking frozen Margaritas and eating a big fresh pizza…and I didn’t want to leave…..
Sitting on the Boardwalk
A Shady Spot under the Palm Trees
Boats moored near the Boardwalk
Tips for visiting St Maarten
Weather: It’s year round sunshine and never drops below 27°! The best time to visit is between January and April.
The Boardwalk: This flat, wide stretch of walkway runs all the way from the beach to the Cruise Ship Terminal and passengers can easily walk this in 15 minutes.
Water Taxi: There is a water taxi that runs from the Cruise Ship Terminal to stops along the beach area. This costs $7 per person for the day and you can use it as many times as you like. Or it’s $5 for one way!
The Water Taxi Terminal
And here’s a map of where St Maarten is situated in the Caribbean!
Caribbean Map of St Maarten