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Thursday, April 18, 2024
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HomeCruiseUncovering the Gems of St. Martin and St. Barts: A Top 10...

Uncovering the Gems of St. Martin and St. Barts: A Top 10 Chronicle

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This month’s Top 10 list finds us in French and Dutch territory as we visit Saint-Martin (northern French side) and Sint Maarten (southern Dutch side), but we will simply refer to it all as St Martin. I also want to include the French island of Saint Barthélemy (St Barts) since it is only 15-20 miles away.

The island of St Martin has been split ever since 1648 with the French owning roughly 2/3 and the Dutch 1/3. This is purportedly because a man from each nation started walking in opposite directions and where they met was the border. Well, the Frenchman drank wine on his walk, while the Dutchman drank a stronger gin making him walk slower. Haha

Now onto the list of my favorite spots in St Martin and St Barts!

Border Crossing
Border Crossing

10. Little Bay – What I like about this bay on the Dutch side, just west of the capital, is the fact you can see the Spanish built Fort Amsterdam on the point and in the water you will find a helicopter, plane, and submarine to snorkel around. I love snorkeling and find it really cool to check out wreckage.

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Philipsburg Court House
Philipsburg Court House

9. Philipsburg – The capital of the Dutch side is a pretty great location because you, more or less, have whatever you are looking for. It has a great beach, shopping, some great architecture, 3 forts, remains of the salt industry, and fun bars to hang out in. Just stay away when cruise ships are in as it can get overcrowded.

8. Colombier Beach – Situated on the far west end of St Barts, this bay has no roads to it. This means the bay is just for boaters and those people that want to hike over to it. The beach is nice and the snorkeling along the north side is good. The best part, besides the quietness of this bay, is it is one of the few calm bays around St Barts when the swell picks up.

7. French food – On both the French side of St Martin and St Barts you will find lots of restaurants and stores with yummy French food, but the best place to stock up on the vast French wines, cheese, and bread is at some of the bigger grocery stores in the capital of Marigot, on the north side of Simpson Lagoon.

Maho Beach
Maho Beach

6. Maho Beach – I know it is touristy, but how can you not love a beach that has passenger jets flying 50 feet over your head as they land at the airport. Then you have the daredevils that hold onto the chain link fence as the jet wash from the biggest jets take off. Add to this the electric vibe of the crowd, the crystal-clear water, tasty drinks, and darn good fresh aloe massages and you have a pretty awesome beach.

View from Pic du Paradis
View from Pic du Paradis

5. Pic du Paradis – The highest point on the island at 1400 ft is accessible by car…most of the way. You will either need a 4×4 or hike the last 20 minutes to the top. From there the views are unbelievable in almost every direction. On the way back down, you can stop at Loterie Farm for drinks, lunch, and an obstacle course/zip line called “The Fly Zone.” I am going to cheat a little and mention another zip line at Rockland Estate, which is a totally different location. There you will find the Flying Dutchman, which is the steepest zipline in the world. Plus, the inter-tube track was a blast.

Anchorage
Anchorage

4. Île Fourchue – A little farther than halfway from St Martin to St Barts is an island that is only accessible by a private boat. The island itself is fairly barren and not much to look at. What is wonderful about this island is the protection the western bay offers, the seclusion, and the snorkeling. I spent several nights anchored here during a front and loved it. Of course, it did not hurt that I found over $200 worth of boating treasures in the water…rope, chain, dinghy plug, etc. Got to love that.

Ile Pinel Iguanas
Ile Pinel Iguanas

3. Ile Pinel – Just off the east end of the French side of St Martin is a great island that you can reach by ferry, kayak, or a private boat. Yellow beach is lots of fun to hang out at with 3-4 different bars/restaurants. I took some friends here for the day and the kids loved playing in the sand and water, while the adults hiked across the small island. To top it all off, there is a pack of iguanas that is hard not to be intrigued with.

Dutch Bridge
Dutch Bridge

2. Dutch side bridge – There is a peninsula on the west side of St Martin and taking up most of this peninsula is Simpson Lagoon, the largest lagoon in the Caribbean. The lagoon is split in the middle by the two sides and each has an entrance with a drawbridge over it. The Dutch side bridge is the one used most often and it only opens two or three times a day. In the afternoon it is quite the spectacle to have drinks at the Sint Maarten Yacht Club and watch the mega yachts pass through the channel with mere feet to spare

Gustavia - Harbor view from Fort Karl
Gustavia – Harbor view from Fort Karl

1. Town of Gustavia – The island of St Barts changed hands several times throughout history and Sweden had control for a short time, thus the name of the town that surrounds the rectangle shaped inner harbor. Simply walking around this red roofed town is a delight. Throw in the three forts, Shell Beach, amazing customs agents, churches, the old Swedish Clock Tower, huge ancient anchor, shops, restaurants, and museum and you have something quite special. Additionally, this is the place for the millionaire club at New Years time.

Captain Shane and 1st Mate Lily are getting ready for a new charter season in the Virgin Islands. Check out svGuidingLight on the web or social media to follow along.

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Shane McClellan
Shane McClellanhttp://www.svguidinglight.com
Visit www.svGuidingLight.com to read more from Captain Shane about the Bahamas, Caribbean, life aboard, and more.
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