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St Martin


Caribbean Islands > St Martin

Language: French (English widely spoken)
Currency: Euro
Temperature: Average 80°F year-round
Square Miles: 21
Approx. Population: 38,000

French St Martin occupies the northern half, and larger part, of the island shared with Dutch St Maarten.  The French side of this island is decidedly French, more elegant with secluded beaches.  Marigot, the capital, hosts numerous boutiques with French designer fashions, perfumes, and jewelry, all tax free.  Bistros and sidewalk cafés, with their aromas of pastries and croissants, remind one of Paris.  However, in St Martin you'll find a tropical environment and a Caribbean market instead of the Eiffel Tower.

View of Marigot Bay from St. Louis Fort, Saint Martin
St Martin

While Christopher Columbus first claimed this island for Spain, the Spanish did not settle here, and the Dutch used the island as an outpost between New York and colonies in Brazil.  Spain reclaimed it for a time but eventually abandoned it, and the French and Dutch divided it between themselves.  In 1815, the Treaty of Paris established the final border between French and Dutch portions of the island.  Sugar cane was cultivated with slave labor until 1848.  Many years later, in 1939, the island was made a duty-free port, but tourism did not escalate until the 1970s.  Islanders have sought to retain the island's natural beauty.

Pink and white lounge chairs on Orient Beach, Saint Martin
St Martin

For an interesting natural excursion, visit the Loterie Farm and take a hike where slaves walked hundreds of years ago.  Other fine attractions include the Marigot Museum, illustrating St Martin's history, and The Butterfly Farm.  Orleans, a fishing village in eastern St Martin where the French originally settled, retains the old French atmosphere.

A resort marina in St. Martin, Caribbean
St Martin

Some of the best beaches are at the west side, or Terres Basses (lowlands), of the island.  Anse Marcel beach and Grand Case beach, up the northwest coast from Marigot, are popular with families, whereas Orient Beach is a popular, non-family oriented beach.  One might even describe Orient Beach as somewhat risqué.

St Martin features a variety of restaurants, offering French, American-Caribbean, and Italian cuisine.  Spicy Caribbean fare is as readily available as espresso and patisserie.  The little town of Grand Case has a whole line of restaurants along the beach road.  Lolos (food stalls) offer barbecued snacks, if you don't wish to sit down and watch the pedestrians go by.

Leeward Islands Map (including St. Martin)

st martin, leeward islands map
Click map to enlarge.

St. Martin Links

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