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Travel & Holiday Tips


Sun lovers, water babes, sailors and divers will all be right at home in this Caribbean island, a popular getaway destination in the Netherlands Antilles.

The most prominent physical feature in St Maarten is the thickly wooded Mount Flagstaff, an extinct volcano, but the most important is undoubtedly the excellent beach that follows the south and west coasts. Beach activities and shopping at duty free centres satisfy most tourists but there are several places of interest for the more enterprising visitor.

Places to Go

The only town of any size, Philipsburg is situated on a sand bar that separates Great Salt Pond, an étang or salt marsh, from the ocean. The entire town consists of two streets, Voorstraat (Front Street) and Achterstraat (Back Street), running the length of the isthmus and joined by short, narrow alleys. Land has been reclaimed from the marsh for the construction of a ring road; local wits have suggested that this should be called Nieuwstraat (New Street) to preserve the Dutch feel of the place. Indeed, many buildings do date back to the early colonial era, and despite the multitude of duty-free shops, Philipsburg retains a predominantly colonial atmosphere.

The nine shingled churches and the Queen Wilhelmina Golden Jubilee Monument are worth seeing. Nearby is Fort Amsterdam, dating from the time of the earliest settlers. Inland are the picturesque ruins of several plantation mansions, set in the wooded hills around Mount Flagstaff, and the Border Monument, celebrating 300 years of co-operation between the French and the Dutch.

Fort Willem, easily recognisable by its television transmission tower, lies just to the west of downtown. Built in 1801 by the British, it was taken over by the Dutch in 1816. It's an easy hike up to the fort, with a lovely panorama of Philipsburg and neighbouring islands at the top.

Visit the St Maarten Park, a part of the St Maarten Zoological and Botanical Garden, filled with Caribbean and South American animals, plants and birds. Spot sleek ocelots and bush dogs, parrots, toucans and owls, boa constrictors and marine toads, even land crabs and giant land snails. After dark, dinner is an international affair, with more than 300 restaurants offering French, Dutch, Caribbean, Italian, Chinese, Indonesian, Creole and West Indian menus. Later in the evening, consider visiting one of 12 casinos.

Across the border (no passports are required) is the charming market town of Marigot. Small boats are available for various water sports and fishing.





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