One of the most endearing thing about the Caribbean island of St. Maarten/ St. Martin is that it possesses two cultures, one Dutch and one French, and therefore, two capital towns, Philipsburg and Marigot. In terms of a tropical island getaway, this translates to getting two West Indian destinations for the price of one! While diminutive Phillipsburg boasts eye-popping duty free shopping and a boardwalk fronting the beach, the French capital of Marigot has another type of attraction.
(Looking toward the harbor and ferry dock, Marigot. Photo by Island Runaways/Z.A.)
Facing the marina, Marigot felt like the best spot to enjoy Creole flavor and charm. Starting at the waterfront, there’s a craft market where every sort of St. Martin souvenir can be purchased. Then there’s the ferry office, in case you want to day-trip to Anguilla.
(Which way shall we go...in Marigot? Photo by Island Runaways/Z.A.)
For others, a leisurely lunch in a French bistro, as you watch the yachts and sailboats in the distance, turns out to be a worthwhile way to pass the time. Or, close to the crafts, are little Caribbean restaurants where you can sample the tasty flavors of authentic Creole cuisine (something that’s not so common in St. Martin or St. Maarten). A tropical fruit smoothie? There’s a little stand that will prepare one to your liking. It’s also worthwhile to take time to wander the town. You'll spot more local color, like this pretty church.
(It's worth wandering up and down Marigot's streets. Photo by Laura Albritton.)
For shopping enthusiasts, there’s a range of boutiques, from bargain basements to quite upscale shops. Another sight to see? That would be Fort Louis. It’s a little bit of an uphill climb, but the views of the harbor are magnificent. At Port Royal, you’ll find some fantastic restaurants for a memorable dinner like La Belle Epoque and Tropicana; to be sure of a table, make reservations so you get a table on the water.
The Island Runaways’ favorite activity in Marigot? Simply strolling the streets and absorbing the historic Creole architecture, and snapping photos in front of particularly colorful or intriguing buildings.
(Bright blue shutters. Photo by Island Runaways/Z.A.)
The tiny island of St. Maarten/ St. Martin doesn’t have huge numbers of these homes and structures, so Marigot feels like a special treat for folks who want to experience a slice of West Indian history.
(More Marigot charm. Photo by Island Runaways/Z.A.)
I could even imagine renting an apartment in the town, and using it as a base to explore the rest of the island. Yes, you might not have a beach, but beaches are mere minutes away, and you’d never run out of restaurants and cafes to enjoy excellent meals. Also, practically everyone we encountered on French St. Martin spoke some English, and many spoke English fluently. American dollars are accepted just about everywhere. So, if you’re traveling from the States and just want to dip your toes into the French Antilles, St. Martin – and its charming capital Marigot – are good places to start.
(The breakwater at Marigot harbor. Photo by Laura Albritton.)
P.S. Did I mention the amazing croissants? I’m not sure how these croissants taste so incredibly good, whether it’s the French butter, or the flour, but they truly are impossible to resist. Just writing about them makes my mouth start to water.