The Dutch-French island of St. Maarten/St. Martin may have 37 beaches where you can bliss out, but that's not all this tropical island offers travelers. During the week the Island Runaways recently spent exploring this Caribbean destination, we discovered several intriguing sights, including the charming capital of Marigot, on the French side of the isle. If brightly painted, Creole architecture and flair make you smile, you'll want to spend time here. Perhaps buying freshly baked croissants, or indulging in a glass of French wine at a seaside café? In fact, if you're headed to nearby Anguilla and have time before the ferry (which departs from Marigot), be sure to take a stroll around. It's definitely worth it. And while you're wandering the streets, you'll inevitably spot an ancient battlement high above the town.
(A must-see vista on your St. Martin vacation. Photo by Island Runaways/Z.A.)
Then, you'll spot signs in the town pointing the way toward Fort Louis. If in doubt about how to get there, simply follow the bright French flag:
(Keep an eye out for the tri-color flag! Photo by Island Runaways/Z.A.)
In 1789 this fort was built to protect Marigot Bay and the town with its wealth from invaders, especially since Marigot contained several warehouses which stored important commodities like sugarcane, rum, coffee, and salt waiting for export. In the 1800s, the fort fell into disuse and gradually its condition deteriorated. Then, for a time it was restored and used once again. In fact, there was a battle here between the French forces and the English who swooped over from neighboring Anguilla to raid St. Martin.
(An amazing view of Marigot's Fort Louis Marina on St. Martin. Photo by Island Runaways/Z.A.)
Today, a police station sits at the bottom of the fort property, next to a parking lot. If you haven't come on foot you can park here (knowing your car will be safe) and then start the trek to the top. As I was huffing and puffing up the steep entry way, I didn't concentrate on much except the path in front of me. But then, when you reach the summit, it becomes clear why people regularly make the -- relatively brief -- hike:
(Top of the list of my things to do in St. Martin: Climb up to Fort Louis!)
Talk about gorgeous scenery! You can see 360 degree views, from the Fort Louis Marina and Simpson Bay, to Nettle Bay and then Anguilla in the distance. You can even spot planes landing at the airport on the Dutch side.
(You'll get a view of Anguilla from Fort Louis. Photo by Island Runaways/Z.A.)
As you roam the fort ruins, you'll notice plaques explaining a bit of the history. It doesn't take especially long to see the fort, and you won't find a huge amount of information. That being said, one nice aspect of a Fort Louis visit? It's free! And as far as I'm concerned, the breathtaking views were priceless. Zickie, our littlest Island Runaways team member, and I were very glad we ascended the hill to see Fort Louis, and it's definitely a climb I'd do again!