June 2, 2010
Philipsburg: the Dutch side capitol, is a vibrant mix of residential, commercial, and resort area. Located in southeastern St. Maarten, between Great Bay and the Salt Pond, Philipsburg is famous for the seaside Boardwalk, Front Street and local market shopping, historic buildings like the Courthouse and many classic Antillean painted cottages, commercial and cruise ship piers, as well as plentiful restaurants. Try Escargot on Front Street for fine dining or one of the many boardwalk restaurants, bars, and ice cream shops. For a real indulgence, go to Old Street to the Belgian Chocolate Bar. Or, if you prefer a shinier indulgence, the infamous, sprawling stretch of duty-free jewelers on Front Street could wow even a princess.
As a partially residential community and the capitol city, one can find banks, supermarkets, post office, a sports and concert stadium (also the location of the annual Carnival Village), and all the government and police buildings. A short drive up Cay Hill leads to Learning Unlimited, while almost equally close towards Cul de Sac is St. Dominic. A ten-minute drive over the hill leads to St. Maarten Montessori School.
Philipsburg is also home to Great Bay, great in size, beauty, and things to see and do. A wide and newly refurbished arch of white powdery sand slips into calm turquoise waters. Behind, lies the bustling and quaint Boardwalk, while the ocean view of the horizon is cradled on one side by an also newly refurbished cruise ship pier, where you’ll spot the largest cruise ships in the world, and, on the other side, the Divi Little Bay Resort, nestled under a rocky point and the old Dutch fortress, Fort Amsterdam. Activity is constant, from water sports to boat charters, including the famous 12-meter sailboats of the America’s Cup.
Next to Great Bay is the small but lovely Little Bay is serviced by the Divi Little Bay Resort and the Belair Beach Hotel, but is also open to the public. Sheltered by Fort Amsterdam and an outcropping of rocks, Little Bay is usually very calm and a great location for children, with sandcastle contests and crab races regularly. For dive enthusiasts, Little Bay also offers the rare beach dive experience. There is even a beach restaurant and bar that offers an exciting selection of water sports, including jet skiing.
Directly to the east of Great Bay is Pt. Blanche, a residential but natural hillside peninsula with a small, secluded beach, bright flowering cacti and hibiscus, and wild iguana. Popular in certain winds for surfers, Pt. Blanche is always great for nature walks and shell spotting. Spectacular views from atop the hill make this the perfect spot the get away, breathe in the sea, and take in the scenery: from watching the slow crawl of giant cruise ships and the swift glide of dainty sailboats in and out of Great Bay, to Ft. Amsterdam and the green flowering hillsides, to the endless blue horizon.