The island of Saint Martin (St Maarten) was discovered by Christopher Columbus in 1493, and is located about 250 km north of Continental-Guadeloupe. Since February 2007, after a poll, it has become a French Territorial Collectivity. Previously divided between the Dutch and the French, the peaceful cohabitation of the two communities has resulted in this tiny island becoming an extremely popular holiday and duty-free shopping destination in the Caribbean. Probably most famous for the variety of the delightful 37 palm-treed beaches that even include salt-water ponds, one can simply laze, or go snorkelling, scuba diving in the coral reefs, windsurfing and even parasailing. Motorboats and sail boats offer excursions, while those who enjoy game fishing are sure to enjoy the variety of fish found in the offshore waters. Visit the historical Museum of Saint Martin and then possibly take a climb to the historic Fort Louis, built in 1767.
Traces of Saint Martin’s history can also be found in the other villages of the island. The pastel coloured houses and tulips in Phillipsburg tell their own story, while in Quartier d’Orleans, the original settlement of the French on the island, much of the old structures and atmosphere has been preserved. Renowned for its elegance and variety of cuisine there are many restaurants and bistros but Grand Case, with its small wooden gingerbread style cottages, is considered the gourmet capital of the island.