Philipsburg St. Maarten
The capital of the Dutch region of St. Maarten is Philipsburg. This town fills a narrow stretch of land with four parallel streets compressed between Great Bay, the dock of cruise ships, and Great Salt Pond, where salt was made countless years ago. Founded by a Scottish captain of the Dutch navy, John Philips in 1763, this area soon became a busy center of international trade. At present, Philipsburg St. Maarten is as bustling as ever, with vigorous shopping streets, hotels, and cafés.
The dream of past generation of island leaders was to maintain Créole houses on the coast to provide incoming boats with a look back into the island’s past. Predominantly, this has been completed as the big hotels assemble at the edges that divide great Bay from Little Bay. Over the last few years, the whole area has greatly improved with the harbor dredged to allow cruise ships to tie up a new terminal. The sand taken from the dredging was used to top off Great Bay beach and a boardwalk was made that run the length of the beach. Additionally, Front Street was revamped with paving stones, new sidewalks, palm trees, benches, and cast iron streetlights. Parking was abolished making the street a mile long shopping mall. At the same time, new parking was added along Pondfill and Bobby’s Marina.
Two major roads intersect the length of Philipsburg St. Maarten, Front Street and Back Street. The main through street is Front Street and is lined with duty-free shops that offer everything from Japanese cameras and Italian leather goods to local crafts. Tapered alleyways leads in both directions to arcades and courtyards crammed with flowers. Tourists will find samples of customary West Indian architecture including distinguishing pastel-colored homes with second-story verandas looking out over the street.
The most prominent landmark of Front Street is the Courthouse which was built in 1793. This grand wooden structure topped with a cupola serves as St. Maarten’s courthouse. Also on this lively street is the Simartin Museum which offers tourists a superb introduction to local history.
Presently, Philipsburg St. Maarten puts together its historical heritage with the 20th century enthusiasm. The waterfront of Philipsburg St. Maarten has become a well-know stop for cruise ships and the town’s various cafes, restaurants, and night clubs provide excellent entertainment throughout the night. For those feeling lucky, they can try their luck at any number of casinos. Restaurants thrive from some of the oldest and finest on the island, to fine French and Creole cuisines as well as Chinese and Indian gourmet. The accommodations that the town offers will suit every need, from contemporary resorts to intimate guest houses.
Philipsburg St. Maarten may only be four streets deep and one mile long, nevertheless it contains everything anyone needs, especially tourists.
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