Welcome to St. Martin
This month’s edition of my Travel Column at Sally Cronin’s Smorgasbord takes us to the beautiful Caribbean island of St. Martin.
Smorgasbord Blog Magazine – The Travel Column with D.G. Kaye – Welcome to St. Martin – Two Countries – One Island
Welcome to St. Martin – Two Countries – One Island by D.G.Kaye
Welcome to this month’s edition of my travel column here at Sally’s Smorgasbord. Today I’ve chosen to share some interesting facts about the beautiful Caribbean island of St. Martin, affectionately named ‘The Friendly Island’.
The island of St. Martin is shared between two countries – French and Dutch. The island is surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean to the east and the Caribbean to the west in the northeast of the Caribbean Sea, approximately 190 miles east of Puerto Rico. The whole island is approximately 34 sq. miles with the ownership of each side is usually said to be a 60/40 split, with the French owning approximately 20 sq. miles and the Dutch 13 sq. miles. Although smaller, the Dutch side boasts a heavier populated side than the French side.
History and Legends
The French call their island Saint Martin and the Dutch call it Sint Maarten, and no matter what you choose to call it, it’s one of my favorite islands in the Caribbean.
The island was divided back in 1648 after being taken over several times by various conquerors. The capital of the French side is Marigot and the capital of the Dutch side is Philipsburg. Legend says Christopher Columbus first discovered the island back in 1493.
After several take overs the Dutch built a fort to assert their claim and control access to the island. In the 18th century, a massive influx of African slaves, were imported to the island to develop the sugar cane plantations. On March 23, 1648, the kingdom of France and the Dutch republic agreed to divide the land and created what is still known today as The Treaty of Concordia
There’s an old legend that speaks about how the land was decided to be divided.
Apparently, the natives of each side were asked to choose a ‘walker’. The two walkers began standing back to back and were instructed to walk in opposite directions – no running! At the point where the two met up again was to be declared the dividing line for each one’s country. According to legend, the Frenchman walked faster because he drank wine before the race and the Dutchman drank gin, supposedly the gin was more tiring than the wine. But ultimately, the Dutch accused the Frenchman of running, which apparently didn’t seem to matter because the new perimeters were set with each country officially being deemed with their respective land official.
About the Island
Climate – The dry season with sporadic rain runs from December through May, and the hurricane season typically runs anywhere from June through November where one can also expect tropical storms, particularly in September. Daily annual temperatures typically range anywhere from mid 60s to high 80s throughout the year. Visitor guides will state that mid-November and December, and May and June are the best times climate-wise to visit the island. While November through May will cost more money to visit there, the price for hotels goes down considerably May and June and likewise for the summer/early fall months because of the unpredictable weather. Many hotels on the Atlantic side, in particular, close down during hurricane season.
St. Martin has been hit by several hurricanes through the years, namely, Maria in 2017, which was reported to damage approximately 95% of the French side and 75% of the Dutch side. I was stunned to hear that the island was re-opened for tourists shortly before Christmas of 2017, although it was still in need of major repairs.
Beaches – St. Martin is known to have some of the most beautiful beaches in the Caribbean, and there are many of them. For an island of only 34 sq. miles, the island has 37 gorgeous beaches to sunbathe, swim, snorkel, parasail, you name it- your choice of watersport is there. On the French side, you will also find the famed nude beach- Orient Beach located on Orient Bay, known as the St. Tropez of the Caribbean, also known for its nude beach. . . Continue reading