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Useful information for trips in Philipsburg (St. Maarten)
We have compiled the following information about the cruise port, the most beautiful sights and many useful tips for shore excursions in Philipsburg (St. Maarten) for you.
The most beautiful sights on St. Maarten
The diverse Caribbean island of St. Maarten is one of the northern islands of the Lesser Antilles. Since 1648, St. Maarten has been divided into two parts. The tranquil port city of Philipsburg belongs to the southern part of the Dutch island of Sint Maarten, which is an independent country within the Kingdom of the Netherlands. The larger northern part of Saint Martin, on the other hand, is an overseas part of France and thus also of the EU. However, both parts of the island border seamlessly and the 77,000 inhabitants live peacefully together. With a total length of about 14 km and an area of only 96 km², both sides of the island can be explored during a cruise.
The capital of the Dutch island part Philipsburg lies on a narrow strip of land on the south coast and is surrounded by the bay Great Bay and the Great Salt Pond, the largest salt lake of the island. Founded in 1763 by Scottish sailor John Philips, the original Arawak Indian settlement has quickly become a lively centre of international trade. Today, Philipsburg is a bustling city, especially during the day, with all its cruise guests. In the evening it is comparatively quiet with about 1,300 inhabitants.
Apart from the centrally located beautiful Great Bay Beach, Philipsburg is primarily known for its shopping possibilities, as the whole island is tax and duty free. Therefore, a visit to the beach can be ideally combined with a shopping spree. Directly behind the Great Bay Beach is the Boardwalk Promenade. Here you will find numerous bars, cafés and restaurants that invite you to linger. The main shopping streets Front Street and Back Street adjoin.
During a stroll along the countless shops, you can also pass historic buildings in the Antillian style and admire pastel-coloured houses with small verandas. There are said to be more than 500 shops throughout the city where you can buy luxury items such as handbags, cosmetics, jewellery and technical items at very reduced prices. Also typical Caribbean products like rum and cigars are offered. This is mainly used by American tourists. It is not without reason that Philipsburg is counted among the best shopping areas in the entire Caribbean.
Sint Maarten Museum
If you want to learn more about the island’s past and development today, visit the Sint Maarten Museum on Front Street. Exhibitions at the History Museum date back to the Arawak Indians. In addition to archaeological finds from this period, there are also finds from a ship that sank off the coast in 1801. You can also learn about the importance of the reefs, beaches, flora and fauna. The museum is run by the Sint Maarten National Heritage Foundation and only charges US$1 per person. You can also buy nice souvenirs in the nearby shop.
One of the most important sights in Philipsburg is the Court House on Front Street, built in 1793. Over the years, the building had taken on a variety of functions. It once served as the residence of city founder John Philips, but also as a post office, fire station and even prison. Today it is used as a courthouse. The white, wooden building also has a striking bell tower with 25 bells. If you look closely, you will see a small pineapple made of wood at its tip. It decorates the historic building as a symbol of hospitality.
To secure the port city, the Dutch built Fort Amsterdam in Philipsburg. The fortification was built in the 17th century on the south coast of a peninsula between the bays of Little Bay and Great Bay. The Spaniards quickly conquered the fortress and used it as an important military post until 1648. Today the ruins of the former fortress can still be admired. In addition to the remains of the fort, you also have a wonderful view over the city, the harbour and the bay. In addition, the protected area has developed into an important bird sanctuary for brown pelicans.
Not far inland is the second fortress of Philipsburg. Originally, Fort William was built by the English. Also from here you have a unique view over the city and the sea.
If you also want to get to know the French side of the island, we recommend a visit to the beautiful city of Marigot on the west coast. It is the capital of the French part of the island and is only 11 km from Philipsburg. Here, too, a relaxed stroll is ideal to experience the city with its charm. The small town centre captivates with historical town houses and many shops. The harbour area at the bay of Marigot is lined with restored warehouses. During a break in one of the cafés or restaurants you can enjoy the French flair and the great view of the marina. Several times a week there are also typical markets where local traders sell fruit, vegetables, spices and handicrafts.
Fort St. Louis
Marigot, too, once had a fortress to protect the city’s warehouses from robbers. Today you can still admire the remains of the former fort from the 18th century. In addition, the climb up the hill offers a fantastic view of the bay of Marigot and the highest point of the island, the Pic Paradis. On a clear day you can even see as far as the neighbouring island of Anguilla.
In addition to the many shopping possibilities, St. Maarten is known for its numerous dream beaches. Around the whole island there are countless bays with more than 30 beaches. Each beach has its own charm and the conditions are excellent. A blue sky and warm water temperatures ensure year-round bathing fun.
The probably most unusual beach is the Maho Beach. This fine sandy beach borders directly on the runway of Princess Juliana International Airport. The planes fly only a few meters over the beach and land at the airport shortly afterwards. This makes a visit to the beach a unique experience. A surfboard set up at the bar always informs about the planned approaches.
If you want to make a short detour to the beach before the departure of your ship, a visit to the Great Bay Beach is recommended. The approximately 1.5 km long sandy beach is located directly in Philipsburg and can be reached in approx. 30 minutes on foot or alternatively by water taxi or taxi from the harbour. A promenade with restaurants, bars and cafés adjoins the beautiful beach. However, depending on the number of ships in the harbour, the beach can get a little fuller, as many take advantage of the proximity to the ship. The prices for sunbeds and parasols also vary depending on the time of day and the number of boats.
For those who prefer a quieter and less crowded environment, there is one of the other beautiful beaches in the surrounding area. Other popular beaches include Mullet Bay Beach and Little Bay Beach to the south and Guana Bay Beach and Dawn Beach. Also the beach sections at the Orient Bay at the east coast are worth a visit. From many beaches you can also discover the fascinating underwater world by snorkeling and diving. Water sports such as surfing, wakeboarding and jet skiing are also popular activities.
Map of Cruise Port Philipsburg (St. Maarten)
The cruise port of Philipsburg is one of the largest and most modern cruise ports in the Caribbean. Up to six ships can moor simultaneously at two long piers. Other ships can be moored at the roadside. For this purpose, the cruise passengers are brought ashore in tender boats close to the centre of Great Bay. After leaving the ship, all other guests first reach the Harbour Point Village. In addition to a small tourist information office, the tourist harbour area has several restaurants as well as numerous shops where duty-free shopping is possible.
The port is centrally located and about 1.5 kilometres from the city centre. If you want to explore Philipsburg on your own, you should plan a 20 minute walk. The footpath is safe and easy to find due to the large number of tourists. Alternatively, you can reach the city centre by taxi or water taxi, depending on your preference.
Tips for cruise excursions in the port of Philipsburg (St. Maarten)
Shipping companies and routes
Philipsburg is a very popular cruise port, which is visited on many Caribbean cruises. American shipping companies in particular plan to use St. Maarten all year round as a popular stopover. However, the high season for cruise ships is between the beginning of November and the end of March. Among the most important shipping companies that regularly call at Philipsburg during this period are Royal Caribbean, Carnival Cruise Line, MSC, Costa, Norwegian Cruise Line, Princess Cruises, Celebrity Cruises and Holland America Line. The German-speaking shipping company AIDA Cruises has also included the port firmly in its programme. Other destinations are often ports such as Samaná, Ocho Rios, Montego Bay, La Romana, Belize City, Cozumel or Bridgetown, depending on the special route.
Entry and Visa
No visa is required for entry to St. Maarten. However, you need a valid passport. This passport should be valid for at least six months after the end of your stay. An identity card is not sufficient.
To be on the safe side, we recommend that you contact your cruise operator directly to find out about the entry requirements for your cruise.
Taxi and public transport
If you have not booked a transfer or a guided shore excursion, you have several possibilities to discover Philipsburg and its surroundings on your own. In the parking lots of the Harbour Point Village there are usually enough taxis with fixed prices available. The prices are listed and depend on the destination and the number of passengers.
As an alternative means of transport, water taxis are very popular, with a mooring just a few metres from Harbour Point Village. It only takes five minutes by water to get from the harbour to the city. The Captain Hodge Pier mooring in the centre of Philipsburg is an excellent way to explore the city. From here you are also directly on the promenade and can stroll between the beach and shopping streets. With a day ticket for 6 US dollars you can travel as often as you like.
Also the public bus traffic is well developed with several bus lines. Buses from Clem Labega Square depart from Philipsburg city centre at regular intervals during the day. Depending on the route, you can reach Marigot, Maho Beach or Mullet Bay. A one-way trip costs only about 2 US dollars and is therefore an inexpensive alternative.
Regardless of which means of transport you choose, you should generally plan a little more time for the return journey. If several ships depart at the same time, waiting times and traffic jams can quickly occur.
The official currency in the Dutch part of St. Maarten is the Antilles guilder, which is pegged to the US dollar at a fixed exchange rate. 1 EUR currently corresponds to about 1.91 Antilles guilders. However, an exchange of the currency is usually not necessary. As a tourist, one can pay almost everywhere with US dollars. You can exchange these before the start of your Caribbean cruise. In the French part the Euro is the official national currency. But even here you can pay comfortably in US dollars. Alternatively the credit card is accepted as far as possible.
Due to the tropical climate, St. Maarten is a suitable holiday destination all year round. With average temperatures between 25 and 28 degrees, it is warm all year round. Also the water temperatures are suitable for a bathing holiday in winter. In addition, the trade wind provides a pleasant refreshment. In the warm and humid rainy season between July and November, however, there can be short, heavy rainfalls. Also hurricanes cannot be excluded. During the milder and slightly less humid dry season between December and May, the high season is for cruise ships.
Port operator and tourism organisation website
- Port operator: Philipsburg (St. Maarten) Port
- Official website: Visit St. Maarten
- Online guide: Wikivoyage Philipsburg (St. Maarten)
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