Overlooking Marigot Bay on the leeward side of the island sits the imposing figure of Fort St. Louis, the largest historical monument in St.Martin. Named for the famous crusading king of France, it was originally built in 1767 to protect the settlement at Marigot from foreign invaders. The plans were sent over directly from Versailles at the order of the ill-fated French king, Louis XVI. Following the events of 1789, the fort was temporarily occupied by the Dutch to prevent the further spread of revolutionary democracy which had reached the island from Guadeloupe. Now, it no longer serves its former purpose, but the steep climb up to the summit provides a panoramic view of the island and the sea surrounding it, and the effort is well rewarded.
On Wednesdays and Saturdays, an open-air market is set up at the base of Fort St.Louis and along the wharves below, offering a colorful array of homegrown produce, tropical fruits and spices, and freshly caught fish. It is a perfect opportunity for mingling, people watching, and just sampling the food.
At the southern end of Marigot, next to the Marina Port la Royale, is a museum dedicated to preserving St.Martin's history and culture. A new building houses a variety of pre-Colombian treasures unearthed by the Hope Estate Archaeological Society. Among these are a reproduction of the 1,500 year old burial mound that was only discovered in 1994, artifacts dating back as far as 1800 BC, and some beautifully adorned ceramics from around 550 BC. A colonial exhibit details the history of the plantation and slavery period, and early 20th Century photographs provide glimpses into the island's modern development. It is open daily free of charge.
The capital city of Marigot is perhaps the most French in spirit of all the cities in the Caribbean. Colonial houses stand beside smart cafés and bistros, pastry shops and luxury boutiques, and in many ways it looks just like any of the French market towns you might expect to find on the Continent. A shopping center at the southern end of town down by the harbor, called Marina Port la Royale, has some elegant stores with the latest in European designer fashions and fine jewelry, all free of tax. The entire city is only four streets wide, so it is very easy to get around.
The sweeping curve of the beach at Grand Case near the northern tip of the island shelters a little fishing village that is famous not only for its fine foods but also for its distinctive style of architecture. Elaborate carvings and fretwork, in what is called a gingerbread style, adorn the fronts of the small wooden houses painted in pastel colors, and the effect is truly charming. Some of the island's best restaurants also happen to be located in this area.
Halfway between Marigot and Grand Case lies the picturesque setting of Colombier, a sumptuous green valley lush with tropical vegetation and sinking gently between rolling green hills. It is one of the most beautiful and most peaceful spots in St.Martin, perfect for private walks and quiet relaxation.
Rising from the center of St.Martin at a height of 1,400 feet stands Pic Paradis, the highest point on the whole island. Climbing to the top, where there are two observation decks, provides a spectacular view of the scenery and the tropical forest below.
Atop this mountain, located right on the border between St.Martin and St.Maarten, the original treaty dividing the island in two was signed by the French and Dutch.
The French word for Lowlands, are located at the westernmost end of the island beyond the Simpson Bay Lagoon. They are home to some of the most exclusive villas on the island and feature two of St.Martin's prettiest beaches at Plum Bay and Baie Rouge.
The quiet little fishing village of Orleans, also called the French Quarter, is located on the eastern side of the island just north of the border with St.Maarten. It was the original settlement of the French in St.Martin and some of the original seventeenth-century structures are still preserved here. This part of the island has not been developed extensively, so much of the old atmosphere has remained unspoiled. There are only a few residences here today, together with a few small shops.
At the Butter Fly Farm you can walk amongst the rare and exotic butterflies, from around the world flying freely in the tropical paradise, with music, flowers and fresh waterfalls.