When I travel solo I tend not to plan as much, which can be a big problem when you arrive at a place like Saint Martin/Sint Maarten island during the low season (there’s not a lot to do and not a lot of people to meet and go on adventures with). So after a day on the French side and a few hours on the Dutch side, I was already getting island fever…
…and studying for the boards for the past 8 hours in my room was just not going to cut it (yes, I really did that).
So at around 3pm I headed out from my hotel in Philipsburg and walked about 5 minutes from the main boardwalk (the front street facing the Great Bay) southeast to the Great Bay Ferry Terminal Office, paying $55 USD for a roundtrip ferry ride from Sint Maarten/Philipsburg to Saint Barthélemy leaving at 3:45pm (and returning at 6:45pm).
At about 3:20pm I lined up and got my passport stamped out of Sint Maarten/Saint Martin.
At 3:45pm we boarded and got on our way.
See ya Philipsburg!
FYI, the 45 minute ride from Saint Martin/Sint Maarten island is not a smooth one; if you decide to sit outside the boat, put away those sunglasses and hold on lest something gets thrown off!
Put on your headphones and with a good soundtrack, the ride goes by fast; we arrived at Saint Barthélemy’s port town of Gustavia on time at 4:30pm.
Once docked, we took about a few minutes to stamp our passports into Saint Barthélemy.
And that’s it — an hour later from your hotel room Sint Maarten you’re now in a whole new country and have a whole capital city to yourself! It’s horseshoe-shaped, and takes only 10-15 minutes to walk around the whole place.
The architecture here is a mix of Swedish, French colonial, and Caribbean and there’s a fort up in the distance which now has become the island’s sole police station.
And while walking along here, how can you not notice the glittering array of high-end boutique shops, cafés, and super-yachts that crowd Gustavia’s harbor?
After doing a whole loop around town, I realized I had another hour and a half to spare here. So I went over to the nearby taxi stand (right by where you get off from the ferry) and asked for a tour around the island. There was only one taxi driver, Mathurin, who was a local born and raised in St. Barthélemy. For $70 he agreed to show me around for the hour.
Our first stop was Gustaf III Airport, arguably boasting the 3rd shortest (and therefore dangerous) runway in the world. Most full-sized planes cannot fly directly into Gustaf Airport so visitors who want to get to Saint Barthélemy must first fly to St Martin and then take a smaller plane or a boat from there.
The runway also ends onto a beach of sunbathers, much like the one we saw at St Martin’s yesterday.
From the airport we headed up around the island taking in gorgeous views of its northern side.
Along the northern elevated parts of the island is where the wealthy stay, for about $40,000 USD a week!
After an hour driving around and getting to learn about St. Bart’s history, I thanked Mathurin for showing me around and spent the rest of the time in Gustavia studying up over some tea and crème brûlée while watching the sunset at Le Repaire café.
Then at 6:30pm I checked back in for my 6:45pm ferry ride back to Saint Martin/Sint Maarten, during which I almost nodded off completely.
And at 7:30pm we arrived back in Philipsburg, where I stamped in my passport and headed back to my hotel for an early morning.
– At time of posting in Gustavia, Saint Barthélemy, it was 82.4 °F – Humidity: 80% | Wind Speed: 27km/hr | Cloud Cover: partly cloudy