Now I’ll be honest, the first time I visited Philipsburg, I didn’t really rate it very much. It was late on a Wednesday afternoon and, once the final cruise ship blew its horn and left, the place was like a deserted ghost town. A few weeks later, I visited again midday on a Saturday and it was like a completely different town – busy shops, lively cafés and a bustling atmosphere. Philipsburg is the capital of ‘Sint Maarten’ and relies heavily on the cruise ship industry – time your visit when the ships are in town and you’ll have a great day!
One of the main ways I got around in Sint Maarten was by using the public bus. It is a bit of a culture shock in comparison to buses back home but they’re cheap, frequent and a good way to get from A to B. They’re little vans with a ‘b’ at the beginning of the numberplate and will have a cardboard sign in the window stating where they are going. For me, I used the line from ‘Philipsburg’ (aka ‘p-burg’) to ‘Maho’ or ‘Mullet Beach’ which went between Philipsburg and Maho Beach via Simpson Bay. You just flag a bus down and job’s a good’n. A ride from Simpson Bay to Philipsburg will cost $1.50 – bargain!
If you’re more of a taxi kinda person, a ride from Simpson Bay to Philipsburg will set you back between $10-20.
What to do:
If you’re anything like me and can’t resist a little shop, then Philipsburg is the place to go.
Front Street runs parallel to the seafront and is full of duty free shops where you can buy watches, jewellery and clothes at super reduced prices. One of my crew took me along with him to buy a very snazzy and very expensive new watch (one which is going to take me many a moon to save up for but a gal can dream) The lady in the watch shop did say they were “closed tomorrow because there’s no cruise ships in” which kind of sums up this place. Come on a day when the ships are in town and you’re onto a winner but if they’re not, it looks like you’ll be having a very quiet day.
One of my favourite little shops was ‘Nobles’ where they sold the cutest beach coverups and dresses. I find it so hard finding any of this stuff back in the UK so always try to take advantage of them when I find them!
There are also a few well known brands such as Calvin Klein, Levi’s and Tommy Hilfiger where you can grab yourself a bargain or two.
The whole street is very modern and clean and it’s clear that a lot of money has been invested into it. I’d recommend heading down ‘Old Street’ if you want to see some cute colourful buildings and a super cool yellow car (‘yellow car no returns’!!)
If you head down Front Street and towards the cruise terminal, that’s where you’ll find a whole selection of restaurants to grab a bite to eat. I’d heard great things about ‘The Greenhouse Restaurant’ and went in to try out their ‘Creamy Passion Fruit Smoothie’. It was very refreshing and tasty so if that’s anything to go by, I’m sure the good reviews about the food is true!
If you’re wanting more of a chilled beachfront bar rather than a sit down restaurant, then head along the beach. There’s a paved promenade named ‘The Boardwalk’ which goes all the way to the end and it’s lined with a whole variety of beach bars and snack huts.
‘Dirty Sanchez Crew Bar’ serves up some veryyyy tasty cocktails! My staple Caribbean drink has to be a BBC (Baileys, Banana and Coconut with a bit of rum for good measure) I did have a bit of drinks envy however when I tried my friends Mango Daiquiri! The bar has such a cool vibe and overlooks the beach. What’s not to love?!
‘The Pier’ is located alllll the way at the end of the promenade and it was the only bar open on that quiet Wednesday night we visited (which goes to show how much of a contrast it is after the ships go) I was very glad that it was open as I got to try some of their calamari on the menu – one of my favourite foods ever! Washed down with a few of their non alcoholic cocktails and it went down a treat. You can sit at the bar or at a table on the beach (I don’t know about you but I could never turn down the chance of sitting on the sand – we are in the Caribbean after all)
Now it just wouldn’t be a Becky blogpost if I didn’t mention a museum or two.
‘The Yoda Museum’ is for all you Star Wars fans out there. It’s open January, February, March, April and May (the 4th be with you – my dad’s cheesy jokes are rubbing off on me I apologise) I’d love to include more shameful puns but I’ve never actually watched a minute of it in my life. For those of you who have , then make sure you check out this place. Located on Front Street, this museum is full of Star Wars memorabilia but also has exhibits for lots of other films too – and it’s free to enter!
The Guavaberry is a local berry growing in the centre of the island and ‘The GuavaBerry Emporium’ in Philipsburg contains the small factory where this berry is made into a liquor. It’s a very important cultural drink in Sint Maarten and the emporium doubles up as a museum and gift shop where you can try it out for yourself!
Philipsburg isn’t huge and once you’ve had a little wonder around and a quick Pina Colada stop, you may be wondering ‘where next?’ My answer to that would be ‘to the beach!!’
‘Great Bay Beach’ is a long strip of white sand and turquoise water which hasn’t been given the name ‘great’ for no reason! Shopping by morning and beaching by noon sounds like the perfect day to me (especially with all those beach bars too!) If you’re not a lover of the sand, there is a paved promenade known as ‘The Boardwalk’ where you can walk alongside the sea without even having to step foot on the beach!
Philipsburg has lots to offer but the trick to seeing it all is visiting on a day that the cruise ships are in (you can find this out with a quick google search or a check on ‘marine traffic’. Any place where I can combine my love for shopping, eating and sunbathing is a place I am down to return!