Philipsburg is the main town and capital of the country of Sint Maarten. The town is situated on a narrow stretch of land between Great Bay and the Great Salt Pond. The island was first sighted by Christopher Columbus on 11 November 1493, but there was already an Arawak settlement there before his discovery. Philipsburg was founded in 1763 by John Philips, a Scottish captain in the Dutch navy; the settlement soon became a bustling centre of international trade. Two historic forts bear witness to Philipsburg’s strategic importance in St. Maarten’s history: Fort Amsterdam and Fort Willem.
Best Time to Visit
The best time to visit St. Martin and St. Maarten is May and June or between November and mid December.
Top Places to Visit in Philipsburg
1. Maho Beach
Maho Beach is a beach on the Dutch side of the Caribbean island of Saint Martin, in the territory of Sint Maarten. It is famous for being adjacent to the Princess Juliana International Airport, and is a popular site for tourists and plane watchers, who visit the beach to watch aircraft on final approach landing at the airport, passing only a short distance above their heads. The beach is popular with windsurfers and skim-boarders because of occasional large waves.
2. Great Bay Beach
Stretching for two miles in front of the Dutch side capital, Philipsburg, a myriad of cruise ships sail into her harbor daily. The thousands of cruise ship visitors that line Great Beach every day can keep an eye on their floating hotel and shopping in Philipsburg is always close at hand. Philipsburg with the Boardwalk along Great Bay Beach has improved impressively over the past years and has become once again an attractive center of shopping, business and leisure activities. There are numerous bars and restaurants lining the beach, even the Beach Plaza Casino is right at the strand’s edge.
3. Sint Maarten Museum
Located in a converted 1800’s house, the St. Maarten Museum focuses on local St. Maarten heritage through a variety of topics, like geology, industry, history, archaeology, and indigenous cultures. View important artifacts and exhibitions like “Flora and Fauna,” “Hurricane Luis,” “National Heroes,” and “Salt Industry.” Some items on display include coin collections, model ships, pieces of Arawak pottery, cargo from an 1801 wreck, and original engravings from Fort Amsterdam. For those who want to learn about local geology, hiking, cycling, and kayaking trips are also organized by the museum.
4. Fort Amsterdam
Fort Amsterdam is a historic fort on the island of Saint Martin, near the Sint Maarten town of Philipsburg. The fort was built by the Dutch in 1631. Located near Great Bay and Little Bay, it was soon captured by the Spanish who occupied it as a military post until 1648. The fort is on a peninsula about 2.5 km long and is a registered historical site, consisting of several ruins. There is a breeding colony of brown pelicans, of up to 60 nests, on the west side of the point, on a slope below the fort. The 278 ha site has been identified as an Important Bird Area by Bird Life International.