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st. martin and st. maarten   things to do

You may be tempted to do nothing but relax on one of the many beautiful beaches that are scattered along the shores of St. Martin - St. Maarten - but this little half-Dutch, half-French island has even more to offer its visitors.

In Philipsburg, visit the Simartn Museum, in a 100-year-old house at 119 Front Street. Its exhibits reflect the island's history and cultural heritage from prehistoric times. The Museum Shop next door features local art and books, and a fine collection of maps of the island and the Eastern Caribbean. On Wathey Square, in the heart of Philipsburg, stands the Old Courthouse, built in 1793. The ground floor now houses the Post Office, where you'll want to buy the colorful local stamps to add to your collection.

North of Philipsburg, above Salt Pond, is the St. Maarten Zoological and Botanical Garden, which exhibits animals and plants of the Caribbean and South America. The zoo has over 250 animals of about 60 different species, including six endangered species such as Bush Dogs, Golden Lion Tamarins, and Scarlet Macaws. The St. Maarten Zoo is open Monday through Friday from 9:00am until 5:00pm and Saturday and Sunday from 10:00am until 6:00pm. Please call 32030 for more information.

In Marigot on Wednesday, Friday and Saturday mornings, the colorful open market on Market Square offers an assortment of goods and groceries, including local fruits and vegetables.

Day trips to surrounding islands are fun and easy to arrange. From Marigot, catch the short ferry ride to quiet, unspoiled Anguilla, named "The Eel" by Columbus because of its long, narrow shape. This is an island of boat builders, fishermen, sailors and beautiful beaches.

From Philipsburg's piers, catch one of the boats leaving daily for very elegant, very French St. Barts. The two-hour sail there, often with snacks and drinks, is half the fun. You'll land in St. Barts' capitol, Gustavia, where some of the world's most luxurious yachts are at anchor. After a few hours to explore the island and its exquisite beaches, it's usually a spinnaker run home.

For more information about activities in St. Martin - St. Maarten stop by one of the Tourist Offices: The Dutch office is on Walter Nisbeth Road in Philipsburg (Tel: 22337), and the French office is by the waterfront in Marigot (Tel: 87 57 21).

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