Columbus sailed by Dutch St Maarten and French St Martin on 11/11/1493
The day of St Martin of Tours
The tradition is from an old European harvest festival, and it is named after St Martin of Tours, an honored European saint known for his kindness to strangers.
Border Crossing - St Maarten and St Martin
512 years later this day, November 11th, is still celebrated on both the Dutch and French sides of the island with many activities. As this is an official holiday, all places of business will be closed.
A little history . . .
This is the smallest island in the world that is divided between two sovereign nations. So when you visit this island you get a two for one destination.
The Spanish, English, French and Dutch all fought over control of this island in its early history. However none achieved total victory! Although the French and Dutch were otherwise hostile in the Caribbean, France and the Netherlands decided to divide the island by peaceful treaty in 1648.
According the legend, the land division of the island was decided by sending a Frenchman and a Dutchman to pace their way around the coastline. They both started from the same point, heading in opposite directions. And where they met would be the endpoint of the boundary. France ended up with the larger share. There were a few land disputes along the way, however the original boundaries were reaffirmed in 1816 and have remained since then.
Key Points About St Maarten/St Martin
Both sides of the island offer a high level of development, and as stated above you can experience two completely different cultures easier than anywhere in the Caribbean region.
The Dutch side has great shopping, lots of world class casinos, and beaches. The Dutch culture is reflected in the street signs, names and unique souvenirs such as wooden shoes, windmills, and delft china. This side of the island has over 35 beaches, with one of the more unique (Maho Bay) located right on the end of the main airport. No doubt you have seen images of beach goers getting sand blasted by the commercial jets as they come in for landing.
While St Martin is unmistakably French in its language, customs and food, travelers will find a comfortable reception for those who do not speak the language. The cuisine is excellent, along with many fine beaches, and a variety of chic boutiques offering fine imported goods.
St Martin is also an island hopping spot to four other Caribbean islands. Anguilla and St Barths can be reached by ferry, and Saba and St Eustatius are a bit farther.
So no matter which side of the island you choose, the border is seamless and you can go back and forth enjoying both cultures with ease.