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Moon rise at Grand Case

The two countries that share this 37 square mile tropical island are French Saint Martin (about two-thirds of the land mass) and Dutch Sint Maarten. The French side is totally French, right down to the passports, but with a totally Caribbean slant. The Dutch side is semi-autonomous: Sint Maarten manages its own internal affairs under the umbrella of the Dutch Kingdom. Some websites claim this is the smallest island split between two countries. Residents of northern Minnesota and about 40 other countries know differently. There are more detailed maps on the hotel and restaurant websites. Street names are fairly useless as there are few street signs. Luckily, there are few streets and for the most part they go in two large circles: one around the lagoon and one around the high hills on the main part of the island. Street numbers are even more useless as they have been changed recently and are rarely placed on buildings anyway. You will get a very detailed map FREE with your rental car. For topo maps with the names of hills and small islands/rocks, check out this or this. The map below has hot-links to more info on the various areas of the island.

The big news (in 2012) is that a causeway is being built across the lagoon from the airport to a spot near the Dutch/French border in Cole Bay. Thus, if the Dutch bridge is up, stopping traffic, travelers arriving at the airport (and the general population on the western side of the island can get to the eastern side without circling through the French lowlands and into Marigot.

SXM Map Bay Rouge, Nettle Bay, and SandyGround

On the map above, there are four roads you should know about. On the way into Pburg from Simpson Bay, you enter a large roundabout in Cole Bay that seems to be helping traffic a bit. Basically one block has been turned into a rotary. All traffic coming from Pburg heading toward Simpson Bay is forced to turn right just after the Afoo Supermarket. It then meets the smarter people coming from Marigot who have turned off at the Harley shop to avoid the crunch at the bottom of the hill from Pburg. They then go around the circle and come out next to the Tropicana Casino where they can take an easy right toward Simpson Bay as there is no oncoming traffic on the left.

Similarly, those heading from Simpson Bay to Marigot enter this roundabout a bit after the Tropicana Casino and their way over to Marigot without passing through the mess at the bottom of Cay Hill. If you are going to Philipsburg (or on to Orient), you must pass through the mess, although it is better now that the Krujthoff roundabout is at the bottom of the hill. After that, you should know that the roundabout at the top of the hill affords an easy access to downtown Philipsburg. If you are returning from downtown, this works in reverse. If you are returning from the back of Philipsburg you can take the Cakehouse bypass, named after the Cakehouse Bakery, which is no longer there. The entrance is across from Kooyman and though the road is rather steep, it is paved and will deliver you to Cole Bay. This makes it easy to get to Marigot or even to proceed toward Marigot and take the Cole Bay bypass back to Simpson Bay. Finally, lowlands residents heading for Grand Case can avoid most of Marigot by taking the turn toward the water just before the cemetery as one enters Marigot. It heads along the water to Rue de la Republique. At that point you are in the heart of Marigot and, if you want to get to Grand Case, turn left and follow the water to the roundabout at the far end of Galis Bay.

Cole Bay
In the low season of 2007 the traffic pattern was changed in Marigot and minor changes were made in 2008. Part of this was because of the reconstruction of the drainage and sewage system which was clearly required. As they moved traffic around for that, they evolved into the traffic pattern shown below. The major difference is that the street coming in from Cole Bay splits after the warehouses in Bellvue. Traffic heading to the far side of Marigot and on to Grand Case should take the first turn off the rotary onto the high road (Rue De Hollande). Traffic heading into Marigot or around the Marina Royale to Sandy Ground should go further around the rotary, on the previously one way street, and enter downtown Marigot across from St James Street. This lane of traffic even has priority to turn left in front of traffic coming along St James Street. This improves the flow of traffic through Marigot considerably. Anyone wanting to get to Grand Case from the lowlands now reaches a new rotary at the cemetary and proceeds to the waterfront, avoiding JFK street as it no longer connects with the high road. Basically if you are coming from the Cole Bay or the lowlands, and want to go beyond Marigot to Grand Case, you will find it much easier to take the road along the waterfront (if you come from the Lowlands) or the high road and leave the rest of the traffic fighting their way into the downtown area. That and the two new rotaries are really an improvement, but because cars increase exponentially, parking increases slowly, and traffic lanes increase not at all, this is a band aid on a boil.


Marigot Traffic map

In the summer of 2009, the Dutch side "fixed" the problem at the airport wherein all passengers had to cross the main road to get to the parking lot by filling in the lagoon and diverting the main road around the back of the parking area. A roundabout at each end also aids the traffic flow. In fact, both sides of the island are adding roundabouts which has helped traffic considerably.
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