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The deceptively small Dutch St. Maarten presents some interesting contrasts for the explorer. Wide beaches along the coast, full of sunbathers and watersurfers, seem a far cry from the quiet country roads and small towns of the hillsides. In the evening the hills of the interior become even more peaceful, while the glittering casinos and pulsing clubs of the coast just begin to come alive.

Heading north by car on Pondfill Road from Philipsburg, visitors soon arrive at the Madam Estate area, site of the island's zoo. Governed by the St. Maarten Zoological and Botanical Garden, it features animals, birds and plants native to the Caribbean Basin and South America, including St. Kitts monkeys.

Northeast of the zoo are Dawn Beach and Oyster Pond, the first best known as a favored snorkeling and windsurfing beach. According to legend, Oyster Pond is the point where a Frenchman and Dutchman stood back to back and starting walking around the island in either direction, determining the present-day boundaries between Dutch and French St. Maarten. Oyster Bay remains divided between two governments, but the border is extremely informal--swimmers can cross back and forth between French and Dutch territory without even noticing!

For a view and a taste of history, visitors can climb Mount Concordia, which rises along the border in the center of the island. In 1648, the treaty that divided the island was signed here, and Mount Concordia continues to serve as a proud symbol of St. Maarten's 350-year history of peaceful co-existance between the two cultures.

Cole Bay Hill, just west of Philipsburg, has an observation platform at the top. A stop here is highly recommended for views of surrounding islands, including Anguilla, Saba, St. Eustatius, St. Kitts, and Nevis. Down along the coast, a popular walking trail leads from Cole Bay to Cay Bay. The walk takes about an hour.

Further west is Simpson Bay Lagoon, a large, enclosed stretch of water perfect for waterskiing. The road leading along the south side of the lagoon goes past the island's largest resort, Maho Bay.

Cupecoy Beach is the last beach in Dutch territory on the western side of the island. Visitors who want the full St. Maarten experience can follow the road through the French side.


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