St. Barts (more formally referred to as St. Barthelemy) is known as a playground for the rich and famous with lots of beautiful beaches and high-end shopping. So of course, when we learned it was a short ferry ride from St. Martin (St. Maarten), Katherine and I decided we should visit and explore the island for a day. We enjoyed our St. Martin to St. Barts day trip! In this post, I will share all the details so you will know how to get to St. Barts from St. Martin and what to do while you are there.
About St. Barts
St. Barthelemy is an overseas collectivity of France that is located about 20 miles southeast of St. Martin and 40 miles north of St. Kitts. Christopher Columbus was the first European discovered the island in 1493 and named it after his brother, Bartolomeo. The island has an area of about 10 square miles and a population of about 10,000 (as of 2015).
The most popular time to visit St. Barts is during the winter (dry season) and it is especially popular with the rich and famous during the Christmas holidays. The dry season runs from December to April. You can visit St. Barts year around, though, as sunshine is very prominent even during the rainy season. About 200,000 tourists visit the island each year.
Ferry from St. Martin to St. Barts
We did some research and felt like the Great Bay Express ferry from Bobby’s marina (on the Dutch side of St. Martin) to Gustavia in St. Barts was the best option for us. I should clarify it is not exactly an easy ride. Many people refer to the St. Barts ferry as the “vomit comet” because it is such a rough ride. Luckily it only takes 45 minutes and was only rough on the way from St. Maarten to St. Barts. The boat seemed a lot safer than the ferry we took to Anguilla. We sat on the upper deck and tried to enjoy the views while we were being rocked up and down.
There are also high-speed ferries to St. Barts run by Voyager from Marigot. If you are staying on the Dutch side of St. Martin close to Maho Bay, you might want to consider taking the “Edge” Ferry from Simpson Bay which runs Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays. Note: The Voyager ferry from Oyster Pond is indefinitely suspended until repairs and dredging are complete. The ferry service is expected to resume sometime in 2019.
If you don’t want to take the St. Barts ferry service, you could consider taking a flight. St. Maarten to St Barts flights only take 15 minutes, but they aren’t cheap. Plus, Gustaf III airport in St. Barts is between the water and a mountain, so I can imagine this could be a little bit of a scary landing.
Renting a Car in St. Barts
Unless you plan on spending all your time on the island in Gustavia, then I recommend renting a car. It will allow you to see more of the island and visit some of the more isolated beaches. When we arrived, we had an issue locating our St. Barts rental car contact and needed to stop at the counter. However, since we had taken the first ferry over, it wasn’t open, so we stopped for breakfast at a cafe just down the street from where the ferry dropped us off. Once we got our car, we were ready to explore. St. Barts is beautiful, with lots of greenery and mountains, and it was nice to be able to see it at our own pace. The driving in St. Barts was relatively easy although we did accidentally go down a one-way street the wrong way once!
Morning at Saline Beach
Our first stop was Saline Beach. This St. Barts beach is an easy 5-minute walk from the parking lot and is absolutely beautiful. You cannot see the beach from the parking lot, but you walk through the dunes to get to the beach. The walk is very easy – no specialty footwear is required. We were lucky to almost have the beach to ourselves, so we were able to both be in the water while our belongings were in a bag on the sand. We carefully monitored the bag to ensure that no one was getting near it, and we didn’t go too far out in the water together.
There was one guy totally naked that decided to sunbathe on the beach (without a towel) which seemed odd to us, but we just carried on as we had faced similar situations in St. Martin (you can read more about our experience with nude beaches here). There were no facilities on this beach.
Luxurious Lunch by St. Jean Beach
Then our next stop during our day trip to St. Barts was lunch. We decided to splurge and visit Sand Bar, a Jean George restaurant, which is located at the famous Eden Rock hotel. The setting was stunning, we sat with a view of St. Jean Beach.
Our view from lunch allowed us to see the planes take off and land. The food was excellent as well, although not surprisingly it was expensive. After lunch, we walked on the beach and headed to the other half of St. Jean beach and got in the water for a little bit. Also, close by there is a location of the internationally known beach club Nikki Beach, which is a nice place to get a drink.
Exploring St. Barts by Car
Then it was time to continue our drive around St. Barts. We headed to the northwest part of the island. The mountains were beautiful and the views of the ocean were just stunning. We stopped at a few St. Barts beaches to walk around and take pictures. Then we decided to return the car and head back towards the Great Bay Express ferry.
Shopping and Food in Gustavia
There are some nice shops and places to grab food and drinks close by the St. Barts ferry terminal in Gustavia. Before looking at the shops, we stopped in at Le Select, which is known for its burgers and as a great place for casual drinks. Some people even think Jimmy Buffet’s song “Cheeseburger in Paradise” is written about this place. Then we visited shops along Rue de Republique, but most things were more expensive than in St. Martin or the US. Most places do accept both Euros and Dollars.
Then after a lovely day of exploring a beautiful island, it was time to head back to St. Martin. I was a little hesitant to get back on the ferry, but luckily the ride back was smooth. I can understand why celebrities like to come to St. Barts, it is beautiful and sophisticated.
Have you been to St. Barts? I would love to hear about your experience.
Expert Tips for Your St. Barts Day Trip
- Be prepared for a rough ride on the ferry from St. Martin to St. Barts.
- If you want to try one of the fanciest St. Barts restaurants, head to the Sand Bar at the Eden Rock resort.
- Rent a car so you can explore the island. There are plenty of places along the roads where you can pull over and just take in the magnificent views and gorgeous vistas.
- Plan some time to enjoy St. Barts’ beaches. Our favorite was Saline Beach.