‘Love at first sight’ is how I describe my introduction to St. Barth and in my thirty plus-year relationship with this beautiful little island, situated just-so in the French West Indies, my passion hasn’t waned. It prompted me to launch my company and inspires me to spread the gospel of the St. Barth vacation experience.
Originally inhabited by Arawak Indians, St. Barth was settled by fishermen and mariners from France’s Normandy region. The island was traded to Sweden in 1784, but decades later the French wanted it back. Mix in buccaneers raiding Spanish galleons and a legendary Caribbean pirate. Voila! Today, St. Barth has a unique European ambience and is a destination that would make any Francophile giddy with delight.
An eccentric Dutch aviator Rémy de Haenen is credited with developing tourism when he landed his plane on what is now the airport, and built the first hotel. Remy gets the nod too, for the genesis of the island’s reputation as a playground of the well-known and well-heeled. He introduced St. Barth to billionaire movie-mogul Howard Hughes who regularly flew in an entourage of mid-century starlets.
The ‘60s brought the Rockefellers, Rothchilds and the first jet-setters. Superyachts sailed into the Lilliputian harbor in Gustavia, mooring next to Onassis’ Christina, and so the mystique began.
St. Barth’s glam status is indeed well documented and well-deserved. However for every rock star and oligarch who come to see-and-be-seen and shop the designer boutiques, there are many who come to simply enjoy the island’s natural beauty and its casual sophistication. White-clothed restaurants rival those of any city in the world with the bonus of feet-in-the-sand eateries and fun spots like the iconic beach shack Le Select where they’ve been flipping burgers for over 60 years.
A wealth of stunning beaches, each with its own personality, offer opportunities for seaside drinking and dining to a hip soundtrack, or to picnic and swim in seductive seclusion.
The island is home to frequently- photographed 5 star hotels and a range of villas from romantic bungalows pour deux to multi-bedroom magazine-worthy estates ideal for family vacations. My own kids came here as teenagers and now return with their own families. I love it! I bet you would too.
Peg Walsh is the founder and president of St. Barth Properties a boutique travel company specializing in vacations to St. Barth, French West Indies. The company has a portfolio of over 200 private villas, a branded collection of the island’s hotels and a service-oriented team offering a full menu of concierge services.