Decades ago, the Simpson Bay Lagoon was fringed with white sand beaches and the little settlement of Simpson Bay was home to the island's fishermen.
The fishing still goes on, but Simpson Bay has changed into St. Maarten's epicenter of tourism, with world-class marinas, countless restaurants, nightclubs and bars. Many of the bigger resorts are within walking distance of the area's entertainment. The larger urbanity of Cole Bay blends right into Simpson Bay, but many residents and business prefer to list 'Simpson Bay' as their address, even though they are actually located on Cole Bay proper. In our writing, we use “Simpson Bay” to describe any business or attraction up to the Tropicana Casino on Airport Road or Boulevard (which is officially called Welfare Road, but again, many business owners seem to be too uncomfortable with this name to use it).
Officially, the village starts at The Bridge and continues toward the airport for half a mile. The infamous draw bridge spans over a short channel connecting the Lagoon with the open waters of the Caribbean Sea and opens six times per day to allow yachts to enter and leave the Lagoon. These openings block traffic on one of the island's most vital roads (the one to the International Airport!) and Simpson Bay's traffic jams are legendary. Best is to avoid traveling close to scheduled bridge-openings (see schedule here). And if you have to catch a plane around the openings, allow for an extra twenty minutes travel time.
The main road is lined with bars, restaurants, nightclubs (adult as well) and rental car agencies, with the occasional bank, supermarket and boutique completing the mix.
Right on the waterfront and next to the bridge and the Coast Guard station is the Simpson Bay Market, created for the local fishermen to land their catch and sell it right on the spot. The Simpson Bay Market is also the location of a charming row of first class Caribbean-food eateries – each with different specialties. A visit to the market is a must to appreciate local cuisine!
The residential area of Simpson Bay has dwellings with a wide and confusing variety of quality. In recent years, the value of the perfect white sand beach has brought more upscale development and small, but classy condominium buildings have been introduced.
One of the landmark properties is the charming Mary's Boon Beach Resort, preserving the quaint lifestyle of a St. Maarten of many decades ago, yet only minutes away from all the 'action'.
Returning now to the other side of The Bridge, into 'unofficial' Simpson Bay: restaurants line the lagoon waterfront, but the land narrows and on the other side of the road is Kimsha Beach, location of Topper's Restaurant and Bar and the Buccaneer Beach Bar at the far end.
Just a hundred yards further down the road, the Bavaria Restaurant is offering authentic German food and the bar is popular with expatriate Germans and Dutchmen. Opposite is the Simpson Bay Yacht Club development, with a world-class marina, condos, shops and several famous restaurants: Jimbo's Rock & Blues Café is St. Maarten's source of delicious Tex-Mex food. With a swimming pool and swim-up bar, Jimbo's is also seeing its fair share of parties. For the lovers of Italian cuisine, Cugini Trattoria Italiana has taken the island by storm, since it opened at its new waterfront location.
It appears that most of St. Maarten's real estate agencies have chosen this area to maintain their offices: Sunshine Properties has an amazing portfolio of luxury real estate listings and also maintains a vacation rental department. RE/MAX is a well known brand with listings covering neighboring islands as well. Somewhat contradictory to their name, TRUST REAL ESTATE present the widest variety of listings, as they also cover the 'local' residential neighborhoods. If interested in real estate, keep in mind that there is no conclusive multiple listing system on the island and you might have to consult several offices.
Pete's Village is a complete entertainment destination, also located on the Lagoon waterfront: Pineapple Pete is one of the most successful restaurants, with live music almost every day. The SPN Café is to some extend a sports bar with comfort food, but also a party and night spot. There are pool tables and dart boards, and with all the activity, Pete's Village is a great place to mix it up with local residents.
Also on these premises is the 'home port' of the Rhino Rider Safari, one of the most popular excursions, where participants operate their own fast, fun boat during a guided tour through the Lagoon and along the island's coast.
The Tropicana Casino is a landmark defining the end of the area commonly referred to as Simpson Bay. The casino offers a wide variety of slot machines, nightly entertainment and generous parking.