History of the Island

St. Barth’s was discovered by Columbus in 1493 and then named after his brother Bartolomeo. It was first settled in 1648 by French colonists who came from nearby St. Kitts. Except for a brief military takeover by the British in 1758, and ownership by Sweden for 100 years in the 17th century, St. Barth’s has remained French. It was established as a free port and remains that way to this day. People who came to St. Barth’s and continue to live in St. Barth’s tend to prefer simplicity over rapid growth and development as can be seen by their strict laws against development for particular parts of the island and the kinds of businesses that are permitted to open.

Culture & Lifestyle

  • St. Barth’s is a part of the French West Indies, and as such, there is a strong French vibe and European demeanour to the island. The currency is Euros, the official language is French, and the architecture and culture have a decidedly Gallic flair to them as well.
  • The day starts early in St. Barth’s; most locals are up and about by 8am.
  • Lunch is one of the biggest meals of the day, and after spending an hour or two on lunch, there is an island-wide siesta that is recognized by almost all businesses. This generally runs from 1:30-3:30 pm. 
  • Dinner is rarely served in restaurants before 7 pm.
  • If you are looking to go out and party, you won’t be heading out much earlier 10 pm at the earliest and will often return home is 3 am.
  • All French holidays are observed in St. Barth’s including close to 15 public holidays throughout the year. Opening times or availability for some stores may shift depending on these holidays and any festivals scheduled on the island.
  • Few things in this culture are stressful, immediate or definite and many schedules (including appointments and mealtimes) have a completely go-with-the-flow mentality. It’s refreshing and enjoyable to adapt to this pace of life.

Travel Tips

  • A valid passport is required to enter St. Barth’s, though there are no visa requirements for entry from Australia.
  • Because St. Barth’s is French, you will need to have an adapter for all electrical appliances.
  • Hurricane season generally runs from June 1 – November 30. If you will be travelling during this time, consider travel insurance to protect yourself and your holiday from a natural disaster or flight cancellation.

St. Barth’s has plenty of activities to experience on your next holiday, but travelling on a budget is always an option, as well. You can visit any of the island’s immaculately-clean public beaches for free and spend the day swimming, sunning and relaxing. When you visit St. Barth’s there is a sense of belonging to the island and finding your place in it, and with a place as amazing as this island, who could ask for more from a holiday?

Image courtesy of Hannah Bryan