St. Barts lies 24km (15 miles) southeast of St. Martin and 225km (140 miles) north of Guadeloupe. The island's capital and only seaport is enchanting Gustavia, named for a Swedish king. This dollhouse-scale port rings a splendid harbor where little fishing boats bob alongside sleek yachts. Its narrow streets -- lined with 18th-century Swedish or French stone buildings housing gourmet eateries, galleries, chic boutiques, and an excellent Municipal Museum -- are easily explored on foot. Traveling northwest from Gustavia, you reach the typical villages of Corossol and Colombier, where a handful of women still weave lantana straw handicrafts from hats to handbags in cotton-candy-colored cazes (traditional wooden houses) garlanded with flowerpots and fishing nets.
Right by the airport, St-Jean is the closest thing to a resort town: a tropic St-Tropez, brimming with smart boutiques and beachfront bistros. A few minutes' drive east is serene Lorient, site of the first French settlement with a popular locals' beach; beautifully adorned graveyards; 19th-century Catholic church, convent, and bell tower; and reconstructed 17th-century Norman manor. Farther east, Grand Cul-de-Sac (Point Milou) is the island's second major resort center, its wide curve of sand surveyed by resorts and top-notch eateries.