The Netherlands Antilles (Dutch: Nederlandse Antillen [ˈneːjərlɑntsə ˈɑntɪlə(n)] ( listen), Papiamentu: Antia Hulandes), also referred to informally as the Dutch Antilles, was an autonomous Caribbean country within the Kingdom of the Netherlands, consisting of two groups of islands in the Lesser Antilles: Aruba, Bonaire, and Curaçao (ABC islands), in the Leeward Antilles just off the Venezuelan coast; and Sint Maarten, Saba, and Sint Eustatius (SSS islands) in the Leeward Islands southeast of the Virgin Islands.
Aruba seceded in 1986 as a separate country within the Kingdom of the Netherlands, and the rest of the Netherlands Antilles was dissolved on 10 October 2010, resulting in two new constituent countries, Curaçao and Sint Maarten, with the other islands joining the Netherlands as "special municipalities", officially public bodies.
The name 'Netherlands Antilles' is still sometimes used to indicate the Caribbean islands which are part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, the Dutch Caribbean islands.
Spanish-sponsored explorers discovered both the leeward (Alonso de Ojeda, 1499) and windward (Christopher Columbus, 1493) island groups, but Spain founded settlements only in the leeward islands. In the 17th century, the islands were conquered by the Dutch West India Company and were used as military outposts and trade bases. From the last quarter of the 17th century, the group consisted of six undisputedly Dutch islands: Curaçao (settled in 1634), Aruba (settled in 1636), Bonaire (settled in 1636), Sint Eustatius (settled in 1636), Saba (settled in 1640) and Sint Maarten (settled in 1648). Before, Anguilla (1631–1650), the British Virgin Islands (1612–1672), St. Croix and Tobago had also been Dutch.