Thoughts of Florida have forever conjured flashes of Disney theme parks and feverish tourists soaking along thronged sandy beaches; of trumpeting bars spilling with Orlando jazz. Yet, with hundreds of miles of beaches hugged by Atlantic shores and the Gulf of Mexico, there’s so much more to this Sunshine State than Universal Studios. Just two hours north of Miami and often overlooked, Martin County is located in the Treasure Coast region and the county seat of Stuart offers a slice of the ‘real’ Florida untouched by tourist hubs. Brimming with white sand beaches and wildlife, here are just a few things to see and do…
Enjoy the sunset on a sailboat
Jump aboard the Schooner Lilley, the only wooden sailboat in Stuart, and watch one of Florida’s famous blazing sunsets. Enjoy the view without the disruption of an engine and glide alongside pods of dolphins. Bring your own beer to crack open at sunset and sit back to the sound of live folk music sung and strummed by the Captain and his wife, for a glimpse of way back when.
Small, sleepy and sherbet-coloured, downtown Stuart is peppered with restaurants, art galleries and quirky boutiques. Though you can walk up and down the strip in 5 minutes, it’s an ample opportunity to glimpse a slow Floridian way of life sheltered from tourism. Behind the main street you’ll find a Riverwalk along the banks of the St. Lucie River – the perfect place for a Sunday dawdle with a mountainous ice cream from Kilwin’s. Spoto’s Oyster Bar sits on the river’s edge for those hungry from some of Stuart’s freshly shucked seafood.
Riding the Waves Eco Tour
The Riding the Waves Eco Tour is the best way to experience the beauty of Florida’s East Coast from the water. Learn about the complex ecosystem of the St Lucie river guided tour with a naturalist, race through the open water and weave through the mangroves – just try not to get stuck in the mud at low tide!
Go paddle boarding
Martin County is bursting with expansive waterways to be explored and there’s no better way than a morning of paddle boarding with the Ohana Bus. A ride in the pimped out school bus filled with surfer stickers and disco lights is definitely a highlight, but a paddle across the Intercostal is hard to beat. We spent a morning paddling across a bay lined with sprawling properties and manicured lawns to a sandbar where the water glints blue and clear and mangrove islands sprout and sprawl. If you’re lucky, you’ll be greeted by the Manatee’s and dolphins who frequent the waterways for an idyllic close-up experience with the best of Florida’s marine life.
Soak up the sun at Hutchinson Shores Beach Resort
A truly beautiful property located on Hutchinson Island, the hotel’s 178 oceanfront rooms are light and beachy, with large bay windows and a view to die for. The ocean is so close, you can taste the salt in the breeze; when it’s time for bed, keep your balcony door ajar and drift asleep to the sound of the waves. The resort itself offers enough to keep you busy in the heat. There are two pool areas to choose from, both with bars serving a steady stream of afternoon cocktails, and the sound of the ocean is never far away. Enjoy dinner in Drift Kitchen & Bar – the resort’s oceanfront restaurant. Blue crab crusted grouper or day boat scallops with key lime butter sauce are two standout local seafood dishes on the menu.
Shamelessly millennial and Instagrammable…yes, but with the pristine ocean views at Jensen beach, a morning tree pose on the sand is an idyllic way to begin your stay in Martin County. Hutchinson Shores Resort & Spa offer regular yoga sessions for early-bird hotel guests and beach dwellers to enjoy a sense of zen, alongside the crashing blue waves and a largely deserted beach.
Enjoy lunch at the Twister Tuna
A wildly popular local hangout, with strong sports bar vibes paired with fishing memorabilia and nets strung from the ceiling. The huge menu is a bizarre blend of cuisines from Asian to Italian but seafood sits at the centre of everything. From raw to fried, choose from seafood tacos, fresh sushi, jalapeno oysters, its infamous fish dip and a daily catch. Buckets of iced tea flow in the heat and the portions are nothing short of humungous making it serious value for money. There’s also a Bloody Mary brunch every Sunday, need we say more?
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