Hutchinson Island | Martin County Office of Tourism
There’s a place on Florida’s southern Atlantic Coast where sea turtles make their nests in sugary white sand, manta rays glide through the depths of turquoise water and dolphins leap through calm estuaries. Martin County shares much of the same coastal beauty as neighbouring Palm Beach - but with a fraction of the crowds.
Made up of seven different communities, the county has managed to retain its "Old Florida" charm, thanks in part to building height restrictions that allow for panoramic natural views. Each pocket offers a unique way of exploring the area’s seaside lifestyle, from paddle boarding and speed boating, to fine seafood dining and history museums. Here, three ways to discover this scenic slice of Florida.
Get out on the water
Paddle boards at Zeke's Surf and Paddle | Chloe Berge
The calm waters of Hutchinson Island’s beaches are made for paddle boarding. Join Zeke’s Surf and Paddle, owned by a husband and wife duo who know a thing or two about paddling (he’s a sponsored competitive paddle boarder). Their Sandbar Hopper excursion will take you out over Sailfish Flats on a 1.5-kilometre paddle to the Stuart Sandbar, which has views of a lush neighbouring mangrove island. On the way, you’ll walk your board over several smaller sandbars, where you can often spot sea turtles, fluorescent comb jellies, and giant conch.
Hobe Sound | Chloe Berge
In Hobe Sound, pick up some speed on a self-drive catamaran ride with Riding the Waves. You’ll have a naturalist guiding you as your boat zips through the Jupiter Narrows. Flanked by mangroves, the waterway is home to manatees, dolphins, and beautiful secluded beaches like Hobe Sound Wildlife Refuge, worth a stop for a picnic lunch.
Unearth rich maritime history
House of Refuge | Chloe Berge
Contemporary life in Martin County is inextricably linked to the ocean but to better understand its culture, take a look back at its maritime history. Dating to 1875, the House of Refuge is the oldest building in Martin County. In the 19th century, the keepers of the house watched for shipwrecks and helped their victims. The house now acts as a museum, where the original rooms and lookout tower offer a glimpse into the harsh, unforgiving life led by the keeper and his family at the turn of the century.
At the Elliott Museum, take a deeper dive into the county’s history with exhibits that look at why the area has come to be known as the Treasure Coast. Named after the inventor Sterling Elliott, the museum also has permanent exhibits dedicated to art and technology, such as the auto gallery, which includes early 20th-century car models.
Savour fresh, local seafood
Gafford | Martin County Office of Tourism
Getting out on the water on a surfboard, paddleboard, or boat in this part of Florida is a must. But some would say it’s better to taste the ocean.
Sand Dune Café, located at Jensen Beach, is steps away from the beach and offers a casual, affordable, beach-front option to grab breakfast or lunch.
In Port Salerno, head to The Twisted Tuna, a waterfront pub with postcard views of docked boats and palm trees, and order the smoked tuna dip (a local favourite) or blackened mahi-mahi tacos.
Martin County’s laid-back seaside charm is perhaps best experienced in Stuart, with its string of vintage shopfronts and restaurants. At The Gafford, order buttery local swordfish with a glass of cold, citrusy white wine, a refreshing antidote to the Florida heat.
WHERE TO STAY
Martin County Office of Tourism
While travelling Martin County, our writer stayed at Hutchinson Island Marriott Beach Resort and Marina, a 200-acre resort bordered by Atlantic Ocean beaches and the Intracoastal Waterway. It features 274 deluxe newly renovated accommodations with 224 guest rooms and 50 suites. If you want oceanfront views, request a room in the Sandpiper Building. An 18-hole executive golf course, tennis courts, mini spa and 77-slip marina round out Hutchinson Island Marriott Beach Resort's offering.