Photos: St Lucie County Media Relations and Office of Tourism
Psst… Let me tell you a secret. I love Lucie. St Lucie County, that is. With its stretches of unspoilt sand, charming neighbourhoods, stunning waterways and more than 4,000 hectares of parks and preservation areas, St Lucie County has to be one of the best kept secrets on the Florida coast. This means that it’s still a highly affordable option for Florida sun-seekers, so let’s keep it a secret, okay?
Just a two hour drive north of Miami, the area comprises of the cities of Fort Pierce and Port St Lucie, and the endless beaches of idyllic Hutchinson Island.
According to historians, the name ‘St Lucie’ was given to the area when the Spanish began the construction of a fort there on December 13, 1565 – the feast day of Saint Lucia. St Lucie County is located in the heart of what is today known as the ‘Treasure Coast’, a tri-county area that received its name after a hurricane sunk a fleet of Spanish galleons just off its shores in 1715.
So, escape with us from the hustle and bustle of the big city to discover a relaxed, laid-back and uncrowded destination. This is ‘Old Florida’ at its very finest, where small-town charm is still a way of life. Just make sure that you don’t tell everyone about it…
St Lucie County has some 33 kilometres of pristine beaches to enjoy. Almost half of them are nature preserves, which is a very rare accolade when compared to the rest of the Florida coastline. And the good news is that all county and city beaches are free for visitors to enjoy and you won’t even be asked to pay parking fees.
The region boasts a wonderfully warm sub-tropical climate, which is ideal for year-round outdoor activities. Summers are warmest, with temperatures averaging in the high-20s, while the winters are usually mild to warm, with average temperatures in the early-20s.
Hutchinson Island is a barrier island that is bounded on the east by the Atlantic Ocean, on the west by the Indian River Lagoon, and on the north by Fort Pierce Inlet. Wonderfully lacking in high rise buildings and overdeveloped concrete communities, this beach location epitomises the ambience of Old Florida.
As soon as you cross over the Indian River Lagoon you will be instantly introduced to the ‘island life’. From the Old Florida-style hotels right on the water to the palm-thatched tiki-style restaurants, seafood eateries and romantic waterfront dining options, this is the Florida beach location that you’ve been dreaming about.
So drive along State Road A1A with the windows down, breathe in the salty sea air, and discover all the places where you can pull over and walk just a few metres to catch the sight of turquoise waves rolling onto wide uncrowded beaches.
The area’s pristine waterways are simply to-die-for for those who like to get out and about on the water. It’s all about life on the water there, so whether you prefer cruising on a luxury yacht, gearing up for a day’s sport fishing, diving natural and artificial reefs, kayaking through mangrove tunnels or hanging-10 on a surfboard – St Lucie County has it all.
In fact, it’s even good enough for 007. When you see how beautiful it is, you’ll understand why the north fork of the St Lucie River was chosen as a filming location for the 1978 James Bond classic, Moonraker.
The Indian River Lagoon flows through Fort Pierce, Port St Lucie and along Hutchinson Island. This lagoon is said to be the most biologically diverse estuary in the United States, with over 4,000 species of plants and animals. It could well be true, as the world record sea trout was caught in the lagoon at Fort Pierce – and it weighed in at a whopping 17 pounds!
Small Town Charm
Dating back to 1838, Fort Pierce is one of the oldest communities on the east coast of Florida. The days of one-room log houses and quiet river commerce may be long gone as the city grew to be home to more than 42,000 residents, but it rural past can still be felt in its peaceful ambience.
Fort Pierce is a diverse yet neighbourly community, embracing the richness of its heritage through its ‘Old Florida’ landscape and the promise of its future with its world-class sport fishing industry and thriving arts and cultural scene.
The newly-revitalized downtown is located on the calm blue waters of the Indian River Lagoon. Quaint and welcoming, it provides plenty of opportunities for shopping, dining, visiting art galleries and theatres, or catching a sun-drenched outdoor festival or market. There is a lot to learn too at the Smithsonian Institution Marine Research Center, the Manatee Observation and Education Center and the Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute.
Meanwhile, Port St Lucie’s history may not be as old as Fort Pierce’s, but the story behind the city is just as interesting. In 1958, the General Development Corporation (GDC) purchased the River Park property, as well as an adjoining 16,000 hectares. The population boom was on and full-page advertisements were printed to attract retirees to the area with lots for just a $10 deposit and $10 a month.
Home to the PGA Village and the spring training home to the New York Mets, today Port St Lucie is still young and growing. It’s a Mecca for golfers, baseball fans and people who love a friendly, small-town atmosphere with a modern, south Florida feel.