Today we are heading to the Sunshine State to get a peek at off the beaten path Martin County. Now you may not be familiar with Martin County but guaranteed you are going to want to check it out after you see all the fabulous opportunities that await you there.
I recently had the pleasure of welcoming Nerissa Okiye, Director of Tourism at Discover Martin County to one of my video chats to showcase her area for us, and she did not disappoint as she painted a picture of untouched natural beauty, distinctive communities, charming downtown districts and more.
So, sit back, fasten your virtual seatbelt and join me on this tour of Florida’s hidden gem!
So Where Exactly Is Martin County? Martin County is situated on the east coast of Florida right above West Palm Beach on what is referred to as Treasure Coast. This means it is about an hour and 50 minutes north of Miami and just two hours south of Orlando making it a very convenient area to designate as your home base while exploring it, as well as other east coast spots.
Tell Me About The Area. What makes the Martin County area unique is that they have a little bit of everything. Nerissa explained it as kind of an eclectic collection of communities – which is spot on! Featuring 22 miles beaches and a four-story height restriction – it’s not only uncrowded but there is not a lot of density in the area. There is lots of conservation of land making for wide open spaces and there’s a real sentiment around keeping the environment the way it is naturally – making them unique from their South Florida counterparts.
Why Martin County? Well first and foremost the whole social distancing climate is one of the things that is great about this destination. The beaches aren’t crowded because not everybody knows about this delightful area. There are limited hotels – and though there are options for everyone, they do have less than 2000 hotel rooms here so you’re not going to be in an overcrowded destination because that’s outside of their footprint and Nerissa assures us that they are not going to expand. Meaning they have stuck with that four-story height restriction and it really is just ingrained in the culture and you feel it when you’re in the area. Plus, it is super family friendly and really does lend for a perfect work-cation along with digital learning because once the work / school day is done you can go out and have a great time because your backyard is so cool. And let’s not forget that it’s a living classroom experience as well. There’s history and biology and geography and all kinds of lessons to be learned here as you will soon find out.
The Different Cities of Martin County
- First Up – Stuart. So, Stuart is the first and only town in Florida to be named number one on Coastal Living Magazines Happiest Seaside Towns list and are still reining as number one. This small, charming city is home to many locally owned boutiques and hotels as well as the last remaining House of Refuge – which is a building used as a haven for shipwrecked sailors in the 1900s – along the east coast of Florida. It’s actually the oldest structure you will find in Stuart and has been restored so that you can see it what it used to be like back in the day. The beaches in Stuart are also a bit different. They have unique Anastasia limestone on some of the beaches and then just sand on others – so they have the diversity of landscapes throughout the beaches which is kind of cool. In addition, they are known as The Sailfish Capital of the World and reside on one of the most biodiverse estuaries in North America.
- Then There is Jensen Beach. Jensen Beach has a sort of hippie vibe and according to Nerissa it’s like a laid-back version of Stuart which tends to be a little more sophisticated. It boasts beautiful beaches and uncrowded spaces and once you arrive there, there are no parking fees. Plus – you can drink on the beaches in Jensen just not out of glass containers. There are a couple of restaurants on the beach too so if you don’t want to bring your own food there are places to eat and if you need a place to sit you can also rent chairs on the beach. It really is a very natural and laid-back area where you can just sit back and enjoy.
- And Of Course, Port Salerno And Hobe Sound. I feel like Port Salerno has a great Caribbean vibe to it and Nerissa agreed. It’s an old fishing district and a lot of the fishing charters still go in and out of Salerno. In Hobe Sound you will find beautiful open spaces including the largest state park in south Florida – Jonathan Dickinson State Park. Of course, there is also the beach, and should you want to hike or mountain bike they do have a few hills – although they are small. To me this is a great place to connect with Mother Nature. I mean you can get out in the nature of the state park, then relax with your toes in the sand, wake up to a gorgeous sunrise and take in a spectacular sunset at days end. Perfect for a wellness vacation!
- I Hear There Is A Rural Community Here Too. Yup – Indiantown is kind of what I liken to a dude ranch area and it’s truly a slice of old Americana. It was a big citrus area at one time but it’s still a big ranch area where you can find a lot of agritourism opportunities. You can do a tour of a farm and if you want, they even have places where you can work the farm! It too has a very laid-back vibe and lots of wide-open spaces, and really serves as an escape from that coastal feel because it is so rural and agricultural. And even though it is a little more inland it’s still only 30-40 minutes away from the beach areas.
And What Can I Do While I Am There?
- Outside Activities: There is the uber cool Blowing Rocks Preserve which is located in Hobe Sound. If you hit it at the right time water will spurt out of the holes in the Anastasia limestone up to 50 feet in the air. What’s cool is when people see videos of it, they think it’s California because they did not think that one could find something like this in Florida! Then from February to September when the female sea turtles come to land to lay their eggs you can participate in a nighttime sea turtle walk to experience this natural phenomenon. And of course, you have the parks and preserves where you can canoe or kayak or go horseback riding or just hike. And with the ocean right there you can always scuba dive, snorkel or even go fishing. The fun part about fishing is that you can eat what you catch thanks to the hook and cook programs that lot of the restaurants in Port Salerno have. You simply bring your catch in and they prepare it how you want. Then they serve it to you along with a side – so you’re getting to eat what you caught! Speaking of fish, you can also visit the Florida Oceanographic Coastal Center while in Stuart where you have a chance to feed stingrays and introduce the kiddos to a touch tank. Also for the kiddos is the seasonal Sailfish Splash Waterpark featuring two slides and a lazy river among other things – all scaled to the children, which is super-important.
- Indoor Activities: There is Elliott Museum where you will find a huge collection of antique cars, baseball artifacts, Americana and more, making it a very eclectic collection thanks to a generous population who have donated to them. Another thing that is unique that they do in terms of wellness is that they’ve started a whole mindfulness series that takes place at the museum where you can book a crystal healing session or one of the singing bowl sessions. So, it’s the beauty of this wide-open museum and then you have that personal wellness that’s ingrained in there as well. There is also the Children’s Museum of the Treasure Coast which is really fun because everything is scaled to children meaning it’s on a lower level so it’s on their level. It’s a hands-on museum and of course they follow all sanitation procedures as well as social distancing guidelines so rest assured it’s a safe place that you can take your younger kids to where they can run around and explore. Stuart also has a really big historical piece and that is the Stuart Heritage Museum which is dedicated to history as it’s progressed throughout the years in Stuart and surrounding communities.
- Arts and Culture: There is an amazing arts foundation as well as a cultural center and they’re always doing different exhibits that are constantly revolving. Then there are also about 30 galleries and studio spaces that are open spaces if you want to take a class while you’re there or you can just kind of wander through and watch as the artists are painting or working on either glass or bead making or the like.
Where Can I Stay? You’ve got plenty of choices including those ever-popular branded hotels. There’s the beautiful Marriott Hutchison Island Beach Resort, Golf and Marina property for my golfers where you we can book you some tee times then you can head to the beach or one of two pools right after your game or enjoy the spa. Bonus – it’s an award-winning executive golf course. One of the newest properties you will find in the area is the Hutchison Shores Resort and Spa where they have really ingrained the wellness aspect. So, in the morning you can do sunrise yoga on the beach – which is a really fun experience and it’s unique because the yoga instructors that they use tailor it to all levels, so you don’t have to be a pro. In terms of boutique properties, you’ve got the Old Coronado Inn which I absolutely love thanks to that chic smaller, boutique feel. What’s really unique about Old Coronado is that of course you have the inn which is about 15 rooms but then you also have homes on the property that you can rent out. The owner restores antique homes and he’s actually barged them down to the property and restored them so if you and your family prefer to stay in a house by yourself you can do that. And per Nerissa the whole property is unique because you see the historic touches but with that elegance – like beautiful linens and such. And you’re right in downtown Stuart so you can walk around downtown Stuart to shop and dine. And finally, there is Caribbean Shores Waterfront Resort which is a good option for those of you guys who want to be on a small property that is waterfront. This one is newly renovated and like the Old Coronado they have the hotel rooms and then they have the little cottages on property as well to stay in. Love this idea!
Updated COVID-19 Information: As of this writing the state of Florida has no travel restrictions in place.
Really, I can sum it up like this – at the end of the day the thing that I love about the area is it is perfect for today’s climate – it’s a hidden gem with uncrowded beaches and plenty to see and do. And who’s not looking for some personal space when they go away?
For more details on things to see and do in Martin County, where to stay, it’s price points and more – contact your Travel Guru! Oh, and if you need a payment plan to fund your travel adventure – we got those too!