Are you ready to learn about one of the best-kept secrets in South Florida? Located along the Treasure Coast, Martin County is a hidden gem that offers up miles of beautiful beaches, acres of parks, conservation land, a bio-diverse lagoon ecosystem, golf courses, art galleries, and incredible dining.
It didn’t take us long to add this destination to our Florida favorites list and we can’t wait to share all the reasons why!
This guide is an in-depth overview of things we saw, did, and learned about during our time in the area.
The Best of Martin County, Florida
Martin County Location & How to Get There
Martin County, Florida is made up of a 753 square mile area that is bordered by Port St Lucie to the north, Jupiter to the south, Lake Okeechobee to the west, and the Atlantic Ocean to the east. Palm Beach County sits directly south.
The closest International airports are West Palm Beach (located 41 miles south) and Fort Lauderdale (located 82 miles south) of Stuart. You can rent a car from either of those and drive north to enjoy the best that Martin County has to offer.
Martin County, FL Map
HOW TO USE THIS MAP: Above you’ll find a map of our highlights in Martin County, Florida. Click on the top left of the map to find separate layers marking the route and points of interest. You can hide and show different layers, or click icons on the map to see the names of places we mention in this travel guide. “Star” the map to save it to your own Google Maps, or open the map in a new window for a larger version.
Best Things to Do in Martin County, Florida
See Historic Downtown Stuart by Segway
The first thing you should do when you arrive in Martin County, Florida is to head right over to the charming town of Stuart and join a Segway tour. It’s the perfect way to combine history with a little bit of adventure in the city.
Stuart Segway offers a 1-hour private tour on well-maintained, clean and smooth functioning Segways. Helmets are also provided. The tours are led by Susan Parks, who is also the owner.
Her insight was valuable in both helping us to navigate the town but also figure out where the best sights, parks, and restaurants were located.
Stuart Heritage Museum
When you finish your Segway tour, head over to the Stuart Heritage Museum to take a deep dive into the history of Stuart. We find there’s no better way to connect with the people of a place than to know who they are and how they got there.
This museum offers up an extensive collection of relics that preserve the culture and history of Stuart and the surrounding communities. They include collections and artifacts featuring classic Americana, local celebrities, and local businesses.
Being located on the east coast of Florida, Martin County offers some fantastic surfing opportunities when you visit. Of course, this is a weather-dependent activity and highly dependent on your skill.
We had booked a morning of lessons with the Ohana Surf Shop but unfortunately, the weather didn’t cooperate. The first day we were met with no waves and then every day thereafter the surf was way too high for beginner lessons.
Don’t let this deter you, though, if you have the time, we highly recommend you book with them and go play in the waves. We know we will the next time we are in town!
The Elliott Museum in Stuart is a fascinating time capsule of vintage cars, baseball artifacts, artwork, and Americana. Even if you’re not really into these things, you’ll find this place interesting.
While the museum chronicles the life and interests of Sterling Elliott, it is much more than that. The highlight of the museum is definitely its impressive car collection.
It features a climate-controlled showroom that allows you to pick a car on a computer, that will then be retrieved and brought to a rotating show display for you to admire.
House of Refuge
If you find the shipwrecking history of Florida interesting, then you’ll want to leave time to visit the House of Refuge, as the one in Martin County is the only one that still exists today.
These houses of refuge once existed along the sparsely populated Atlantic coastline of Florida to provide a safe harbor for shipping merchants in the event of bad weather or their ships wrecking off the coast.
Today, the house operates as a museum that sits on the coastline of Hutchinson Island offering up incredible ocean views, the beautiful Ross Witham Beach, rocky shoreline areas, and a window into the past.
We visited multiple times during our trip to Martin County to tour the museum and enjoy the beach.
Sunset Sail on Schooner Lily
Sunset cruises are one of the most popular things to do when you travel, and this is no exception when you visit Martin County. Except they do it a little different, offering up a sail on the Schooner Lily, a traditional cargo sailing boat.
Operated by Treasure Coast Sailing Adventures, the sunset sail leaves from the downtown Stuart Riverwalk Pier and sails off into the sunset on the St. Lucie River.
It’s a memorable way to get out on the water, learn more about the history of Stuart, meet new friends, enjoy some beverages and watch the sunset over the water through the sails.
Visit Hobe Sound
Hobe Sound is a small community located south of Stuart about halfway to Jupiter. While at first, it might seem like a town you could just drive right through, it has plenty of surprising things to offer up to those who stop.
One of the most notable is the extensive Hobe Sound Mural project that features 25 spectacular murals throughout the town. It is possible to take a self-guided walking tour or join a guided tour to see them.
Additionally, you’ll want to stop in at the Hobe Sound Nature Center. The center offers a way to both connect and learn about the natural environment of the Atlantic coastline in this part of Florida. They also offer night turtle walks, but reservations are required.
Drive the Bridge Road to Jupiter Island
One of the most photographed places in Martin County, Florida is the famed Bridge Road that leads from Hobe Sound to Jupiter Island. The road offers the illusion of driving through a tunnel, shaped by a towering Banyan Tree canopy.
At the end of the tunnel is Jupiter Island, a place that holds the title of the highest per capita income of any place in the United States. The houses are luxurious and over the top, so be sure to drive slowly and enjoy their splendor.
Blowing Rocks Preserve
As you make your way down Jupiter Island, you’ll come across The Nature Conservancy Blowing Rocks Preserve. This preserve offers you a chance to see the largest outcropping of Anastasia Limestone on the Atlantic coast in the USA.
The area is unique because Anastasia Limestone is almost exclusively found underground or underwater. However, in this preserve, the limestone is found exposed along the coastline.
During high tide and strong storms, you can experience the spectacular surges forming geyser-like explosions through the rocks. At low tide, you can walk among the rock formations.
Jonathan Dickinson State Park
Just south of Hobe Sound is Jonathan Dickinson State Park, the largest state park in Southeast Florida.
With the Loxahatchee River running through it, the park boasts 16 distinct eco-systems and offers you the opportunity to participate in a variety of outdoor activities.
These include horseback riding, hiking, mountain biking, kayaking, boating, wildlife viewing, to name a few.
Entrance to the park is $6 per vehicle and the park is open daily from 8 am until sunset. While any amount of time in the park is well spent, we recommend that you pack a lunch, some snacks and plan to spend a whole day enjoying the park.
Enjoy the Beaches on Hutchinson Island
Hutchinson Island is a long, thin barrier island located adjacent to Stuart on the ocean side of Sewall’s Point.
The island stretches from Fort Pierce to Stuart offering miles of beautiful uncrowded beaches and is a highlight of any visit to Martin County.
From April to September, the island transforms into one of the most important nesting sites for Loggerhead Turtles in the world. The nests are monitored and well-marked, so be sure to be mindful during your visit to the island.
With easy public access to all of the beaches, the island was our favorite place to hang out and beach hop during our visit. We also stayed on Hutchinson Island.
Visit the Town of Jensen Beach
Not to be confused with the Jensen Sea Turtle Beach on Hutchinson Island, the community of Jensen Beach is located on the mainland.
Known as the ‘Pineapple Capital of the World’, Jensen Beach offers a small-town vibe featuring picket fences and a Key West meets the Caribbean feel.
We were drawn to this small town for the variety of restaurants on offer but ended up staying for the morning as we walked around and enjoyed the small shops featuring local artists.
Just outside of town we also enjoyed exploring the heart of Indian Riverside Park. You can also visit the Children’s Museum of the Treasure Coast nearby.
Florida Oceanographic Coastal Center
The Florida Oceanographic Coastal Center is a 57-acre marine life nature center that offers nature trails, a lagoon, and saltwater tanks. If you’re looking for immersive and interactive educational programs, this stop is for you.
Among the highlights are the 10,000-gallon Rays on the Reef Stingray Aquarium, Sea Turtle Pavilion, and the Sea Star Touch Tank Pavilion, where guests can interact while learning about the role these animals play in the eco-system.
Additionally, the Frances Langford Visitors Center offers informational displays about Florida’s ocean, reefs, and environment.
Recreate in Palm City
One more step inland from Stuart, across a smaller branch of the St Lucie River, is the town of Palm City. Besides being on the riverfront, which offers great views and dining opportunities, the main draws to this small town are golfing and nature.
You’ll find several parks, including Leighton Park, Jock Leighton Park, and Justin Wilson Memorial Park.
If golfing is your thing, you’ll want to check out the Hammock Creek Golf Club and Piper’s Landing Yacht & Country Club. Just across the river on the Stuart side is also the popular Willoughby Golf Club.
See Port Salerno
Located just 5 miles south of Stuart, the historic town of Port Salerno offers a small fishing village with great views of the St. Lucie Inlet. It is particularly popular for its seafood dining options right on the water.
Additionally, you can stroll through town enjoying artisan shops, seafood stands, and even book yourself onto a ghost tour. Most importantly, don’t forget to stop in at the Twisted Craft & Creamery for some ice cream.
Plan Your Visit to Martin County
Where to Eat
The dining options are truly endless, and we couldn’t possibly try every place during our visit. The places we did try, however, were fantastic and you can find them recommend below.
- Boat House (Stuart)
- Sand Dune Café (Hutchinson Island)
- Casa Bella (Stuart)
- Sailor’s Return (Stuart)
- Mulligan’s Beach House (Jensen Beach)
- Hobe Sound Deli (Hobe Sound)
- Harry and the Natives (Hobe Sound)
- Shrimper’s Grill & Raw Bar (Port Salerno)
Where to Sleep
As with dining, accommodation options are plentiful. The area offers a great variety of hotels, motels, resorts, condos, bed, and breakfasts, and private rentals to choose from.
We’d recommend that you stay in either downtown Stuart or Hutchinson Island so that you have a central base to explore the area.
We stayed in this beautiful beachfront condo on Hutchinson Island that is part of the Indian River Plantation Resort during our visit. The complex offers a large variety of oceanfront suite options to choose from.
If you’re looking for hotel recommendations, have a look at the following:
- Marriott Hutchinson Island Beach Resort
- Old Colorado Inn
- Caribbean Shores Jensen Beach Motel
- Best Western Downtown Stuart
- Courtyard by Marriott Stuart
This article was made possible in partnership with Discover Martin County. All opinions, recommendations and thoughts are 100% mine, as always.
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