Finding the “Treasure” on Florida’s Treasure Coast
In the early 1700’s a fleet of Spanish ships returning from South America
laden with treasure was shipwrecked off what is now the coast of St. Lucie, FL. With a cargo of treasure valued today at $500,000,000+, this was the biggest, but not the last, shipwreck in this area. As a result, treasure has been washing up on the beaches in this region of Florida over the years, leading to the moniker ”The Treasure Coast.” However, the real treasure to be found here is not the gold and jewel type, but rather the beauty of the beaches and inland waterways, quaint towns, arts and culture, and a wide variety of dining experiences and outdoor activities.
Florida’s Treasure Coast ranges roughly from the Sebastian Inlet to the Jupiter Inlet and JAX FAX recently visited the towns from Stuart north to Sebastian. Early February was a beautiful time to visit with daytime temps in the upper 70s and nights in the 50s. For this trip we stayed at the Courtyard by Marriott Hutchinson Island. Located directly on the beach, this hotel was the perfect base to explore the Treasure Coast. Rooms either overlooked inland for great sunsets, or oceanfront for sunrise and the sound of surf lulling one to sleep. There is a free-form pool, hot tub and tiki bar on the pool deck and a walkway over the dunes leads to the beach just a few steps away. Hutchinson Island has the only beaches in FL where horseback riding is allowed, so this is a great choice for your equestrian loving clients. www.marriott.com/hotels/travel/jench-courtyard-hutchinson-island-oceanside-jensen-beach
Stuart, FL – “America’s Happiest Seaside Town”
From Hutchinson Island it is a short 20-minute drive to the town of Stuart, located inland at the fork of the St. Lucie River. A mecca for boating, a visit here wouldn’t be complete without the opportunity to get out on the water, and a sunset cruise on the Schooner Lily fits the bill perfectly. For about two hours your clients can enjoy the relaxation of a sail on the St. Lucie River while Capt. Fred points out sights of interest along the way.
After their sail, your clients can hop on the free Stuart tram and catch a ride to downtown Stuart and enjoy a fantastic dinner at The Gafford. This family run restaurant offers exceptional gastronomy with an open concept kitchen. www.TheGafford.com
Ft. Pierce – Scooters by the Beach
Like many oceanside towns on the Treasure Coast, Ft. Pierce has a mainland side and a barrier island side connected by a bridge. A great way to get to know this area is for your clients to rent one of the Link scooters found everywhere in Ft. Pierce and explore. Just download the Link scooter app and away they go. I recommend renting on the island side, since scooters can’t cross the bridge. Explore the parks along Ft. Pierce inlet and the northern beaches of Hutchinson Island. The inlet is also a great place for salt water fishing enthusiasts, and the northern beaches are a kite surfing (or watching) hot spot.
Just north of the Ft. Pierce inlet is the Navy Seal Museum. This indoor/outdoor museum gives great insight into the training, hardware and missions of this elite unit of the Navy. Kids of all ages will enjoy handling realistic models of Navy Seal weapons and exploring the aircraft and boats these forces use.
Vero Beach – Culture, Treasure Museum and a Funky Beach Hotel
Vero Beach offers 22 miles of beaches without a high-rise in sight. It is a beach town where chic hotels like Gloria Estefan’s Costa d’Este Beach Resort blends seamlessly with the funky Driftwood Hotel next door. The Driftwood Hotel was originally constructed entirely from driftwood, and although newer additions lack the same character as the original rooms, the beachside courtyard is a hidden gem for drinks and a meal. www.verobeachdriftwood.com
Cultural pursuits are important to the residents here and the Riverside Theatre and Vero Beach Museum of Art fill those needs. The Riverside Theatre hosts Broadway caliber shows and the Art Museum boasts a large collection of their own pieces, as well as traveling exhibits and a children’s gallery.
When on the Treasure Coast, one hopes to see actual treasure and the Mel Fisher’s Treasure Museum won’t disappoint. Displayed here are gold, gems and other pieces from two of his biggest shipwreck finds; the Atocha off Key West, and the Santa Margarita off St. Lucie. A video of Mel’s adventures is a great introdution to the museum and for those who want to own a piece of history, coins and jewelry from the wrecks are available for purchase. And for those clients who want to do some real treasure hunting, the museum has metal detectors available for rent.
Clients in the northeast can take advantage of non-stop flights into Vero Beach airport on Elite Airways from either Newark or Portland, ME. Other airport options for the Treasure Coast include Melbourne airport which is about a 45 minute drive, or Orlando at about 2 hours.