Hiking, Biking and so much more!

By James Hall

Martin County’s various hiking trails offer everything from rare wildlife to unique ecosystems.

“It’s an opportunity to explore our unique wildlife, and every time you go out, it’s like a mini biology lesson,” said Deborah Drum, Martin County’s Ecosystem Restoration and Management Manager.

Some trails, like ones at Jonathan Dickinson Park, shelter endangered species like the Florida scrubjay and gopher tortoise, while housing more common wildlife like bald eagles, deer, and turtles. Martin County also has great birding, especially during the winter migration.

Drum said the sand trail at Hobe Sound National Wildlife Refuge is just amazing. It is family friendly with a hilly, scrub brush environment that goes out to the Indian River Lagoon. One of Drum’s favorite memories happened at the refuge.

“I was with my family on sand trail,” she said. “We had binoculars, and we looked up at an osprey nest. A great horned owl with two baby owlets had taken residence. Sharing something like that with my kids was very powerful.”

Mark Nelson, Jonathan Dickinson State Park Manager, says he also enjoys instilling young people with the love of nature, especially since his love of the outdoors was cemented at an early age.

“All I ever wanted to be from a young age was a park ranger,” Nelson said. “When a kid comes out and I can show them an animal for the first time. To see the lights go on in their eyes after seeing that is really rewarding.”

Hiking in the county gives you the chance to enjoy the little things.

“We don’t have the big, grand vistas,” Drum said. “The beauty we do have is a bit more subtle. As you get out there, you get more of a hiker’s eye.”

One of the benefits of hitting the trail and appreciating nature is becoming more environmentally conscious. Drum said her family has gotten into the habit of picking up trash every time they go on a hike.

“It’s about being a steward of the areas you enjoy,” she said. “If you enjoy it, you should protect it. Leave the trail better than it was when you got there. You leave that much more satisfied because you were able to give back.”

Biking

“Biking is a good way to explore different parts of the county,” said Kevin Abbate, a competitive cyclist and Parks & Recreation Director. “Walking is too slow, driving is too impersonal; you can just take it all in.”

Abbate said one of his favorite places to cycle is Indian River Drive and A1A near Sewall’s Point. He said those are some of the best roads because every 15 minutes or so you get an elevation change going up or down the bridges. Also, if you continue off A1A to MacArthur Boulevard, you can enjoy Bathtub Beach and the House of Refuge.

Jupiter Island is an easy ride with coastal scenery. Because only a few call the island home, including Tiger Woods and Celine Dion, traffic in the area is scarce. There are also some great places to visit including the Jupiter Lighthouse and Museum, Blowing Rocks Preserve, and different parks.

Out west there are some great natural, scenic options. The Martin Grade, recently recognized as Florida’s 25th Scenic Highway, is a great, tree-covered ride which leads to the Lake Okeechobee Scenic Trail (LOST). According to VisitFlorida.com, LOST is situated high above the lake on the Herbert Hoover Dike, which provides a great view of the lake and surrounding area. Since only some of the paths are paved, you will want to be riding a hybrid or mountain bike, and parts of the trail are closed at certain times for dike maintenance. You never know what you’ll see on a nature ride.

“At the Lake Okeechobee dike, gators were a big thing, probably the coolest thing I’ve seen is a panther,” Abbate said.

You can also mountain bike in Jonathan Dickinson State Park. Nelson said the park contains a very unique resource, the ancient sand dune system called the Atlantic Coastal Ridge which contains the highest natural point south of the Lake Wales Ridge. Nelson said despite Florida not being known for mountains, you’re still in for elevation changes.

For those looking for a little competition or to ride for a good cause, Martin County has some great cycling events. At the Florida State Road Race Championships, everyone from junior to pro riders can compete. In 2013, Abbate won in his division’s race, and he was the race director in 2014. Abbate also participated in Ride for Heroes, one of the various charity rides in Martin County.

“It’s a great way to get lots of people together,” Abbate said.

Whether you are enjoying the beauty of nature, racing at high speeds, or riding in an event, the most important thing is safety.

“Being a guy who has crashed many times, that helmet has saved my life at least 3 times,” Abate said.

Martin County has all the biking opportunities you need, so strap on a helmet and discover what South Florida has to offer.

Sidebar:

-Allapattah Flats: This is a vast area of marshes and flatwoods that provides great recreational opportunities while protecting habitat for rare animals, particularly sandhill cranes, wood storks, and crested caracaras, and game animals such as white tailed deer and wild turkey. Enjoy a hike or bike ride on the five mile long trail system. Please keep in mind that season hunting is allowed and refer to the FWC Regulations for hunt dates and area rules.

-Blowing Rocks Preserve: Visitors can get a glimpse of one of our state’s rarest surviving landscapes – an intact Florida dune habitat with beach sunflower, bay cedar, sea grape, and sea oats. Three hiking trails and boardwalks, each up to 1/3 mile long, feature interpretative signs all along the paths. A photo-worthy sea grape path winds from hardwood hammock, through coastal strands, and into the beach dune before arriving at the “Blowing Rocks.” Swimming, snorkeling, and scuba diving are allowed from the beach during listed hours. The Hawley Education Center provides tourists and the local community an opportunity to learn about efforts to protect native habitats, plants, and animals in Florida and around the world.

-Halpatiokee Park: The largest park in Martin County with 65 acres of active park land surrounded by 470 acres of wetland preserves. Many sport activities occur here on the soccer/football fields, tennis courts, softball/baseball fields, and an open air roller-hockey rink. Bring your camera to catch wildlife along the many walking/hiking trails and 7.5 miles of mountain biking trails. You can bring your own kayak or canoe and explore the South Fork of the St. Lucie River (you may also rent them here too). Halpatiokee is the Seminole Indian word meaning “Alligator Water.”

-Hawks Hammock: This 432 acre natural area is a favorite for horseback riding, hiking and wildlife viewing. There are 4.5 miles of trails for horseback riding. As you enjoy the trail, look for the scenic marsh and wet prairie vistas and hawks perching on pine trees along the trail loops.

-Indian Riverside Park-Indian RiverSide Park (IRSP) is the premier family destination park in Martin County. Located in Jensen Beach, IRSP sits beach side on the Indian River Lagoon, with a walking path, fishing pier, interactive play fountain, beach, pavilions, banquet space and much more.  Make sure you call for availability of tours on the Mansion at Tuckahoe or Captain Henry Sewall’s Home. IRSP is also home to the U.S. Sailing Center of Martin County and The Children’s Museum of the Treasure Coast.

-Jonathan Dickinson Park: Three scenic nature trails wind through the park, allowing visitors to explore the park’s various habitats. The Kitching Creek-Wilson Creek Trails start in the picnic area parking lot, and lead the visitor through pine flatwoods and along the creeks. The Kitching Creek portion is a self-guiding trail, with a brochure available. The Hobe Mountain Trail is a short, beautiful boardwalk that climbs up through the sand pine scrub to the observation tower, from which commanding views of the entire park and surrounding area may be had. The Camp Murphy Off-road Bicycle Trail System is a nine-mile network of mountain bike trails, with loops rated for beginners all the way to “black diamond, experts only.” Bicycles may be rented at the River Store.

-Kiplinger Nature Preserve: The 150 acre Kiplinger Nature Preserve is located off of Kanner Hwy, just south of SE Indian St. There is a trail and boardwalk system that leads you to an overlook at the South Fork of the St. Lucie River. Here you may see manatees, wading birds, osprey and bald eagles. This is a great spot for bird watching.

-Maggy’s Hammock Park: Formerly named “Rocky Point Hammock Park,” Maggy’s Hammock has been called “an oasis of tropical hammock in a sea of suburbia.” Take a hike along the mile-long nature trail to view the different plants and wildlife. The trails are a part of the Great Florida Birding & Wildlife Trail.

-Peck Lake Park: You can have a BBQ with family and friends at the pavilions in the front of the park or you can take a stroll on the 1/2-mile boardwalk that leads you to the edge of the Indian River and Peck Lake. A large pavilion will greet you on the deck overlooking the water for you to enjoy the panoramas or hide from the sun while fishing or spotting wildlife. Wildlife you may see at the park includes many species of birds, bobcats, snakes, rabbits, manatee, and dolphins.

-Phipps Park: Relax and get away from it all at Phipps Park. Located along the Okeechobee Waterway, this 55 acre conservation park is easily accessible from the Florida Turnpike and Interstate 95. The park offers fishing, nature trails, a boat ramp, and camping. There are campsites that offer “hook-ups” for RV’s and for those who like to rough it a little more there are primitive sites for tents. Visitors have spotted rare wildlife including burrowing owls, coyotes, otters and bobcats among other interesting flora and fauna. For camping reservations and more information call 772-287-6565.

-Rio Nature Park: In the community of Rio, pull off to the side of the road on NW Alice St and park in front of the Rio Nature Park sign. Take a stroll through the 2-acre natural area and find yourself sitting in a nice picnic area on the banks of the St. Lucie River. You will be able to see the city of Stuart on the other side of the river.

-Timer Powers Park: Beautiful Timer Powers Park is located in Western Martin County on Citrus Boulevard in Indiantown. The park is 37 acres with the scenic Okeechobee waterway bordering the east side of the park. The park has many large oak trees, and is listed as part of the Lake Okeechobee Scenic Trail. There are many pavilions and a Community Center available for rental for events. The park is also has a state-of-the-art, covered equestrian arena that is the only public equestrian arena in Martin County. It is available to the public for general usage and organized horse shows. Timer Powers Park is the location of the annual Indiantown Rodeo which is one of the nation’s most prominent rodeos and dates back to 1947.

-Zeus Park: Located in the heart of Hobe Sound, Zeus Park offers residents of the Zeus Park Community a great place to bring family and friends. There is a playground for children, a picnic area and bike trails. There is also a large grass field for everyone to exercise, play games or just layout and enjoy a beautiful day.

Sources:

visitflorida.com

floridastateparks.org

floridarambler.com

Florida’s Cultured Pearl: Martin County

White sandy beaches, crystal clear water, nature preserves and near-perfect year-round temps are all to be expected when visiting Martin County. Located on Florida’s Treasure Coast, just 45 minutes from Palm Beach International Airport, an hour from Fort Lauderdale Hollywood International Airport, 90 minutes from Miami International Airport and two hours from Orlando International Airport –public art, regular cultural events, galleries, museums and more are unexpected gems that make this must-see (again and again!) destination shine. Comprised of the communities of Port Salerno, Stuart, Palm City, Jensen Beach, Indiantown, Jupiter Island, Hobe Sound and Hutchinson Island, Martin County serves up numerous beaches, 75+ parks, as well as a plethora of public art, including sculptures and murals donated by artists. Browse Martin County’s more than 20 galleries in the historic downtowns of Stuart, Jensen Beach, Port Salerno and Hobe Sound and find local jewels and gifts for a souvenir worthy of the visit. Hunt for treasure at Treasure Coast Square, where more than 120 shops mean there’s something in the bag for everyone. For a one-of-a-kind experience, head to B&A Flea Market, the Treasure Coast’s oldest and largest flea market with a 35-year history and over 400 vendors. Nearby, the Elliott Museum, named after prolific inventor Sterling Elliott, hosts a dynamic and interactive collection of antique automobiles, vintage boats, an extensive baseball collection and a deep trove of Treasure Coast histories and stories. For an interactive experience involving all ages, head to The Children’s Museum of the Treasure Coast, located in the heart of Indian RiverSide Park in Jensen Beach. Add in a visit to The Stuart Heritage Museum, located in the oldest commercial building in Stuart and Martin County, and step back in time to learn about the unusual, the sometimes overlooked people, events and places from Martin County’s history. History buffs meet their match in Martin County. The House of Refuge at Gilbert’s Bar is the only remaining House of Refuge on the East Coast of the United States. Built as one of 10 along the east coast of Florida, it is the oldest structure in Martin County and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Want to delve deeper? Learn about the Georges Valentine Shipwreck at the House of Refuge at Gilbert’s Bar and then suit up to explore the dive site off the coast of Hutchinson Island. For the music lover, the historic Lyric Theatre offers a wide-array of first class talent nearly 300 days a year. This acoustically amazing theatre features concerts from classical to rock and roll, and theatrical performances by local and national talent. Looking for more? Martin County’s The Barn is a 169-seat community theatre presenting five main stage productions September through June, and a Showcase Series of one-act plays held between main stage productions. Book a Friday or Saturday show and stay the weekend to savor all Martin County has to offer. Plan to visit during the annual Port Salerno Seafood Festival, Bookmania, ArtsFest, Pineapple Festival or one of the many other cultural events throughout the year. Add to the Martin County experience with a cruise aboard the 25-passenger Loxahatchee Queen II and travel up the Loxahatchee River to the pioneer home site of Trapper Nelson in Jonathan Dickinson State Park. Need to refuel? The word fresh takes on new meaning with most Martin County restaurants utilizing locally-sourced produce and fresh caught fish, served alongside ingredients from local and organic farms within the county. At day’s end, rest easy at brand name chains like Courtyard by Marriott, Best Western, and Hampton Inn – even the Hutchinson Island Marriott offering a resort-style setting. Or, choose from unique one-of-a-kind family-owned and -operated boutique properties such as the Old Colorado Inn, the Seminole Inn and Pirates Cove Resort and Marina. Smaller bed and breakfast properties and independently rented villages and cottages set the scene for romance while RV and camping facilities – even timeshares – spell family fun.

 

Go Wild in Florida’s Martin County

Encompassing the communities of Port Salerno, Stuart, Palm City, Jensen Beach, Indiantown, Jupiter Island, Hobe Sound and Hutchinson Island, Martin County serves up beautiful beaches and 70+ parks – not to mention the most bio-diverse lagoon ecosystem in the Northern hemisphere, the St. Lucie Inlet, all within two hours or less driving time of four international airports: Palm Beach, Ft. Lauderdale, Miami and Orlando. Florida’s hidden gem, this is a place for unwinding and reconnecting. Building restrictions have limited structures to four stories, preserving breathtaking views throughout the county, yielding Old Florida charm and accented with Key West style. Conservation is king here, evident through individual community efforts like Stuart’s large oyster preserve and the St. Lucie Inlet, where the ecosystem provides habitat for over 4,300 species of plants and animals, including more than 30 threatened and endangered species such as manatees, wood storks, sand hill cranes and peregrine falcons. On Hutchinson Island, the Florida Oceanographic Coastal Center offers opportunities for a family-friendly day of fun and learning. At Blowing Rock Preserve, named for its rocky Anastasia limestone shoreline – the largest on the U.S. Atlantic coast, get a glimpse of what South Florida barrier islands looked like a century ago. For a one-of-a-kind adventure, Hobe Sound National Wildlife Refuge, a coastal refuge bisected by the Indian River Lagoon into two separate tracts of land totaling over 1,000 acres on Jupiter Island, is home to the Hobe Sound Nature Center which offers both on and off-site native wildlife presentations and field experiences to local natural areas. Also on Hobe Sound, find Jonathan Dickinson State Park where the Loxahatchee River, Florida’s first federally designated Wild and Scenic River, runs through the park. Ranger-guided tours of the 1930’s pioneer homestead of Trapper Nelson are available year-round. Fishing for more? There’s a reason Martin County reigns supreme for sport fishing and holds the distinctive title of “Sailfish Capital of the World.” Boasting more than 20 marinas, a dozen fishing and sightseeing charters, plus a variety of bait and tackle shops, Martin County offers an abundance of boating and fishing excursions and the opportunity to pursue 800 species of fish within a 10-mile radius of the St. Lucie Inlet, which connects the Intracoastal Waterway to the Atlantic Ocean. For water play that’s a little less rugged, Sailfish Splash Waterpark features two four-story water slides, a gentle and relaxing lazy river, an interactive water playground, and an Olympic-class competitive swim venue. Numerous charter boats are located throughout Martin County, providing full, half-day or custom charters. Take a sailing lesson at the U.S. Sailing Center of Martin County where options are available for beginners and pros. Or, catch one of the many regattas held here throughout the year, notably the Junior Olympic Festival, Laser Masters, 420 Midwinter Championships and OptiFest. With more than 70 parks, outdoor expeditions in Martin County are limitless. From October to May, “tromp the swamp” – free of charge – to observe the exclusive, natural beauty of the Barley Barber Swamp. All groups are accompanied by a tour guide along our 5,800 foot closed loop boardwalk. Snorkel at Bathtub Reef Beach where a manmade a reef extends into the ocean allowing visitors to venture out while remaining in a protective area. Kayak, hike, bike and go birding at Halpatiokee Regional Park or unwind at the pristine, and often deserted, beach at St. Lucie Inlet Preserve State Park. If you go, travel around Martin County in style and rent an environmentally-friendly electric Duffy boat or rent a scooter or bicycle to zoom around town.

Plan to visit Martin County during the annual Lionfish Derby at Sailfish Marina on Singer Island. When it’s time to refuel, the word fresh takes on new meaning with most Martin County restaurants utilizing locally-sourced produce and fresh caught fish, served alongside ingredients from local and organic farms within the county. At day’s end, rest easy at brand name chains like Courtyard by Marriott, Bes Western, Hampton Inn – even the Hutchinson Island Marriott offering a resort-style setting. Or, choose from unique one-of-a-kind family-owned and -operated boutique properties such as the Old Colorado Inn and Pirates Cove Resort and Marina. Smaller bed and breakfast properties and independently rented villages and cottages set the scene for romance while RV and camping facilities – even timeshares – spell family fun.

 

About Martin County, Florida

Disconnect to reconnect in Martin County, where miles of beautiful  beaches, 75-plus parks, unlimited golf and a region overflowing with culture welcomes visitors. In Martin County you’ll find every kind of family activity to tickle your fancy, from rodeos to high-end shopping, art galleries and one-of-a-kind museums to eco-friendly sea turtle adventures. Located just off A1A and accessible by a plethora of scenic avenues, Martin County is 45 minutes from Palm Beach International Airport, an hour from Fort Lauderdale Hollywood International Airport, 90 minutes from Miami International Airport, and two hours from Orlando International Airport. This is a place for escaping, for making memories that last longer than tan lines. Plan to visit during annual happenings like the annual Stuart Boat Show, Jensen Beach Fine Art or the Port Salerno Seafood Festival each January. Attend ArtsFest in March, the Annual Classics at the Beach Car Show in April, or the Sailfish Regatta in May. You can plan a second fall trip in October for the Stuart Airshow, the Pineapple Festival, Jensen Beach and the annual Indiantown Hoe-Down Rodeo. From flip-flops to cowboy boots, Martin County truly has it all. Surf, boat, sail, kite-surf, dive and snorkel on Hutchinson Island. Cast a line in Port Salerno, a fishing village where award-winning seafood tempts the pickiest of palates. Tee off at the world class golf facilities in Palm City, also home to waterfront parks which provide access for boating, paddling and fishing enthusiasts. In Stuart/Sewall’s Point, shop eclectic boutiques, stroll the river walk and find fresh ingredients at the Green Market, every Sunday. Immerse yourself in Key West style in Jensen Beach, Pineapple Capital of the World, with free access points to the beaches. Catch a show at the landmark Lyric Theatre, built in 1926 as a silent movie house. Indiantown welcomes the inner cowboy in everyone with cattle ranches, rodeos and one of the last Indian trading posts. Connect with nature at Jonathan Dickinson State Park on Hobe Sound. Step back in time on Jupiter Island with a visit to the Loxahatchee River Environmental Center. The word fresh takes on new meaning with most Martin County restaurants utilizing locally-sourced produce and fresh caught fish, served alongside ingredients from several local and organic farms, to please one and all. As the sun sets, relax at one of Martin County’s host of lodging options, from brand name hotels to one-of-a-kind bed and breakfasts. Rest easy at brand name chains like Courtyard by Marriott, Best Western, and Hampton Inn – even the Hutchinson Island Marriott offering a resort-style setting. Or, choose from unique, one-of-a-kind, family-owned and -operated boutique properties such as the Old Colorado Inn, the Historic Seminole Inn and Pirates Cove Resort and Marina. Smaller bed and breakfast properties and independently rented villages and cottages set the scene for romance while RV and camping facilities – even timeshares – spell family fun. www.DiscoverMartin.com

Set Sail for Eco-adventure in Martin County, Florida

Fish, dive, sail and more all within driving distance of four international airports

Encompassing the communities of Port Salerno, Stuart, Palm City, Jensen Beach, Indiantown, Jupiter Island, Hobe Sound and Hutchinson Island, Martin County serves up 13 beaches and 70+ parks – not to mention the most bio-diverse lagoon ecosystem in the Northern Hemisphere, the St. Lucie Inlet, all within two hours or less driving time of four international airports: Palm Beach, Ft. Lauderdale, Miami and Orlando. Florida’s hidden gem, this is a place for unwinding and reconnecting. Building restrictions have limited structures to four stories, preserving breathtaking views throughout the county, yielding Old Florida charm accented by Key West style at every corner.

Eco-adventure

Conservation is king here, evident through individual community efforts like Stuart’s large oyster preserve and the St. Lucie Inlet, where the ecosystem provides habitat for over 4,300 species of plants and animals, including more than 30 threatened and endangered species such as manatees, wood storks, sand hill cranes and peregrine falcons. On Hutchinson Island, visit Florida Oceanographic Coastal Center for a family-friendly day of fun and learning – with aquariums, nature trails, a butterfly garden, children’s pavilion, visitor center, gift shop and more. Whether you’re 2 or 92, there’s something extraordinary about touching a stingray, seeing a sea turtle up close, or witnessing a feeding frenzy in a 750,000-gallon game fish tank. At Blowing Rock Preserve, named for its rocky Anastasia limestone shoreline – the largest on the U.S. Atlantic coast, get a glimpse of at what South Florida barrier islands looked like a century ago. Visitors can see one of the state’s rarest surviving landscapes – an intact Florida dune habitat with beach sunflower, bay cedar, sea grape and sea oats.

For a one-of-a-kind adventure, Hobe Sound National Wildlife Refuge, a coastal refuge bisected by the Indian River Lagoon into two separate tracts of land totaling over 1,000 acres on Jupiter Island, offers the onsite Hobe Sound Nature Center with both on and off-site native wildlife presentations and field experiences to local natural areas. Nature trails allow for hikes through estuaries, barrier islands and the sand pine scrub. A highly popular event, the sea turtle walk program, is held on warm, summer nights from the end of May through mid-July. The Center is one of only a few organizations in the state specially permitted by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission to conduct these nighttime walks. Reservations are required and the Center begins taking them as early as April 1 each year.

Hobe Sound is also home to Jonathan Dickinson State Park where the Loxahatchee River, Florida’s first federally designated Wild and Scenic River, runs through the park. Ranger-guided tours of the 1930’s pioneer homestead of Trapper Nelson are available year-round. Enjoy paved and off-road biking, equestrian and hiking trails. Boating, canoeing and kayaking along the river are all highlights. TIP: Gear up with paddleboards, kayaks and more at Treasure Coast Paddle or South River Outfitters.

Cast a line

There’s a reason Martin County reigns supreme for sport fishing and holds the distinctive title of “Sailfish Capital of the World.Boasting more than 20 marinas, a dozen fishing and sightseeing charters, plus a variety of bait and tackle shops, Martin County offers an abundance of boating and fishing excursions and the opportunity to pursue 800 species of fish within a 10-mile radius of the St. Lucie Inlet, which connects the Intracoastal Waterway to the Atlantic Ocean.

Dive in

With numerous thriving natural and artificial reefs along Martin County’s shores, the area truly lives up to its reputation as the “Treasure Coast.” Each reef offers a bounty of rich aquatic life, creating ideal locales for saltwater anglers and recreational divers. Offshore, the prevailing north current allows boaters to begin at the southern end of a one-mile long series of 14 artificial reefs that provide excellent fishing opportunities. Martin County’s Artificial Reef Program offers over ninety-five outstanding sites for fishing and dive exploration – and the number continues to grow. There is no better way to appreciate the area’s natural treasures than to fish and explore these waters.

For water play that’s a little less rugged, Sailfish Splash Waterpark features two four-story water slides, a gentle and relaxing 1,000-foot lazy river, an interactive water playground and an Olympic-class competitive swim venue.

Sail away

Numerous charter boats are located throughout Martin County and can provide full, half-day or custom charters. From novice to experienced, the professional captains and mates provide for an angler’s every need and offer advice to insure a memorable off-shore fishing experience. The months of November through mid-March are prime months for sailfish – spring and summer months see the return of dolphin, wahoo and kingfish, as well as marlin. Not into fishing? Take a sailing lesson at the U.S. Sailing Center of Martin County where options are available for beginners and pros. Or, catch one of the many regattas held here throughout the year, notably the Junior Olympic Festival, Laser Masters, 420 Midwinter Championships and OptiFest.

Get outdoors

With more than 70 parks, outdoor expeditions in Martin County are limitless. From October to May, “tromp the swamp” – free of charge – to observe the exclusive, natural beauty of the Barley Barber Swamp. All groups are accompanied by a tour guide along the 5,800-foot closed loop boardwalk.

Snorkel at Bathtub Reef Beach where a manmade a reef extends into the ocean allowing visitors to venture out while remaining in a protective area.

Kayak, hike, bike and go birding at Halpatiokee Regional Park or discover the pristine, and often deserted, beach at St. Lucie Inlet Preserve State Park.

If you go

Travel around Martin County in style and rent an environmentally-friendly electric Duffy boat or opt for a scooter or bicycle. Ready to refuel? The word fresh takes on new meaning with most Martin County restaurants utilizing locally-sourced produce and fresh caught fish, served alongside ingredients from local and organic farms within the county to please even the pickiest of palates. At day’s end, rest easy at brand name chains like Courtyard by Marriott, Best Western, and Hampton Inn – even the Hutchinson Island Marriott offering a resort-style setting. Or, choose from unique one-of-a-kind family-owned and -operated boutique properties such as the Old Colorado Inn and Pirates Cove Resort and Marina. Smaller bed and breakfast properties and independently rented villages and cottages set the scene for romance while RV and camping facilities – even timeshares – spell family fun.

Sidebar

Plan to visit during the annual Lionfish Derby

Come to Martin County and make plans to remove as many lionfish from the water as possible in a one-day tournament. Fish are measured and weighed and prizes are awarded. The non-native Indo-Pacific lionfish has no predators in the Atlantic ocean and is wreaking havoc on reefs by explosively reproducing and eating dangerously high numbers of important, native species such as juvenile grouper, snapper, parrotfish, grunts and crustaceans.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Stuart listed in Smithsonian’s Fourth Annual Best Small Towns to Visit in 2015

MARTIN COUNTY, FLORIDA – MAY 2015 – The Martin County Office of Tourism and Marketing is pleased to announce the release of the Smithsonian’s Fourth Annual Best Small Towns to Visit in 2015. The Office of Tourism worked with Bess Lovejoy, Contributing Editor on this article that features Stuart as the #3 destination. Located on Florida’s Treasure Coast, just 45 minutes from Palm Beach International Airport, an hour from Fort Lauderdale Hollywood International Airport, 90 minutes from Miami International Airport and two hours from Orlando International Airport, Martin County encompasses the towns of Stuart/Sewall’s Point, Jensen Beach, Hobe Sound, Hutchinson Island, Jupiter, Palm City, Port Salerno and Indiantown.

“It is a great honor to be recognized in such a prominent publication. This recognition is sure to help us attract even more visitors to enjoy the accommodations, restaurants and attractions Martin County has to offer,” said Nerissa Okiye with the Martin County Office of Tourism and Marketing.

“Our annual list highlights some of the most special small communities in America. We were impressed by Martin County and Stuart’s great mix of opportunities for exploring nature, culture, and history, all in a charming setting,” said Bess Lovejoy, Contributing Editor for www.Smithsonian.com.

 

Land of the Cowboy

By Kelly Jadon

Florida is the origin of the American cowboy. Horses in the Americas came first to Florida, introduced by the Spanish in the 1500s. From this stock came Cracker horses which herded longhorn cattle, another first in the United States.

This is the heritage of Martin County: The Land of the Cowboy

Martin County, Florida is scenic and beautiful—but the best views can only be had on its hidden horse trails. Many of these historic trails have been preserved on state park lands:

Savannas Preserve State Park (8.5 miles) through the Savannas marsh system. There is a designated equestrian area for trailers. Call ahead for equestrian gate combinations: (772) 398-2779 or the Park Office at (772) 340-7530.

https://www.floridastateparks.org/park/savannas

Allapattah Flats (5.5 miles) through slash pine flatwoods leading to an open marsh with wading birds, including further equestrian trails and a 150-acre riding area.

http://myfwc.com/viewing/recreation/wmas/cooperative/allapattah-flats/

DuPuis Reserve has an equestrian center at Gate 3 with horse barns, paddocks, campsites, restrooms with showers, a dump station, and a trailhead marking the beginning of 40 miles of equestrian trails. This land is two-thirds pinelands and one-third cypress swamp/freshwater marsh and is home to alligators, river otters, feral hogs, coyotes, deer, and even bald eagles.

http://myfwc.com/viewing/recreation/wmas/cooperative/dupuis/#Horseback

(Horse riders are required to have proof of negative Coggins on their person or in their saddlebag when on State of Florida lands. Children under the age of 16 are required to wear a helmet when riding on State lands.) http://laws.flrules.org/files/Ch_2009-105.pdf

Palm City Farms is the western branch of historical Martin County between the Florida Turnpike and I-95—its 70 miles of trails predate the 1920s land boom and are excellent for horseback riding.

http://www.palmcityfarmstrails.com/page04.html

Martin County boasts more than 400 horses. Martin County hosts equestrian activities for both visitors with their horses and those wishing to rent a horse for an old Florida trail ride.

Take Lessons!

Sunny Time Stables in Palm City offers individualized lessons for ages 4 to 83. In the summer they run a camp. Sunny Time Stables also offers affordable trail rides. sunnytimestables@hotmail.com 772-621-0067

http://sunnytimestables.com/rates.html

Greenridge Stables, owned by Kathy McLaughlin is a unique ride experience, offering fox hunts, hunter-jumper and trail rides. Every morning she trailers her horses to a state park to take out riders. At Allapattah Flats riders will enter a canopied area known as “Costa Rica,” and on the low lands they can view coffee bean plants and ancient pecan trees. These rides may go up to two hours. Kathy also has boarding for up to 50 horses and 40 acres of turnout. She offers English and Western lessons in dressage and hunting.

Marasco Ranch hosts lessons, adult trail rides and summer camps. They also provide parties, field trips, a Family Day, a Mommy and Me event and have a Petting Zoo!

Jmar61@comcast.net   (772) 708-1879 or (772) 708-1861

http://www.marascoranch.com/

For parents with special needs children, contact Full Circle Therapeutic Riding. Executive Director, Linda McLendon focuses on “liberation rather than limitation; she welcomes children with traumatic brain injury, spinal cord injury, stroke, cerebral palsy, mental retardation, emotional disturbances, impaired vision or hearing, learning disabilities, Down syndrome and spina bifida.” Linda McLendon has received the Jefferson Award for her work with therapy horses.

http://www.fullcircletherapeuticriding.com/

http://www.wptv.com/news/region-martin-county/palm-city/linda-mclendon-jefferson-award-winner-helps-others-with-her-therapy-horses

Martin County hosts various types of horse training: obstacles, cow sorting, team penning, trail riders, hunter-jumpers and dressage.

Dressage and Lippizan-style training at the legendary Sons of the Wind Farm in Palm City. 978-423-9619

http://sonsofthewindfarm.com/swhome.html

Former Marine water survival instructor Mark Updike specializes in behavior modification of horses when they are acting out and the owner is afraid. He acts as a bridge between the horse and rider. An illusionist, his tricks are performed at clinics which teach riders how to respond in a difficult situation. Nationally recognized, Mark has complete obstacle training with a course set up at all times. Contact Mark Updike directly: 772-940-1714, markupdike@gmail.com

http://www.palmbeachpost.com/news/news/local/palm-city-trainer-has-a-way-with-horses/ngdZy/

http://www.markupdike.com/

Olympian Tina Konyot operates a Florida farm for dressage in Palm City during the winter. She trains young horses through the Grand Prix and the rider “in all aspects of training, riding, and competing.”

http://tinakonyotdressage.com/index.htm

http://www.palmbeachpost.com/news/news/local/palm-city-olympian-competing-now-individual-dressa/nP9cG/

Boarding options:

McNally Show Horses: offers certified training, extensive turnout for boarding horses and ample trail access. Michelle McNally is also a licensed judge. Contact: (772.285.4875) michelle@mcnallyshowhorses.com

http://www.mcnallyshowhorses.com/

Martin Downs Equestrian Center—contact: (772) 486-1038 MartinDownsEC@gmail.com

http://martindownsequestriancenter.com/horse-boarding-palm-city-fl/

Special Olympics of Martin County begins Equestrian Training in October, 2015 in preparation for their first show in February, 2016 with Martin County Area Games to be held at Captain Quarters Equestrian Center in Palm City. Last year 16 athletes participated; seven went to the State competition and placed. The program is open to children and adults with special needs. Contact: Director Betty Marshall, bettymarshall@specialolympicsmartin.org or Jacque Lewis, jacqueathotels@gmail.com

https://specialolympicsflorida.org/martin/

Payson Park is a licensed and accredited 400 acre training center for thoroughbred race horses in Indiantown. Owned by Virginia Payson, the facility’s slogan is “happy horses win,” and their track is one of the best in the nation. In season, families may come out and eat breakfast on site. Contact: 772-597-3555

http://www.happyhorseswin.com/

Since 1947 the Indiantown Rodeo has welcomed thousands of fans from dozens of states. Today the rodeo continues at Timer Powers Park under the sponsorship of the Martin County Sheriff’s Office each October. You’ll enjoy the excitement of steer wrestling, bareback riding, saddle bronc riding, roping events, barrel racing and bull riding.

http://indiantownrodeo.com/

Would you like to adopt a horse? Florida TRAC (Thoroughbred Retirement and Adoptive Care Program)—the only thoroughbred rescue in the State of Florida. Over 400 horses have entered the program and almost half of these retired racers have been placed in adoptive homes. Many continue as show horses, in the arena, or as therapeutic horses. Contact: 772-485-3799, barbi@fltrac.org

http://fltrac.org/

At The Equine Rescue and Adoption Foundation (ERAF) in Palm City abandoned, abused, neglected and slaughter-bound horses are cared for here after rescue by county officials. They also take in horses prior to hurricanes for temporary relocation. Since 2000, more than 120 horses have been placed in new homes. For more information: eraf2000@gmail.com

http://www.eraf.org/home.html

Martin County Horse Council is a local equine related advocacy group which links the horse community together. For all horse-related needs, please do not hesitate to contact Kathy Brown, Founder at kathy4mchorsecouncil@gmail.com or 772.260.4790

Offshore, Inshore, Nearshore – The Choice is Yours

By: James Hall

“Almost nowhere else in the world can you draw a circle on a map with a 10-mile radius and find within it 800 species of fish,” said Dr. Grant Gilmore, a renowned marine scientist. “That’s what happens within 10 miles of the St. Lucie Inlet.”

Fishermen come to Martin County because of its mixture of diverse game fish and all the places they can cast a line. But don’t just take our word for it; listen to what the local anglers have to say.

Ed Killer is a reporter for Treasure Coast Newspapers and an avid fisherman who writes about the outdoors.

“We’re in the perfect spot,” said Killer, whose family has been in Martin County for generations. “I would put our fishing up against anywhere in the country.”

We have fish ranging from the coast of South Carolina to Key West all in one area. This is because we are on the climate border of the temperate and sub-tropical zones, and the Gulf Stream also pulls fish to the area. The various waterways include the Indian River Lagoon, St. Lucie River, Lake Okeechobee, and Atlantic Ocean.

The county’s reef systems are also a draw to fish. Florida’s natural reef system’s northern end is in Martin County. We also have a thriving artificial reef program that adds to the two mile reef system.

“The artificial reefs provide a source of food for fish as barnacles grow on it,” said John Burke, the President of the Martin County Artificial Reef Fund. “When you put artificial next to natural you get the best of both worlds.”

The combination of Martin County’s climate, waterways, and environment make the area a mecca for fishermen. Among the many fish that can be caught, sailfish can be sought out in the winter, sea trout in the fall and spring, Mahi in the summer, and pompano all year round. Killer said you can’t beat a mangrove snapper, which can also be caught the whole year.

“If you want to catch 5 species of a fish, you can do that here,” Killer said.

When it comes to South Florida’s fishing, Burke has had to remind himself he’s not dreaming.

“The condition 10 miles offshore was the same as a two and a half hour trip I used to make,” said Burke, who grew up in Pennsylvania. “I had to pinch myself because I could still see the beach while catching all these fish.”

Martin County has a rich fishing history, and offshore fishing is what made it famous as the “Sailfish Capital of the World” in 1957. Offshore fishermen are in for a challenge almost every time they hit the water. Sailfish are the fastest marine predators, and in winter months, it’s not uncommon to hook multiple sailfish at one time. Great fishing stories are true for the past and present.

“Capt. Curt Whiticar ran out of bait Thursday and turned his charter fishing craft back after boating 19 ‘sails,’” according to a December 1949 Palm Beach Times article. “Honeymooning Mr. and Mrs. Robert Tinsley of Brevard, NC, got so tired when they caught nine sailfish on their first ocean fishing trip that they returned to shore at noon when they had chartered a boat for the full day.”

In more recent times, while fishing off shore, Burke got a little more than what he was casting for. He said that at first, he caught a Mahi and was reeling it in.

“Then a marlin came up and ate it,” Burke said.

After an hour and a half long fight, he landed a 350 pound blue marlin with a fishing line designed for Mahi.

Martin County’s fishermen are making new history and memories every year. During the MCAC Artificial Reef Fund’s annual tournament two years ago, Burke went fishing with a junior angler named Will Charles. The twelve year old Charles won with the top fish, a 24 pound Cobi.

“He was hooked,” Burke said. “The ability to implant young people with the love for fishing is really rewarding.”

Ever since then, Charles has competed in the tournament, namely against Killer’s son, Pierce. Last year, Killer beat Charles by landing a 24 pound Cobi that was within one pound of Charles’ catch. Expect to see the two at this year’s tournament on July 11.

Different tournaments happen year round and this year, they are helping causes like the artificial reef fund and Advocates for the Rights of the Challenged of Martin County.

If you are looking for a new place to fish, Martin County should be at the top of your list. To get the most out of your Martin County fishing experience, read the sidebar or follow the links below.

Sidebar (Any or all of this info could be in the sidebar)

Where To Fish Productive Offshore Areas

  • King Fish Hole-off shore. 5 miles south St. Lucie Inlet offshore of Pecks Lake
  • Artificial Tire-Reef-Edgar Ernst Reef, 4 1/2 miles due east of lighted buoy from St. Lucie Inlet.
  • Artificial Reef-Bill Donaldson Reef 3 1/4 miles due east of House of Refuge.
  • Artificial Reef-the Rankin, 66 miles due east of St. Lucie Inlet, 130′ water.
  • Major Reef-6 Mile Reef Just south of Inlet and 6 miles due east, 75′ deep.
  • 8 Mile Reef just east of Inlet and 8 miles out north and south, 125′ deep.
  • Gulfstream 5-8 miles offshore due east of Inlet, it varies a little.

Type Of Fish Caught During:

  • Winter Sailfish abundant, King Fish, Dolphin, Blue Fish, Sea trout, Whiting, Pompano, Grouper
  • Spring Snook, Pompano, Sea trout, Sailfish, Dolphin, King Fish, Summer, Snook, Tarpon, Dolphin, Bonito, Barracuda, Sea Trout, Red Fish, Red Snapper, Mutton snapper, Grouper, Tilefish, Some Sailfish, Wahoo, Scatter King Fish
  • Fall Blue Fish, Flounder, Red Fish, Sea Trout, Snook
  • All Year Round Fresh Water Bass, Sea Trout, Croaker, Mangrove Snapper, Whiting, Sand Perch, Grafftop Sail, Catfish, Drum & Sheephead, Margate & Moonfish

Productive Lakes, Rivers and Bays

  • Lake Okeechobee – Bass fish. Indian River-Sea trout
  • St. Lucie River both north & south forks of the river, snook and bass
  • Savannahs – Jensen Beach area, bass.
  • Fresh water – reaches-C-23, C-24, and St. Lucie Canal.
  • Indian River – also for wading in grass beds for fish.

Fishable Bridges And Piers

  • Jensen Beach Causeway – Indian River
  • Stuart Bridges on A1A.
  • Evans Crary Bridge
  • St. Lucie River/Ernie Lyons Bridge
  • Roosevelt Bridge – US 1 north of Stuart
  • Palm City Bridge – St. Lucie River on Martin Downs Blvd.

Surf Casting Hutchinson Island – A1A, whole island

Important links and tournament information:

Dr. Grant Gilmore quote: http://floridasportfishing.com/sweet-poison/

1949 Palm Beach Times article: http://www.stuartsailfishclub.com/about_history.php

Tournament info:

Sidebar info: http://www.stuartmartinchamber.org/fishing_and_hunting.asp

License and Regulations information: http://myfwc.com/Fishing/Index.htm.

The latest fishing report: http://www.stuartmartinchamber.org/fishing_report