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.