Experience ‘Old Florida’ at rustic rodeos and one-of-a-kind museums in the charming seaside town of Martin County.
Located on the Treasure Coast of South Florida, Martin County holds a privileged spot nestled between Orlando and Miami. Often flying under the radar, this slice of paradise features over 100,000 acres of parks and conservation lands and more than 22 miles of uncrowded beaches, and is only two hours’ driving time from four international airports: Palm Beach, Ft. Lauderdale, Miami, and Orlando.
The Martin Grade Scenic Highway
This historic road is straight out of a fairytale. While most roads in South Florida are lined with swaying palm trees, ‘The Grade’ (as it’s known by locals) is completely shaded by an intertwined canopy of century-old oak trees, forming a verdant tunnel flanked by massive gnarled tree trunks and exposed roots. During the day, beams of golden sunlight burst through any gaps in the foliage overhead, creating a dreamy effect for road trippers and locals alike.
Blowing Rocks Preserve
The Blowing Rocks Preserve was named for its rocky Anastasia limestone shoreline—the largest on the Atlantic coast. During extreme high tides and after winter storms, seas break against the rocks and force plumes of saltwater up to 50 feet skyward. It’s unlike any place on the US eastern coast, and a far cry from the stereotypical South Florida beaches. It also often ranks among the best beaches and most unique spots in Florida and just celebrated its 50th anniversary.
House of Refuge
The oldest structure in Martin County and the only remaining building out of the 10 original houses of refuge that once dotted Florida’s treacherous eastern coast. Built to serve as safe havens for shipwrecked travellers, they are now managed by the Historical Society of Martin County. Now home to a museum, it has been restored to showcase historical lifesaving equipment and the Keeper’s living quarters as they were in 1904, full of authentic artifacts and colorful tales from a bygone era.
Hobe Sound Nature Center
This private, non-profit organisation is dedicated to environmental awareness and education. Throughout the year, the center offers family-friendly free programs including Night Explorers, Beach Dynamics and weekly naturalist hikes along the trails. A popular summertime program is its night time ‘sea turtle walks’, held from late May to July. The walks begin with a presentation in the Center’s classroom and end with a visit to the Hobe Sound Public Beach to witness the egg-laying of the threatened loggerhead sea turtle. Field trips, arts and crafts, interpretive programmes, hands-on experiences, and other activities enable visitors to learn more about Florida’s wildlife and what they can do to protect it.
Indian Riverside Park
Indian Riverside Park is the premier family destination park in Martin County. Located in Jensen Beach, it sits beach side on the Indian River Lagoon, with a walking path, fishing pier, play fountain, a beach, pavilions, and a banquet space. You can also take in a tour of the Mansion at Tuckahoe or Captain Henry Sewall’s Home. It is also home to The Children’s Museum of the Treasure Coast. Special programming days offered by the Museum are extremely popular with adults and children alike. Some of the most popular exhibits include the beach-themed toddler play area; the outdoor playground area; the Pirate Ship; and the Butterfly Garden.
Florida Oceanographic Coastal Center
Situated between the Atlantic Ocean and the Indian River Lagoon, the centre houses the Society’s headquarters, nature trails, 750,000-gallon Game Fish Lagoon, Sea Turtle Pavilion, Children’s Activity Pavilion, Sea Star Touch Tank Pavilion, and the Frances Langford Visitors Center. With its coastal hardwood hammocks and mangrove swamp communities, the site provides excellent opportunities for education and research aimed at increasing visitors’ knowledge of these unique environments. Visitors can pet a stingray at the Rays on the Reef Ray Pavilion.
Jonathan Dickinson State Park
This incredible park teems with wildlife in 13 natural habitats including sand pine, scrub pine, flatwoods, mangroves and river swamps. 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. There’s both paved and off-road biking, equestrian activities and hiking trails. For water sports enthusiasts, there’s boating, canoeing and kayaking, or freshwater fishing along the riverbank or from a boat.
Halpatiokee Regional Park
‘Halpatiokee’ is the Seminole Indian word meaning ‘Alligator Water’. The largest park in Martin County, Halptiokee boasts 65 acres of active park land surrounded by 470 acres of wetland preserve area. Many sporting activities occur here on the football fields, tennis courts, baseball fields and an open-air roller-hockey rink. Bring your camera to catch wildlife along the many hiking trails and over seven miles of mountain biking trails. Bring your own kayak or canoe, or rent one, to explore the South Fork of the St. Lucie River.
Scenic Blueway Trail
The newly minted Scenic Blueway Trail is an ideal activity for water-lovers of all ages. The Martin County paddling trails span almost 38 miles over two river systems: the Indian River Lagoon stretching between Jensen Beach and Hobe Sound, and St. Lucie River, extending from the Halpatiokee area to sites near toward the St. Lucie Inlet. Just find one of the eight public launch or stopover sites to experience it for yourself.
Georges Valentine Shipwreck
In October 1904, the iron-hulled Georges Valentine encountered a storm while en route to Buenos Aires and eventually sank, leaving only seven survivors. On July 19, 2006, the Georges Valentine Shipwreck Site was added to the U.S. National Register of Historic Places, and on October 16, 2006, it became the 11th addition to the 12 current listings of the Florida Underwater Archaeological Preserve. Marine life abounds on the wreck of Georges Valentine, including snook, sheepshead, margate, angelfish, kingfish, shiners, shark, moray eels, stingrays, lobster, crab, puffer, trigger, parrotfish, wrasse, snapper, and various species of soft corals. It’s also a popular dive and snorkel site because she rests in shallow water, only 100 yards offshore.