Ghost tours to swamp tromps, sailing to ceramics–choose your own adventure and make memories to last in this South Florida vacay getaway
Girls just want to have fun and that’s easy to do in Martin County, Florida, an easy-to-get-to-area, encompassing the communities of Port Salerno, Stuart, Palm City, Jensen Beach, Indiantown, Jupiter Island, Hobe Sound and Hutchinson Island. This South Florida escape offers beautiful beaches and 77 parks–not to mention the most bio-diverse lagoon ecosystem in the Northern Hemisphere–all within two hours or less driving time of four international airports: Palm Beach, Ft. Lauderdale, Miami and Orlando. Try these top picks for a girlfriend get away like none other.
What to do
Indulge your inner artist alongside internationally known artists in classes focused on topics like painting, sculpting and fabric dying. The Fish House Art Center is “home” to eight resident artists’ studios that include a ceramicist, four fine art painters, a fiber artist who creates hand-dyed wearable art, a weaver and a lampwork beaded jewelry artist. The resident artists work in their studios year round. The public is welcome to watch them work and purchase their creations. Jensen Beach also offers numerous artist cottages. Classes are offered at Clay Space and Aya Fiber Studio. For a creative take on cocktail hour, Danuta Studio offers weekend Sip-n-Paint sessions. Fish House Art Center (4745 SE Desoto Ave, Stuart; www.FishHouseArtCenter.com)
Shop Hobe Sound, Jensen, Stuart and Sewall’s Point for unique boutiques, from upscale to shabby chic. (DiscoverMartin.com/see-do/shopping)
Gather the girls for a surfing lesson or take a guided SUP tour, offered through many area outfitters.
Zeke’s Surf, Skate and Paddleboarding Tours (205 SW Federal Hwy, Stuart; www.ZekesSurfandPaddle.com)
Ohana Surf Shop ( 652 NE Ocean Blvd., Stuart; www.OhanaSurfShop.com)
Learn to Sail at the U.S. Sailing Center of Martin County, a small boat community sailing center offering sailing for the experienced sailor to the beginner wanting to learn. The USSCMC is continually offering sailing instruction, sailboat rides, membership, recreational and racing opportunities for all ages. U.S. Sailing Center (1955 NE Indian River Dr., Jensen Beach; www.usscmc.org)
Rent equipment and kayak on the numerous picturesque waterways throughout Martin County. Treasure Coast Paddle and Watersports (555 NE Ocean Blvd., Hutchinson Island; www.TCPaddleWatersports.com)
Get out and enjoy nature with a hike at venues that offer everything from an easy one-mile stroll to more challenging paths. (DiscoverMartin.com/7-must-hikes-martin-county)
Catch dinner–book a fishing trip. If you are staying at a location with a kitchen, friendly captains will clean your catch so it is ready to bring back. Or, even better, captains can direct you to one of the many restaurants that will cook your catch for you. The Fighting Lady Sportfishing Charters (555 NE Ocean Blvd., Stuart; FightingLadyFishingCharters.com)
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. Individual tours are by reservation and must be booked in advance. Tours are available Wednesday through Sunday at 8:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. Buses depart from the Seminole Inn. Barley Barber Swamp Tour (15885 SW Warfield Blvd., Indiantown; www.BarleyBarber.org)
Get spooked with a ghost tour. Embark on a night of history, spirits, ancient legends and fun with guides who use the same instruments featured on TV shows like Ghost Hunters and Ghost Adventures. Ghost Tour in Salerno (4745 SE Desoto Ave, Stuart; www.Facebook.com/portsalernoghosttours)
Where to eat
Farm-to-table and locally sourced restaurants can be found throughout the area.
Go natural at Basin Seafood & Fresh Fish Market, owned by Donald Plant, formerly a commercial fisherman in New Jersey. The Basin Fresh Fish Market offers wild shrimp, Maine lobsters, Florida lobster tails, king crab, fresh sea and bay scallops, northern steamers and clams–just to name a few treats on the extensive menu. (4150 SE Salerno Rd, Stuart; www.BasinSeafoodStuart.com)
Shop local at The Stuart Green Market, 9 a.m.-1 p.m., Sundays, where local produce growers, artisans, cooks, entrepreneurs and other creative artisans showcase their talents to the community, providing fresh, unique offerings that exist nowhere else. The Green Market’s vendors sell fresh food, homemade jewelry and tropical apparel, among other items. (City Hall Parking Lot 121 S.W. Flagler Ave, Stuart; www.StuartGreenMarket.org)
The Seminole Inn, founded in January 1926, was part of the railroad movement to bring food and fish to the northeast. Now, people from all over travel to the Seminole Inn for its famous brunch. (15885 SW Warfield Blvd, Indiantown; www.SeminoleInn.com)
Where to stay
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. For an escape to a tropical oasis, try the pet-friendly River Palms Cottages and Fish Camp. Or, choose from one-of-a-kind boutique properties such as the Old Colorado Inn, the Historic Seminole Inn and Pirates Cove Resort and Marina.
For a real luxury trip, escape to the new Hutchinson Shores Resort and Spa in Jensen Beach, the Treasure Coast of Florida’s new premier resort for family vacations, meetings, corporate retreats, oceanfront weddings and spa getaways. Enjoy 178-rooms of oceanfront accommodations with coastal-inspired decor and luxury amenities steps from the sand on Florida’s East Coast. The first new resort to be built on Hutchinson Island in almost two decades, the new resort will feature an oceanfront restaurant, two pools, a Jacuzzi, a signature spa, 8,000 square feet of oceanfront meeting space and a spectacular beachfront location perfect for soaking up the sun, cooling off in the surf and sinking your toes in the sand.
Smaller bed and breakfast properties and independently rented villages and cottages make it easy to find lodging for any sized group and on any budget. (www.DiscoverMartin.com/places-to-stay/uniquely-florida)
Did you know?
Set the scene for memory-making in Martin County where building restrictions have limited structures to four stories, preserving breathtaking views throughout the county, yielding Old Florida charm accented with Key West style. Stuart, the county seat, was recently named one of the “Happiest Seaside Towns” by Coastal Living and ranked #3 in the “2015 Annual Best Small Towns to Visit” guide by Smithsonian Magazine. Only in Your State ranked Stuart as one of the “8 Most Beautiful, Charming Small Towns In Florida” and the area was also ranked #9 by House Beautiful on its “The 50 Most Beautiful Small Towns in America” list.