Welcome to Stuart, the sailfish capital of the world! Once the sight of pineapple plantations, Stuart today is thriving small town with history, the arts, a wide variety of sports, diverse restaurants and pubs, and eclectic shopping. It’s an excellent vacation destination. http://stuartmartinchamber.org/
Downtown has restaurants ranging from elegant sit down dinners to a takeout pizza window, ice cream shops, and sports bars. Shopping opportunities abound with boutiques offering clothing, antiques, home accessories, jewelry, and souvenirs. The Lyric Theater is the crown jewel! Built in 1926, it has been renovated and hosts a myriad of plays, concerts, dance, and standup comedy. http://www.lyrictheatre.com/ The Stuart Heritage Museum, housed in the old general store, is an undiscovered gem! And it's free! Crammed in the small rooms is the history of Stuart. Displays of the Seminoles who used to come into town to trade; a fishing corner recalling the heyday of early sport fishing; an ice cream parlor; and a recreation of a dry goods store in the early 1900s are some of what we saw. Our curator was a wealth of stories and anecdotes! We really enjoyed listening to him! His family has been in Florida since the 1800s, making him a true Florida native! Allow at least 15 minutes. A riverwalk gives the visitor a chance to stroll along the beautiful Indian River Lagoon. A fountain, murals, and green spaces are focal points. Flagler Park has picnic facilities, playground and shady areas. On a hot day, Mulligan's is a good choice for a rest and cold drink. The dÃ©cor is Florida beach house. http://mulligansrestaurant.net/ Also in town are the gazebo, band shell, Veteran's Memorial, and Courthouse Cultural Center. Some pretty old Florida homes are worth a look. Allow plenty of time to look around, and maybe enjoy a meal.
Once you’ve seen and enjoyed the town, you might want to head to Hutchinson Island. Elliot museum is a treasure! Named after inventor Sterling Elliot of Martin County, the museum offers glimpses into the history of the region. A baseball exhibit, Old General Store, Sport Fishing memorabilia, musical instruments, surfing display and antique car collection are some of what can be seen in this compact museum. Allow at least 30 minutes. Admission was $7 or $10 each for a combination ticket along with admission to Gilbert's Bar House of Refuge. We bought the combination ticket. http://www.elliottmuseumfl.org/
Stuart Beach is next door to the museum, so we went over. It's a wide, uncrowded, guarded beach, with snack bar, playground, showers, and restrooms. We each had a crab cake sandwich at the Chef Shack, which was really good! They offer a variety of beach foods, including burgers, cold sandwiches, and ice cream.
Next, we visited Gilbert's Bar House of Refuge. In the late 1880s, ten houses of refuge were built for shipwrecked sailors along the Atlantic Coast. This one was named for a brutal pirate who built fires to attract ships, and then attacked. He was eventually caught and hanged near Boston, Massachusetts. This house of refuge is the last one. It was used during WWII to look for German subs, and a lookout tower was built. Some Germans were caught coming ashore! In the pre-Columbian times, the Ais lived and fished here. In the early 1900s, bears were often seen swimming across Indian River Lagoon! Exhibits on the Ais, life saving and shipwrecks, and early pioneers are in the lower floor. The second floor depicts life for the keeper and his family. This site is full of history!
Practically next door is Bathtub Reef Beach, a family favorite on the Treasure Coast. The reef protects the beach, and during low tide, water is only knee high, warm and flat. There are lifeguards. An ideal place for little ones! Tiny tropical fish are often seen darted along the reef! The beach has been very recently restored and is open again! However, there are currently no showers or bathroom facilities. Chastain Beach, next door, does have them. We went snorkeling and did see some fish, rock formations, and plants. http://www.evsmartin.com/bathtub/
The St. Lucie Locks are interesting. The lock system allows boats to travel up and down the river, even though the water level varies. The locks can either raise or lower the level of water. A campground, park, butterfly garden, playground, and bath house on the riverbank are part of the complex. Adjacent is another, larger campground, Phipps Park. It has a playground and bath houses, and views of the St. Lucie River.
With all the waterways, a trip to Stuart wouldn't be complete without a water excursion, so we rented a canoe at South River Outfitter's on Lost Road. Lost River is a glimpse into Old Florida, with plants and wildlife. An alligator crossed our path! We saw lots of fish, including what looked like baby flounder floating on the surface! A turtle and birds were part of the sights. Lost river is only four miles long, so it is manageable even for novices. The river is beautiful! It was fun! Allow at least 90 minutes. For $36, you can stay out for ½ day. Take plenty of water and use sunscreen. www.southriveroutfitters.com
A very short distance away is Halpatiokee Park. A multi-use park, Halpatiokee had a lacrosse tournament going on, and softball games. Soccer, baseball, and other sports are played there. Picnic facilities, hiking/biking trails, and a playground add to the uses. A hockey arena is at the park, too.
On weekends, B & A Flea Market is a great place to find bargains, people watch, browse, or even get a haircut! We like to browse Nautical but Nice, which is open all week. Shells, home accessories, T shirts, and much more stock their shelves and bins. The flea market offers everything from beachwear to pet accessories to cosmetics to sunglasses to belts and purses. There are snack bars, so no need to hurry. http://www.bafleamarket.com/
By chance, we discovered a habitat restoration trail on Kanner Highway! Trees, wildflowers, saw palmettos and other plants made this fun! A boardwalk led to the shore of the St. Lucie River. Heavy rains, however, had turned some of the trail into ponds! The adventure was trying to go around the water, which at times was fairly deep and muddy. Who knew what could be at the bottom? The trail walk took about an hour. We made it! And rewarded ourselves with a trip to Charlie's, a local favorite, for a cold, refreshing drink! They have good food, too. The Swamp is their back porch patio. http://www.charliesbarandgrillstuart.com/
Another trip to Bathtub Beach for snorkeling! More fun in the sun! It was low tide, and we were able to swim to the second reef! Don't forget the sunscreen!
The Florida Oceanographic Society has a center on Hutchinson Island! With Visitor's Center, touch tanks, children's activities, hiking trails, and game fish lagoon, it's an entertaining and learning experience. Programs are offered throughout the day. Admission is $8 per adult, and $4 for children. Allow at least an hour. http://www.floridaoceanographic.org/hours.html
Allapatah Flats Wildlife Management Area, about 15 miles west of Stuart, has excellent hiking biking, horseback riding trails, fishing, hunting, and primitive camping. Views of wildlife such as sandhill cranes, wild turkey, and deer are excellent, too. http://myfwc.com/RECREATION/WMASites_Allapattah_index.htm (Photos by Beau Indovina)
This visit was drawing to an end, but we can return anytime! Bare Bones Grill and Brewery on U. S. 1 isn't a brewery any longer, but it does have very good food at very good prices. Happy Hour offers appetizers at half price! Excellent, since we only wanted a snack. Our server was friendly and fun. Many drinks are half price, too. A patio in the back is an oasis, with waterfall and shade. Maryland Crab Dip, steamed shrimp, and two beers came to $15 before tax and tip. http://barebonesflorida.com/
A visit to Golf World was our last stop of the day Golf World is fun for everyone, with batting cages, driving ranges, go-karts, mini golf, bounce houses, paintball, and more. There is even a kiddie go-kart track! While we were there, some teenagers were practicing their batting swing, and several people were practicing their golf swing. A snack bar has refreshments, and a party room is on the second floor. There are several pricing packages. You could spend all day! http://www.golfworld76.net/
Finally, we visited the Port Salerno area of Stuart. Originally settled by Italian immigrants and named for Salerno, Italy, it was renamed Port Salerno in 1960. It has a history of being a fishing village. People still come to fish. On our visit, we saw several restaurant and shops and two marinas. Tiny gardens were placed everywhere, giving a tropical, pastoral flavor. We had lunch at the Manatee Island Bar and Grill, in the Tiki Hut. Greg ordered the Buffalo Chicken Sandwich with handmade potato chips, and pronounced it delicious! MaryJo savored every bite of her Fresh Fruit and Cottage Cheese Plate with guava toast, although it was a bit too much to eat at one time. http://manateeislandbarandgrill.com/ A tiny park at the end of Cove Road was a place to swim in the lagoon or picnic. The water lapping at the shore created a peaceful feeling. http://www.livingtoday.tv/towns/port_salerno.htm Seabranch Park has a hiking trail and picnic facilities so visitors can appreciate the old Florida landscape. A variety of native wildlife and plants thrive here. Take your camera. There's no charge. Allow at least 30 minutes. http://www.stateparks.com/seabranch_preserve.html
Stuart is a treasure! From beaches to art galleries, history to hiking trails, fishing to the science center, Stuart has so much to offer!
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