Martin County consists of delightful Stuart, and several other small towns such as Hobe Sound, Port Salerno, and Hutchinson Island. It’s outside of the major tourist destinations, e.g. Miami, the Keys, or Orlando, and offers visitors more of an authentic Florida experience. There are lots of things to do in Martin County in Florida!
Martin County can be found on the stretch of Florida’s Atlantic Coast known as the Treasure Coast. This small county, ideally located almost halfway between Orlando and Miami, is a treasure trove of beautiful beaches, outdoor activities, great restaurants, museums, and educational activities.
Martin County at a Glance
- Founded: May 30, 1925
- Population: 161,000
- Area: 753 sq miles
- County seat: Stuart
- Colleges: Florida Institute of Technology, Hobe Sound Bible College
As usual, our preference is usually outdoor activities, so most (but not all) of our favorites below involve being outside.
10 Hobe Sound
In the coastal community of Hobe Sound, it’s all about street art. Scattered throughout the downtown area are 21 large-scale murals, each with a different theme and colors.
Launched by professional artist Nadia Utto in 2009, this creative “paint-the-town” collaboration has led to the creation of masterpieces by more than 50 local artisans and hobbyists assisted by 100 local residents. Each mural features hidden aspects so make sure to keep your eyes peeled for the hidden gems! Be sure to pick up a Hobe Sound brochure to find each of the Hobe Sound Murals, each with a hidden secret.
9 Bowl Vibrational Healing
If you encounter a rainy day or sunburn during your stay in Martin County, or just want something different to do, try the Sound Vibrational Healing Session located in the Elliott Museum on Hutchinson Island conducted by Deena Rahill.
The “sound bath” has been used in ancient cultures for thousands of years around the world to ease anxiety, stress, depression, and to promote balance and a sense of well-being. Crystal “singing” bowls are used to create pulsating sounds to induce brain waves into a focused, relaxed state.
I was a bit skeptical at first, but truth-be-told, not only was as relaxed as a noodle after my session, but my week-long headache ceased!
If you have additional time, the museum offers a variety of collections, including vintage cars, baseball artifacts, artwork, Americana, rotating exhibits, a theater, an art studio with classes, and more.
8 Food Walking Tour
Calling all foodies! Eat your way through the charming Old Town Stuart and the waterfront district with an engaging local guide who will regale you with Stuart’s rich history while sampling food from Stuart’s five most eclectic restaurants.
History includes a ruthless pirate, Stuart’s own Bonnie and Clyde, the Lyric Theatre, and a speakeasy.
The Flavor Excursion Tour starts at Stuart Coffee Company, Riverwalk Oyster Bar, Gilberts Coffee Bar, Café Martier, and ends at Signature Sweets. Highlights include a tasty yet nutritious frozen breakfast treat, the freshest local seafood, hearty soup, a seasonal treat, and more.
The tour is approximately two miles and takes around three hours.
7 Port Salerno
Port Salerno is a small, eclectic historic fishing village on the waterfront, lined with colorful bistros serving locally-caught seafood, local artist galleries, and souvenir shops. The port is also a working waterfront, providing fresh seafood to local restaurants. Manatee Park in the village in the winter months hosts Manatees who seek the warm water in the cove. Port Salerno is a great place to spend a few hours!
6 Sunset Cruise
Enjoy an amazing evening sail on board the Schooner Lily, a historic sailboat with a hull made entirely out of wood and three large sails, once used as a working cargo boat to haul cargo in the northeast.
Bring your own snacks and drinks as you cruise down the St. Lucie River watching the sun sink into the horizon. As the captain hoists the sails, he also tells you more about the history of the schooner.
5 Water Bike
This was our favorite outdoor activity! We were treated to a private tour of the Manatee Pocket intercostal waterway in Port Salerno by WATER BIKE (provided by Treasure Coast Water Bikes). The contraption is a bicycle hoisted up on two floating pontoons. The bike peddles are attached to underwater propellers that activate the mechanisms. We loved it! It’s easy to do and a fun way to take in the outdoors.
Our guide, Danny Robitaille of Liquid Aloha Paddle Sports led us in and out of the canals, passing stunning scenery in the harbor, ecosystems, and beautiful private homes.
4 Historic Stuart
Founded in 1870, Stuart was voted the Happiest Seaside Town in America by Coastal Living Magazine. It is the capital of Martin County and the best base to explore the rest of the county. One of the best things to do here is simply strolling around the colorful, historic Old Town, filled with brightly painted houses and quirky shops. The historic city center is home to a network of galleries, antique shops, boutique shopping, bistros, ice cream parlors, Sunday markets, and more.
The town hosts several parks and green spaces, and along with the setting along the St Lucie River, it’s no surprise that it’s a pedestrian-friendly place. While it’s easy and fun to explore downtown on foot, you can also discover the sights via the free trolley service operated by friendly and knowledgeable drivers providing sometimes humorous commentary about town and regional history, and get to see a few things you might have missed on your own.
3 Blowing Rocks Preserve
We explored coastal Blowing Rocks Preserve on a bright, sunny day. Blowing Rocks is the largest exposed outcropping of Anastasia rock on the Atlantic Coast. The stunning natural phenomenon is small limestone cliffs riddled with erosion holes. Breaking waves hit the rocks they creating a “blowing” spray into the air, which can reach up to 50 feet.
2 House of Refuge
The House of Refuge is not only one of Martin County’s quintessential attractions, but it’s also the county’s oldest structures. Originally, there were ten Houses of Refuge built along the east coast of Florida which operated as safe houses for shipwrecked sailors and other travelers. Today, the House of Refuge at Gilbert’s Bar on Hutchinson Island is the only surviving shipwreck life-saving station on Florida’s Atlantic Coast.
On the National Register of Historic Places, pay a visit to the museum to get a glimpse of what life was like in Martin County during the turn of the 20th Century and take in the stunning views.
1 Jensen Beach
If you’ve been reading my articles for any length of time, you no doubt know that the beach is my happy place, and will always top my list of top things to do, anywhere. And Martin County is a beach lover’s paradise, with more than 22 miles of uncrowded natural beaches just waiting to be explored. Jensen Beach, located on Hutchinson Island was my favorite in Martin County, and likely my favorite on the Atlantic Coast of Florida.
Jensen Beach was once dubbed the pineapple capital of the world. While pineapple hasn’t been grown here since 1920, it was once where the fruit was packed and shipped north on the railroad. If you visit in November you can attend the Pineapple Festival.
Where to Stay
I highly recommend the Old Colorado Inn in the heart of Historic Downtown Stuart. For history buffs, the charming boutique hotel is one of the oldest hotels in the area and has a fascinating history. Built in 1917, the Inn was recently and painstakingly restored.
In the main hotel, the rooms are big, bright, and cozy with a small kitchenette and luxury mattresses. The hallways are filled with historic black-and-white photos and newspaper clippings of the hotel and Stuart.
However, we did not stay in the main hotel… Just around the corner, the hotel property also includes four irresistibly adorable bungalows that back up to a private pool and hot tub area just for those guests. Our bungalow had an expansive open floor plan living/kitchen/dining area and one adjoining private bedroom. It was meticulously decorated and cozy.
Where to Eat
There is no shortage of eateries in Martin County, but these were our favorites:
Kyle G’s (Hutchinson Island)
If you like dinner with a view, there’s no better place than Kyle G’s. Set just feet from beautiful Jensen Beach, you can hear, smell, and almost feel the turquoise ocean spray from the back deck. The food at this fine dining establishment was delicious!
Twisted Tuna (Port Salerno)
The Twisted Tuna in Port Salerno serves up a variety of seafood dishes while offering a great view of the waterfront. In the evenings and on the weekends they feature live music, inside and out.
Luna is an authentic Italian bistro in the heart of downtown Stuart. We were intrigued by the long line of patrons at the take out window every time we walked by. Preferring to eat inside, the minute we opened the door, we knew why. We were hit with the mouth-watering aroma of the cuisine being prepared, and we were not disappointed with our lunch! In fact, we liked it so much, we did something we seldom do while traveling – we went back the next day for dinner!
The Hoffman (Jensen Beach)
We stumbled upon this one by accident and it delighted us! Located on the intercostal across from Hutchinson Island, this German restaurant served hearty, tasty food which we ate on the scenic waterfront deck.
Photo credit: Kary Kern
Disclaimer: The COVID pandemic has caused tourist activity openings to remain fluid. We recommend that you contact each activity or location in advance to see if they are open and/or entrance conditions meet with your approval.
Disclosure: The author was honored to be the guest of Discover Martin during her stay, but as always, the opinions, reviews, and experiences are her own.
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About the Author
Patti Morrow is a freelance travel writer and founder of the award-winning international blog Luggage and Lipstick and southern travel blog Gone to Carolinas. TripAdvisor called her one of “20 Baby Boomer Travel Bloggers Having More Fun Than Millennials.” Patti is the author of the book “Girls Go Solo: Tips for Women Traveling Alone,” and has over 150 bylines in 40 print and online publications, including The Huffington Post, International Living Magazine, Washington Post Sunday Travel, Travel Girl, Travel Play Live Magazine, and Ladies Home Journal. She has traveled six continents looking for fabulous places and adventure activities for her Baby Boomer (and Gen X!) tribe.