The Natural Treasures of Martin County

The Natural Treasures of Martin County
By Kevin Mims

We’ve all heard the alluring tales of Spanish escudos and pieces-of-eight being pulled up from the shallow waters all along Florida’s Treasure Coast, spilled from the wrecks of galleons long ago.

It’s true, this area is a gold mine – literally – and people today still find the occasional coin and other riches while hunting along the beach.

But not all treasure comes in the form of silver and gold. In Martin County, you’ll find a vast array of natural activities to be had – perfect for a spring or summer getaway.

Turtle Walks and Nature Talks

Each year, thousands of sea turtles come ashore at Hobe Sound National Wildlife Refuge, where the pristine beach and low light provide a safe haven during the nesting season. Starting in May and running until mid-July, nighttime sea turtle walks are conducted by guides from the Hobe Sound Nature Center, a non-profit organization located on the Hobe Sound National Wildlife property.

At Barley Barber Swamp, guided tours offer visitors a look into an old-growth cypress ecosystem that’s perfect for wildlife watching, photography and birding. This naturalist’s dream also showcases one of the largest Bald Cypress trees in the southeastern United States – it’s estimated between 700 and 1,000 years old and measures a jaw-dropping 88 feet in height and 33 feet around. Tours are free, but require registration.

Each year, thousands of sea turtles come ashore at Hobe Sound National Wildlife Refuge, where the pristine beach and lack of light provides a safe haven during the nesting season.

 Get a look into a coastal ecosystem at the Florida Oceanographic Society’s 57-acre nature center on Hutchinson Island. Take a walk through a coastal hardwood hammock or mangrove swamp on the center’s nature trails (guided tours are available, too) or check out the 750,000-gallon lagoon (where educational programs about stingray, sea turtle and other wildlife are held daily.)

Snorkeling and Sailing

Grab your mask and fins and head to the newly restored Bathtub Reef Beach – a unique, shallow lagoon edged with a living reef is just steps from the sand.

It’s the perfect place for both new and seasoned snorkelers alike, where in minutes you’ll be floating above the rocky reef. Great water clarity gives the opportunity to see plenty of tropical fish and other marine life.

Sail the seas aboard the Lily, a traditional wooden sailboat on your choice of three tours that last about two hours. The Lily is available for private charters, and can accommodate up to 42 people. Tours depart from the Stuart Riverwalk Pier. Use the rest of your day to explore the shops, restaurants, and cultural attractions in historic downtown Stuart.

Stay a While

Believe me, one day in Martin County isn’t enough – take some time and plan a weekend visit (or longer, if so inclined). There’s plenty of resort-style hotels, quaint cottages and cozy campsites with spring and summer specials. Stay near downtown Stuart, and you’ll catch live music during the Riverwalk Jazz Series and the Rockin’ Riverwalk Series through May, and don’t miss the Stuart Green Market that takes place every Sunday morning at City Hall.


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