(This article was first published on Billyytz website)

Pirates, privateers and treasure ships roamed the coast of Eastern Florida over 300 years ago. In 1715 a hurricane sank a Spanish treasure fleet loaded with gold coins, jewels, and artifacts. The name, Treasure Coast, wasn’t coined until 1961 when salvagers began recovering lost treasure off the coast.   
 
On the Atlantic Shore lies the laid-back Treasure Coast of Florida, including Vero Beach, St. Lucie, and Martin County. The area is culturally vibrant yet maintains a laid-back lifestyle, with unspoiled beaches, boating, and fishing. It’s a big contrast to the fast-paced Gold Coast (Palm Beach – Miami) to the south and cosmopolitan Orlando – Disneyland in the North.   It’s a wonder that more people aren’t flocking to this paradise.

Club Med Sandpiper

St Lucie County

St Lucie, on the Treasure Coast, is known as the “sailfish” capital of the world; whether you’re fishing or sightseeing, your best bet is from the water- by boat, canoe or motorized kayak. Explore Florida’s Indian River Lagoon and the St. Lucie River Estuary System in a (battery powered) motorized kayak. Husband and wife team Bill and Cathy Gibson, owners of Motorized Kayak Adventures, are passionate naturalists and provide personalized tours where you learn about the extraordinary ecosystem populated by mangroves, osprey, kingfishers, herons, fish and alligators. Energetic kayakers can use paddles if they so choose.

For a change of pace explore the pristine beaches by horseback.  The Hayes family has been offering “Beach tours on Horseback” since 1994.  Riders mount up, assisted by Tammy and Sabrina Hayes, in Frederick Douglas Park, and are led down to the beach for a blissful hour-long ride on a heavenly expanse of shoreline. It’s one of the few stables in the state that are allowed horseback beach tours; take advantage of this experience any time of the year.  

Looking for an all-inclusive experience, then look no further than Club Med Sandpiper. They’re the only Club Med all-inclusive resort in the U.S. providing a perfect getaway for families wanting an active holiday.  This newly renovated sports resort stretches along the St. Lucie River and has some of best professional instructors for tennis, golf (18-hole), volleyball and fitness. 

Sandpiper Club Med Flying Trapeze School
Sandpiper Club Med Flying Trapeze School

They also have a Flying Trapeze and Circus School with professional supervision.  If you’d rather just laze by the pool, 3 pools to choose from, or go sailing, that’s another option.  There are multiple restaurants on the resort and not one of them disappoints in menu choices.  Breakfast is served with freshly baked bread and croissants; grilled steak and fresh seafood are options at dinner.  If you’re so inclined, there’s “L’Occitane” spa on the property, for some personal pampering.  Accommodation choices are plentiful depending on your budget. This is a true family resort with programs for kids of all ages including childcare and a teen program. 

Where to Eat

On the Edge Bar & Grill:  In-side or out-side dining available, excellent seafood menu.  Try the fresh fish tacos or grouper sandwich. 1136 Seaway Dr, Fort Pierce, FL

Captain’s Gallery:  Known for one of the best breakfasts.  Try Pecan pancakes, Eggs Benedict and mouthwatering Biscuits.  825 N Indian River Dr Fort Pierce, FL

Vero Beach (Indian River County)

The morning sun reflecting off the surface of the lake gives the cypress trees a bluish glow, hence the name of the lake – Blue Cypress Lake. Located 20 miles west of Vero Beach, this is a fisherman’s paradise, best known for largemouth bass, with some of the cleanest water in Florida. Of course, fish attract the fish eaters – so there are lots of hawks, eagles, and osprey to spot. One of the best ways to tour the lake is by airboat with Captain John, Florida Air Boat Excursions.

Treasure Coast Florida Blue Cypress Lake

The McLarty Treasure Museum is an absolute must for history buffs. On display are many artifacts, naval equipment, gold and silver coins, iron, glass and pottery all retrieved from wreck over the years. 

Book a cruise with “The Moonraker” a 40-foot luxury catamaran owned and operated by Captain Bruce Jackson.   Captain Bruce has the only charter cruise boat in Vero Beach and he knows the best spots for swimming, wildlife and sunset dining. Touring the Indian River Lagoon, you might spot dolphins, manatees and a variety of birds.  Bring your own drinks and food to fully enjoy this experience. 

Art lovers are well rewarded by a visit to the Vero Beach Museum of Art.   This is a permanent collection of over 800 works, primarily American, from the early twentieth century, to the present. They feature a broad range of art including glass, paintings, photography, sculptures and video.  It’s well worth a visit.

Treasure Coast Florida - Jumbo Lump Crab Cake, Ocean Grill
Jumbo Lump Crab Cake, Ocean Grill

Where to Eat

The Ocean Grill: A popular dining spot famous for its seafood entrees and steak offerings.  Try the jumbo lump crab cake and a slice of Key Lime pie for desert. 1050 Sexton Plaza, Vero Beach, Florida

Capt. Hiram’s Resort: It’s a riverfront hotel, live music, full service-marina, riverboat tours and fresh-caught seafood.  Try the Triple Trouble Tacos and Conch Fritters.  1580 US Highway 1 Sebastian, Florida

Mulligan’s:  Perfect location to enjoy a beachside breakfast.   Try the French toast with a variety of toppings. 1025 Beachland Boulevard, Vero Beach, FL

Martin County 

One of Martin counties gems is the lovely town of Stuart, voted America’s most beautiful city in 2008 and ‘Coastal Living’s’ Happiest Seaside Town in America. The historic downtown area has over 50 locally owned stores including art galleries, antique shops and boutiques; what it doesn’t have is a fast-food restaurant or a building over 4 stories high.  

Named after Barley Barber, who lived in the area at the turn of the 20th century, this 450-acre swamp was once a Bald Cypress forest and a waterway in the Everglades watershed. Today it’s one of the remaining old growth cypress communities in the US.  It’s an environmental treasure, teaming with plant and wildlife.   As you enter the swamp you may see an Alligator or two.  Three bald eagles call the swamp home; you might see one perched high on a pole.  Free-guided tours are offered along a 5,800 foot closed-loop boardwalk, reservations are required.  

Treasure Coast Florida Bald Cypress Forest

If you’re traveling with your family, the Florida Oceanographic Center provides a great educational experience for everyone.  The kids can feed and pat the rays, walk nature trails and learn how oyster shells are being recycled. They have a large saltwater lagoon filled with sharks, a turtle sanctuary and game fish.

The House of Refuge in Stuart is the last of its kind, now a Museum. These houses were havens for shipwreck survivors run by the United States Lifesaving Service.  At one time there were 10 such places along the Florida’s Atlantic coastline. The building now showcases historical lifesaving equipment and the Keepers living quarters, just as they were in 1904.  Located on Hutchinson Island in Stuart it offers spectacular views of both the Atlantic Ocean and Jensen Beach to Jupiter Inlet Aquatic Preserve.   

Once called the “Pineapple Capital of the World” (they still hold an annual Pineapple Festival) Jensen Beach is all ‘old-Florida-charm’ and magnificent beaches – it’s rated the “top Spot for Beach Volleyball”.  Designated areas – “Sea Turtle Beach” – are barricaded to protect the nests of loggerhead, leatherback and green sea turtles. They have a strong art culture; every Thursday the town comes alive with craft vendors, live music and other entertainment. From 6: to 10: p.m., on Jensen Beach Boulevard.

Where to Eat

Seminole Inn: enjoy a traditional southern lunch at this Inn run by Manager Jonnie Flewelling and her family.  Menu includes Southern fried chicken, Okra, collard-greens, fried green tomatoes & tomato gravy. The fried chicken family recipe is passed down to each generation.  They have also partnered with the Barley Barker Swamp tours so it’s a perfect spot to cool off after the visit or stay overnight.  15885 SW Warfield Blvd. Indiantown, FL.  

Spotos Oyster Bar: Like the name says oysters – very popular on the half shell – along with other seafood dishes. 131 SW Flagler Avenue, Stuart, FL.

Kona Beach Café: Cool Hawaiian beach vibe, live music and excellent drinks along with some of the best burgers available, at this fun establishment.  3340 NE Pineapple Ave, Jensen Beach, FL

If you go:

The Treasure Coast Florida is accessible by Melbourne, Orlando, and Palm Beach airports.

Where to Stay:

Hampton Inn:  Centrally located with comfortable rooms. Not far from beaches, historical landmarks, arts and entertainment. Eat-in-breakfast or breakfast-to-go is on offer for the busy traveler and business guest.  Two locations:  Stuart – 150 NW Federal Hwy, Stuart and Vero Beach – 9350 19th Lane. 

Costa d’Este Resort: An upscale resort owned by Gloria and Emilio Estefan.  Good access to Vero Beach and surfing waves.

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