Return to the Palm Beaches
Attractive nonstop flights into Fort Lauderdale (FLL) and Miami (MIA) have made Southeast Florida a top destination for Canadian snowbirds. Now that Air Canada also flies nonstop from Toronto to the region’s northernmost airport, PBI (Palm Beach International), it’s time to spotlight lesser-known destinations lying just north of the fabled Gold Coast.
Here you’ll find the same Atlantic beaches, sparkling seas and swashbuckling history. The counties to the north of PBI, Martin and St. Lucie, are known as the Treasure Coast because of the coins and artifacts that have forever washed ashore here from a Spanish treasure fleet that sank in a hurricane in 1715.
Looking north instead of south you’ll find less crowding, smaller hotels, plentiful condos and extended stay suites for under $60 nightly. Yet there is no loss of holiday fun. Watersports range from reef and wreck scuba diving to sailing and sportfishing. The sheltered waters of the Intrarcoastal Waterway invite kayaking, canoeing, paddleboarding and fishing. Uncrowded ocean beaches rim the region. State parks offer camping, hikes, wildlife and much more.
Here is just a sampling of things to do and see from West Palm Beach northward to Stuart.
Blowing Rocks Preserve. A bold stretch of towering limestone is said to be the longest span of rocky shoreline on the Florida coast. Powerful combers crash ashore here, exploding in dramatic sprays through holes in the rocks. Hike here any day or take a guided hike on Sundays at 11 a.m.
House of Refuge, Hutchinson Island, is the last of a string of 10 lifesaving stations that were built on Florida coasts early in the 20th century. Valiant surfmen went out to rescue shipwreck victims and brought them to shelters in what was otherwise a wilderness. See relics of maritime history, dive on a 1904 wreck, tour the keeper’s quarters and view a display of Ais Indian artifacts. .
John D. MacArthur State Park, North Palm Beach is on a barrier island alive with bird life and washed by Atlantic surf. Rent a kayak. Take a nature hike on your own or with a guide. Fish in the surf, swim in the ocean, spread a picnic. Many park features are handicap accessible and fat-tire beach wheelchairs can be rented.
Jonathan Dickinson State Park, Hobe Sound, offers camping in RVs and tents, rustic cabin rentals, swimming in the Loxahatchee River, ranger-led activities, picnic tables, fishing and trails for hiking, horseback riding and bicycling, Don’t miss Trapper Nelson’s cabin. A real life hermit lived a subsistence life here as late as the 1960s.
Jupiter Beach Resort and Spa is a luxury hotel on the Atlantic and the home of Sinclair’s, said to be Jupiter’s only oceanfront restaurant. Tennis courts, dining options, hot tubs, a wide beach, large swimming pool and a full-service spa are on the site.
The location is ideal for golfers who have easy access to more than a dozen golf courses from Palm Beach to Stuart.
Jupiter Inlet Lighthouse and Museum is a dazzling, brick-red landmark favoured by painters, photographers and history buffs. (A good vantage point is DuBois Park on the opposite side of the Inlet.) Built in 1860, it’s surrounded by outbuildings including restored lighthouse keepers’ quarters. Tour them all, then climb to the top of the tower for a stunning view of land and sea.
Loggerhead Marinelife Center has displays and a treatment centre for sea turtles, which lay their eggs on this coast March through October. See exhibits, meet live turtles that are being rehabilitated and watch as patients undergo surgery.
Throughout the winter a free, four-week Science for Seniors series is held on Tuesdays at 2 p.m.
Stuart historic downtown, once a main street lined with butchers and greengrocers, is now a place to have a gourmet meal, stroll the boardwalk along the St. Lucie River and shop galleries and boutiques. See the 500-seat Lyric Theater, built in the 1920s to show silent movies. Plays and concerts are scheduled regularly.