48 Hours on Florida’s Hutchinson Island
Our list of things to do for a weekend on this barrier island on Florida’s Treasure Coast runs the gamut from rock and roll to exploring underwater shipwrecks.
Uncrowded beaches, a sprinkling of on-the-water adventures, and some visits to what Coastal Living dubbed “America’s Happiest Seaside Town” in 2016 – welcome to your things to do during a two-night stay at either Hutchinson Shores Resort & Spa or The Lucie.
Surf, Sand & Sun
The primary attraction for your two-day visit stands right in front of you when you draw the shades in the morning: miles of white sand beach. At some point, though, your book or sunbathing may need to come to its end. On the water, the options range from snorkeling the shallow reefs at nearby Bathtub Beach, coastal eco tours by kayak or standup paddleboard, and beach tours on horseback. Because the area is known as the “Sailfish Capital of the World,” we’d also recommend a fishing charter to anyone looking to try their hand at reeling in the mighty sportfish.
At the Elliott Museum in Stuart, the exhibits are diverse (and eclectic) enough to attract and engage every sort of visitor. Alongside collections of classic cars, trucks, bicycles, and boats, you’ll find exhibits that showcase a variety of art, a tribute to actress Frances Langford, and, perhaps most intriguing of all, a Foucault pendulum. For those with the required patience and time, watch the pendulum demonstrate the rotational movement of the Earth in front of your very eyes….or maybe check in twice, an hour apart.
Florida Oceanographic Society Coastal Science Center
Florida’s Oceanographic Society Coastal Center is situated between the Atlantic Ocean and the Indian River Lagoon. The Coastal Center is home to the Florida Oceanographic Society’s headquarters, as well as nature trails, a 750,000-gallon Game Fish Lagoon, and the Frances Langford Visitor’s Center. The 57-acre parcel that encompasses the Coastal Center incubates research projects, as well as providing education geared towards helping visitors appreciate and learn more about the unique habitat. Guided nature walks are available, or just wander the one-mile loop on your own. Try your hand at feeding stingrays and gamefish, or visit with the resident sea turtles at the Sea Turtle Pavilion.
Every Sunday, a free, open-air concert draws locals and visitors alike to the Riverwalk Stage in Stuart. Enjoy live music and vendors, all while overlooking the Atlantic Ocean. From rock and roll to reggae to Americana, you’ll find a diverse lineup of performers on the stage and a friendly crowd.
House of Refuge Shipwreck Diving
For those who are drawn to the nostalgic romance of lighthouses, a visit to the House of Refuge at Gilbert’s Bar is a must-see on the list of things to do on Hutchinson Island. Originally built by the US Life-Saving Service in 1876, 10 of these life-saving stations were scattered across Florida’s Atlantic coast. Staffed by keepers who were tasked with searching for survivors of shipwrecks, the Houses of Refuge took in injured and stranded sailors, nursed them back to health, and sent them home. Included in the list of rescued sailors were seven from Georges Valentine, a ship sailing from South America that went down just 100 yards offshore. At the House of Refuge, visitors can see the exhibit on the wreck, but for a more up-close-and-personal look, dive the wreck, listed as a Florida Underwater Archeological Preserve.
Mel Fisher’s Treasure Museum
If you’ve gotten your fill of the beaches, and you’ve explored the quaint Stuart downtown to your heart’s content, it might be time for a quick day trip to Sebastian, an hour north of Hutchinson Island, in search of some treasure. Mel Fisher, a world-famous treasure hunter, spent years scouring the Atlantic sea floor in search of sunken wrecks. In 1985, he discovered the remains of the Nuestra Senora de Atocha, a ship that set sail with her sister ship, the Santa Margarita, in 1622. Loaded with a cargo of 40 tons of gold, silver, and copper bullion, the two ships sank and left no trace until Fisher uncovered the Atocha. What he found remains the largest discovery of treasure in salvaging history, from both an archeological and financial standpoint. At the Treasure Museum in Sebastian, guests can see jewel-laden crosses, necklaces, solid gold pieces, and even hold one of the historic gold bars from the shipwreck.