Located in Martin County and on the Treasure Coast, Stuart is one of Florida’s East Coast’s most fantastic cities. Stuart is north of West Palm Beach and Jupiter and two hours southeast of Orlando. It is one place where we take friends and family when they visit and an excellent place to discover ecotourism. Stuart is a unique area in Florida with beaches and plenty of tourist attractions, but without the expensive price tag and huge crowds. Here are the best things to do in Stuart, FL, including where to stay, play, and eat on your trip.
Fun Fact: Stuart is the Sailfish Capital of the World and was voted “Happiest Seaside Town” by Coastal Living in 2016.
Where to Play
From unique beach and rock formations to a sprawling boardwalk offering epic views and room to roam, Stuart is a perfect place for a day trip.
For those who are museum-goers (raises hand!) or a fun rainy day activity, the Elliott Museum is a great place to sharpen your knowledge about the town and Florida, enjoy the exhibits and collections, and admire the classic cars. The Elliott Museum has over 100 vehicles on display throughout a three-story platform. A docent provides information about them and, with the push of a button, can automate whatever car you are interested in learning about to be brought front and center, then lowered to the first floor for a closer look. It’s a cool exhibit. I always enjoy the museum’s baseball collection, too.
A second noteworthy museum is small but mighty and unique in every way. The House of Refuge is one of ten houses built along the coastline to help save those from a shipwreck. Not only is House of Refuge, filled with lifesaving memorabilia and tools, the only one that remains of the ten, but it is also the oldest building in Martin County.
Outdoor Fun and Fishing
You can’t come to a coastal town and not check out the beaches. Bathtub Reef Beach is so spectacular that you might get the idea you are cruising Pacific Coast Highway and seeing the waves crashing against the picturesque rocks like in Big Sur. Bathtub Reef is absolutely gorgeous, with beauty as far as the eye can see and fewer crowds than the neighboring towns. The water is so blue that even the Caribbean doesn’t have anything on this beauty.
Next to it is Ross Witham Beach with free parking, a covered shelter and boardwalk that is handicap accessible and a beautiful beach that surfers love. The water at both is crystal clear and they are perfect for snorkeling and scuba diving as a coral reef is literally off the shore.
Experience outdoor opportunities (boat rentals, fishing charters, and ecotourism tours) and shoppingat the Fish House Art Center only five miles south of Downtown Stuart in a little fishing village called Port Salerno. You’ll see resident working artists’ studios and have the chance to shop their wares in this 3,000 square-foot gallery. You can cool off with a tasty ice cream cone from Twisted Craft & Creamery or even a glass of wine or craft beer.
Where to Play in Historic Downtown Stuart
Historic downtown is the part of Stuart that I love to park, stroll, browse, have a meal or snack, and shop till I drop. It offers locally-owned boutiques with upscale apparel, housewares, souvenirs, accessories, and lots more. Stuart’s locally-owned boutiques offer excellent shopping selection, and you’ll love the feel of strolling its historic and charming downtown streets. A few places I recommend browsing are:
- Rare Earth Gallery (local and regional glass, pottery, paintings, and other artwork)
- Gumbo Limbo Coastal Kidz and Coastal Chic (coastal inspired clothing, home decor, children’s apparel)
- O’ sole mo (island fashions, including Tommy Bahama and Vineyard Vines)
- Calico Trading Co.
If you continue to the riverfront, you can enjoy the Stuart Riverwalk’s picturesque views, which winds to Seminole Street and Flagler Park. Running parallel to the St. Lucie River, get in your steps for the day or partake in the stops along the way, such as Mulligans for a Bloody Mary or 21 oz. fun bowl drink. Back in historic downtown, consider Vine & Barley for a glass of vino or craft beer.
Since you are so close, you might as well ride over to Jensen Beach and see what all the rage is in that cool town.
Check online for performances at the Lyric Theatre if the arts are of interest to you. This local venue has been sharing musical and theater performances since 1926, when it was built as a silent movie house. A few acts coming soon are Steven Wright, Magic of Motown, Bruce Hornsby, and Spyro Gyra. You can also see downtown Stuart from the open-air tram, a free offering that makes sightseeing fun and easy. I like to ride the tram for photo opportunities.
Where to Eat in Stuart, FL
Stuart has an arsenal of fantastic eateries, which I’ve enjoyed noshing my way through. Here are Berry Fresh Cafe, Stuart Boathouse, The Gafford, Mulligan’s, and Sailor’s Return are five that you should keep in mind for the best food in town.
Berry Fresh Cafe
For breakfast, Berry Fresh Cafe is the only place you need to know about. This culinary gem has a menu that will have you salivating. Not only does the menu have about 100 dishes that will turn your eye, but they also have a seasonal menu that adds even more deliciousness to the mix. I love Berry Fresh Cafe’s Nashville Hot Chicken Hash, Irish Eggs Benedict, and any pancake creation they are currently serving. The sack of fresh (and hot) cinnamon sugar blueberry fritters is a delicious starter.
The Stuart Boathouse looks more like a New England eatery to me, but they have excellent seafood and a beautiful deck with waterfront dining and patio seating. The Lobster Bisque is one of the best I’ve had in all of Florida, and the Fish & Chips are equally as impressive. Check out the nightly live music scene, which is raved about.
When you dine at The Gafford, not only will you feast on a phenomenal farm-to-table meal, but you will be in the company of other foodies who appreciate the time and quality that the restaurant puts into their culinary creations. Come hungry because the menu entices you with appetizers such as Smoked Duck Wings, Grilled Avocado (with heirloom tomato and smoked jalapeño coulis), and Parmesan Roasted Cauliflower, my favorite dish with a roasted red pepper cream.
Mulligan’s Beach House
Mulligan’s Beach House is a beloved local chain that runs through the Treasure Coast. Here, you’ll find excellent happy hour specials, the locals’ favorite Bloody Mary’s, and American fare with an emphasis on seafood. The mumbo jumbo Fish & Chips is a popular item, but I’m all about Mulligan’s juicy and tasty burgers. Pair them with fries and a side of homemade blue cheese dressing—it’s sensational.
Sailor’s Return is my favorite upscale eatery with second-to-none nautical-themed waterfront dining at Sunset Bay Harbour and Marina, easily one of South Florida’s best waterfront locations. Whether stopping by for an appetizer, cocktail, or complete meal, Sailor’s Return’s food is fabulous and the scenery good enough to justify the drive. You may want to stroll the boardwalk and see the amazing boats docked here and attractive landscaping.
Have A Sweet Treat
Right in the heart of the Stuart is an award-winning craft chocolatier by the name of Castronovo. This chocolate powerhouse of international fame is located in a small strip mall and ships worldwide. Try specialty artisanal chocolate bars with cacao sourced from remote places in Colombia, Venezuela, Panama, and Honduras, to name a few. My favorite is the Honduras Dark Milk Chocolate with Fleur de Sel–rich and smooth.
If chocolate pieces or bars do not tempt you, try one of Castronova’s hot or cold chocolate beverages. The Hot Sipping Chocolate is my favorite, but the new Chocolate Sorbet Popsicles have certainly piqued my interest.
Where to Stay in Stuart
Though I haven’t stayed there, the Old Colorado Inn looks like a very desirable place to stay, plus it is within walking distance to many fun things to see and do in Stuart. It is the only boutique hotel in the area. Even if you aren’t staying there, you can pop into their onsite tiki bar, Sneaki Tiki, and have a festive cocktail.
Stuart, FL, Bonus Features
The Stuart Green Market takes place on Sundays from 9 AM to 1 PM in the Stuart City Hall parking lot. It is the premier destination for the finest local goods Stuart has to offer. People drive from miles away to shop this event. You can find fresh produce, flowers, honey, bread, pastries, handcrafted soaps and lotions, grass-fed and local beef, poultry, eggs, goat milk, cheese, organic spice blends, artisan crafts, handmade jewelry, gourmet foods, and more at this shopping mecca.
Afterward, visit the Rock’n Riverwalk from 1 to 4 PM along the St. Lucie River Boardwalk in Downtown Stuart. This free, open-air concert highlights the best local talent. Listen to rock & roll from the beautiful outdoor amphitheater or by boat.
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