If you’re looking to visit the “Happiest Seaside Town in America”, or “A Photo-taking Paradise”, or relax at one of the “10 Best Beaches in Florida”, then you need to head down to Martin County.
Located in Florida’s Treasure Coast region, between Orlando and Miami and about an hour north of West Palm Beach, Martin County boasts over 35km of picturesque (and uncrowded!) white sand beaches, the most bio-diverse lagoon ecosystem in the Northern Hemisphere, more than 77 parks, a well established agritourism industry and the title of “Sailfish Capital of the World”. If you love the outdoors, you won’t be disappointed.
Martin County has a rich legacy of Old Florida charm and culture, which includes quaint streets that guide you to museums, theatres, galleries, cafés and boutiques. Thanks to a county-wide, four-story height restriction there are no towering hotels or condos to disturb the area’s serenity and natural beauty. Make sure to chat with the locals to learn about the region’s connection to ‘The Real McCoy’, the notorious Ashley Gang, and the active ghosts that refuse to be forgotten.
Faze had a chance to explore and discover Martin County, and here are some of our highlights.
The Schooner Lily Treasure Coast Sailing Adventure Tour
It’s not surprising that this two-hour sailing adventure aboard the Schooner Lily made USA Today’s top ten list in 2021 for Best Boat Tour in North America. Built in the 1970s, and originally known as the “Lily of Tisbury” this wooden, double-masted sailing barge started out as a working cargo boat to primarily transport lumber and vehicles between Martha’s Vineyard, Boston and Maine.
Today, with clear improvements to the ship, Captain Fred Newhart and First Mate Jaime Miscoski invite guests to step aboard and help raise the sails or just sit back, relax and enjoy the view as the sun sets and the horizon glows a soothing deep orange. You’re welcome to bring your own snacks and picnic onboard as you glide through Treasure Coast Waterways along the St. Lucie River without the drone of engines. Mainly powered by sails, we love that you can enjoy this adventure with a very low carbon footprint.
From the deck of the Schooner Lily.
First Mate Jaime Miscoski getting ready to set sail.
Flavor Excursion Food Tour
We all know food and travel go hand-in-hand. The Flavor Excursion Food Tour takes you on a three-hour flavourful walking journey through Old Town, Stuart, that not only introduces you to great food destinations that you’ll want to revisit, but the knowledgeable guide shares local insider stories and points out landmarks that are unique to the history, culture and charm of the city.
While all the stops, including Stuart Coffee, had delectable offerings and rightfully belong on the tour, a must-visit is Café Martier. This eclectic modern European restaurant encompasses all that is Martin County: historic significance, good food, and a charming host. This is where Lisa Councilman, the restaurant’s “Chief Happiness Officer” and our host for the visit, shared the story of Stuart’s connection to the well-known expression “The real McCoy”, and let us peek in on an original 1920s speakeasy hidden behind a post office.
Treats from Stuart Coffee (left) and Café Martier.
Like everything else about Martin County, Kai-Kai Farm has a story. Owners Carl Frost and Diane Cordeau loved to sail and found themselves drawn to the Solomon Islands (in the south-west Pacific Ocean). While there they saw the ‘farmers’ grow vegetables on coral and thought, “If veggies can grow on coral, then we can do it in soil!” and decided to become farmers themselves. They landed in Indiantown in western Martin County, where they bought a run-down citrus lot in 2003 and began their journey to a thriving agritourism business.
Today, Kai-Kai, which means “gathering for meals”, is a picturesque farm with soaring eucalyptus trees and is known as “Martin County’s Largest Vegetable Garden”. The farm produces over 80 varieties of grown-in-the-ground vegetables like beans, broccoli, eggplant, kale, okra, lettuce, carrots, tomatoes, and beets. We love that Kai-Kai follows Best Management Practices and sustainability to minimize environmental harm and conserve resources, use non-GMO seeds, and all sprays are certified for organic production. Of course, this is where discerning chefs and fine home cooks buy their produce.
Twice a month, beginning in November through May, you can join a free tour and learn about the food you eat and why farm-to-table, sustainable produce is your best bet for healthy, earth-friendly, great tasting food. With a bit of planning you can buy tickets for dinner with wine tasting, demonstration dinners by renowned chefs, and even host your own special event on the premises.
Always fresh, tasty produce from Kai Kai Farm to your table.
Owners Carl Frost (left) and Diane Cordeau are always ready to share a story and a laugh.
Port Salerno Ghost Tours
Any self-respecting great destination has to have a good ghost tour. The Port Salerno Ghost Tours delivers not only a spooky night of spirits and ancient legends, but your guides Patrick and Patricia Mesmer impart their in-depth and expansive knowledge of the historic highlights of the region. Both document their expertise in books they’ve authored, including Ghosts of the Treasure Coast, and Haunted River Trails: 500 Years on the Locha-Hatchee.
The two-hour tour through historic Port Salerno begins by the Fish House Art Centre and kicks off with a thorough saging by Patricia. Saging has its roots in the Native American tradition of smudging, and is a technique of smoke cleansing to clean out or clear bad energy, including unwanted spirits. Armed with an electromagnetic meter and temperature gauge, you’ll scour the city for paranormal activity. When your meter starts beeping, you’ll be hoping the sage is doing its work. Near the end of the tour Patrick and Patricia will invite you to reach a dearly departed friend or relative and the evening can take an unexpected turn.
Searching for paranormal activity beneath a haunted tree.
Electromagnetic meters for ghost hunting.
WHERE TO STAY
Immerse yourself in the Florida lifestyle at Hutchinson Island Marriott Beach Resort & Marina. Nestled between the Indian River and Atlantic Ocean, and beautifully situated on 200 acres, this hotel is the perfect choice for a relaxing getaway, family vacations, weddings and social gatherings. While here you can enjoy elegant resort accommodations with views over Hutchinson Island, savor delicious all-day dining at Baha Grille, play a round of golf, choose from 13 tennis courts to hit a ball, rejuvenate at the spa and wellness facility, then sip cocktails around the fire pits in the evening.