Hutchinson Island is a 23-mile-long barrier island on Florida’s Treasure Coast. Divided into South and North Hutchinson Islands, spanning Martin and St. Lucie counties along the Atlantic Ocean, this quiet and laidback part of the Florida coast is a painless 2-hour drive from the bright lights of Miami — and a little bit farther from the tourist mecca of Orlando.
With the towns of Port St. Lucie and Fort Pierce at the northern end and Stuart to the south, the closest airport, West Palm Beach (PBI) is about an hour by car. Recently, I had some Marriott Bonvoy stay credits about to expire and decided to take a quick road trip from my Miami Beach home and booked a stay at the Marriott Hutchinson Island Resort
Beautiful, uncrowded beaches are the number one attraction on Hutchinson Island, and I chose the hotel for its proximity to the sand. A sprawling property with most of its rooms located in the main hotel, which, it should be noted, is about three-quarters of a mile from the beach, the resort has an on-site marina where one can rent kayaks, paddleboards, and motorized watercraft and a well-maintained golf course for those so inclined.
There are beachfront rooms as well in the Sandpiper Tower, but it was closed for renovations when we traveled there and is scheduled to reopen in fall 2022. In addition to the pool at the main hotel, which I am hoping has its own upgrades scheduled as well, there is beach access at Sandpiper as well as a pool and Tiki Bar overlooking the beach, which remains open to hotel guests, and the beach was as beautiful and quiet as we had hoped.
1. Hutchinson Island Beaches
Accustomed to the nonexistent surf found on South Florida beaches, we enjoyed splashing in the waves and watching optimistic surfers and skim and boogie boarders showcase their skills. The beach at our hotel was convenient, but there are plenty of gorgeous public beaches on Hutchinson Island, all with champagne surf and plenty of space to spread out if you are staying elsewhere or planning a day trip.
Stuart Beach has free parking and amenities including bathrooms, showers, and covered picnic areas and the Seaside Cafe, an oceanfront option for breakfast or lunch (that has a full bar). There’s a concession there for lounge and umbrella rentals as well.
Nearby Bathtub Reef Beach is part of a large reef system, with plenty of marine life, making it the area’s best option for snorkeling.
Blind Creek Beach
Blind Creek Beach is more remote with little in the way of amenities, however, it’s located on a wetland preserve with a mile and a half of beachfront dunes and has the distinction of being clothing optional. A full list of Hutchinson Island beaches, complete with live beach cams can be found here.
2. Turtle Walk (Seasonal)
If you’re traveling to Hutchinson Island in June or July and you’re a nature lover, you’ll want to experience a nighttime turtle walk. According to VisitFlorida.com, more than 100,000 endangered sea turtles, constituting nearly 90 percent of all sea turtles nesting in the United States, do so on Florida’s beaches every year between March and October. These magnificent loggerhead turtles, weighing on average 250 to 300 pounds, come from the sea to dig a pit with their hind flippers and lay 80 to 120 eggs before returning to the sea. Two months later the eggs hatch and tiny turtles make their way back to the sea.
Only guides familiar with state and federal laws regarding this endangered species can lead a turtle walk. In the Hutchinson Island area, they are conducted by folks from the Hobe Sound Nature Center, Inwater Organization (in conjunction with FPL — Florida Power and Light), and the Florida Oceanographic Society, and range in cost from free to $20 per person. The Oceanographic Society also conducts small private group tours. Sign up well in advance as spots go quickly.
You arrive at your destination a little before 9 p.m. and are given a brief talk on what you’re about to experience. Spotters go out to find a turtle, which can take some time (and sometimes doesn’t happen at all), then the group travels to where the turtle is digging her pit and laying her eggs.
It’s hard to describe what an incredible experience it is to be on the beach at night in the dark watching this magnificent ancient-looking creature lay her eggs. We’re all dressed in dark colors, there are no lights — only the guide is allowed a flashlight, as we are doing everything possible not to disturb the turtle from her mission. Participants should be prepared to walk up to a mile and spend some time out in the elements — the walks take place regardless of weather and start at 9 p.m. and can go as late as midnight. But it’s well worth it to take a few hours to be part of something so primal and real.
Note: There are other ways to commune with nature if you can’t get a reservation for a turtle walk or are visiting out of season. The Florida Oceanographic Society is housed at the Oceanographic Coastal Center, which offers educational programs, tours, nature trails, a game fish lagoon, and much more. Hours and Information here.
3. Sound Vibrational Healing
I’ve done sound bowl meditation before and was curious to check out the Sunday Sound Healing session at the incredibly cool Elliott Museum, located at 825 NE Ocean Boulevard (more on the venue below).
Deena Rahill, who I am convinced is a real-life goddess radiating light and energy, welcomes everyone enthusiastically to the session, which takes place in the museum’s theater on the second floor. Surrounded by beautiful crystal healing bowls, a giant gong, and wind chimes, participants lie on yoga mats or in zero gravity chairs, which are perfect for anyone who has a hard time getting down on the floor or suffers from back pain.
You’re surrounded with cozy blankets and pillows, which Deena seems to intuitively know where to place to make you comfortable. After a brief introduction, which gives no clue as to what’s ahead, it’s suggested you close your eyes and practice some mindful breathing. And then? Sound, vibration, flashes of light that ebb and flow, coming from above, below, near and far, and traveling right through you.
Did I leave my body? Maybe. For people who have always wanted to practice meditation but felt they couldn’t shut off their brains, this will work. The sound envelops you and takes over. I felt truly physically great immediately after and had the most amazing night’s sleep of my life that evening.
According to Deena, sound healing is an ancient technique that uses tonal frequencies to bring the body back to its natural state of vibrational balance and harmony. It works like a massage does for your physical body, healing not just your body but your mind as well. Each instrument serves a different purpose — many crystal bowls are tuned to the chakras (the body’s energy centers) and the gong is said to relieve tension in the bones and stimulate the glandular and nervous systems. A holistic approach to relaxation and healing, it’s the perfect escape from daily stress which, let’s face it, who isn’t dealing with some of that these days?
Sound healings are offered at the Elliott Museum on Tuesday and Sunday afternoons at 2 p.m. and last until about 3:30 p.m. Sign up at Deena’s website here.
4. The Elliott Museum
A great rainy-day option, with or without taking part in Deena’s class, would be to spend a few hours at The Elliott Museum. A nonprofit institution overseen by the Martin County Historical Society, the museum is home to a variety of collections and exhibits including classic cars, trucks, bicycles, motorbikes, and boats.
They host events for locals, including Cars and Coffee every other Sunday, inviting people to bring their cars, classic or other, to hang out and drink coffee and eat donuts with other car buffs. A true celebration of Americana and American culture, the museum hosts temporary as well as permanent exhibits that honor its namesake, the inventor and philanthropist Sterling Elliott, and his passions including bicycles and cars.
Wheels of Change tells the story of transportation and the impact its evolution has had on American culture. In addition to the cars on the museum floor, there is a three-level car racking system, the only one of its kind in an American museum, which holds over 50 vehicles. They’re brought down to the museum floor via a robotic arm and displayed on a rotating turntable for visitors.
The museum also displays a baseball memorabilia collection with over 250 signed baseballs and even has an exhibit about the Ashley Gang, notorious Florida criminals from the early 20th century. A true local history museum, it’s a fascinating way to spend an hour or two diving into the history of the area in a beautifully restored modern setting.
Fun Fact: The Martin County Historical Society also runs the House of Refuge (currently closed for construction), the last remaining of 10 houses built to provide aid to shipwreck victims. With beautiful views overseeing the ocean and Indian River Lagoon, this museum provides a glimpse into the coast’s history, when hurricanes and reefs damaged sailing ships near its shores.
5. Drift Kitchen & Bar
From the minute we arrived at the entrance of the Hutchinson Shores Resort a few miles away from our hotel in Jensen Beach, we knew we were in for a great time. The beach resort itself is modern and beautiful and I would investigate staying there. It’s right on the beach, overlooking the pool and beach.
The dining room had that buzzy vibe that to me is always the precursor of a good dining experience. The spacious bar looked like a place I’d like to hang out — perhaps another time. After a delightful cocktail from the reasonably priced selection of signature drinks, we settled into the serious business of eating and enjoyed everything we ordered — a crabcake that was all blue crab, perfectly cooked dayboat scallops, a crafty and tasty tuna poke starter, and bucatini carbonara.
And yes, no shame, we each ordered dessert. All told, it was a meal that feels like a special occasion but is priced on par with other restaurants in the area — which can’t boast the ocean views and ambiance that Drift offers.
6. Market On Main
Every Sunday, rain or shine, just over the causeway from Hutchinson Island in downtown Stuart, Market on Main takes place. A community market where local artists and artisans, farmers, and craftspeople showcase their wares, it takes place at Flagler Park along the St Lucie River. Live musicians perform every week, and food and drink are available for purchase as well as items such as handmade jewelry, pickles, baked goods, soap, pet food, and even beard care products.
Local’s Tip: My friend Steve, who lives in Stuart, cooked for us the night we arrived. It was an incredible meal. He bought mahi-mahi from Tausha’s Seafood Market at 4533 SE Dixie Highway in Stuart, which he claims has the freshest fish in town. If you are staying in a place where you can cook and choose to do so, buy fresh-off-the-boat seafood selections and wine and beer. Or dine in or take away from the market’s onsite restaurant with daily fresh seafood dinners and sandwiches, with wine and beer available for purchase. Tausha’s is open every day from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.; the restaurant opens at 11 a.m.
I’ve lived in South Florida for more than 30 years and only now have I discovered Hutchinson Island and its glorious beaches. My friends in Stuart — all of whom moved there from Miami, are begging me not to tell anyone about their peaceful laidback lifestyle. Oops!