Florida’s Treasure Coast serves up gold
by Graham McKenzie
If you drive North from Miami on I-95 for just two hours and then take a small turn right you will come to the area known as Florida’s Treasure Coast which in itself is comprised of three separate local counties, St Lucie, Martin and Indian River.
Alternatively, you can drive the 134 miles along the Florida Turnpike from Orlando International airport and once again arrive in around two hours. It’s a destination that is very accessible.
To say that it is a contrast to Miami is an understatement. Whilst Miami maybe the city that never rests Florida’s Treasure coast is all about relaxation, gentle exercise, wildlife and food. No giant rollercoasters either but genuine warmth, hospitality and a commitment to community tourism.
There is little doubt that the locals are pleased to see you and show off what they enjoy every day of the year. The dedication to this area spirit can be seen in almost every restaurant, attraction and hotel.
My opening evening was spent at Kai Kai Farm. Here the owners have developed not only an organic farm supplying the local area but also a thriving events business around it. It was my immense pleasure to be a guest at a five-course gourmet dinner using produce from the farm. Before the meal you are treated to a tour of the farm by one of the owners Diane showing why certain plants are grown next to each other to maximise pollination and minimise damaging insects. The meal itself was less farm to table and more hand to mouth as the vegetables and fruit were picked a matter of minutes before the meal was prepared. Was it any good? What do you think?
Kai Kai though reflected a wider attitude within the area and that was one of community cooperation and a desire to go back to basics to build back better in this post pandemic world. Kai Kai themselves run a market each weekend when they invite other local suppliers to sell their wares and they also participate in a Community Supported Agricultural Program whereby the produce they gather is delivered to residents who sign up.
You can see this throughout the areas product offerings from a visitor perspective with other fine if not so grand examples of local fresh food, restoration, sustainability and a care for the environment. One notable shout out must be made for Crabbys Seafood Shack in downtown Stuart for their broiled Shrimp and Cheese Grits plus a pint of Ocean Republic Beer brewed a matter of yards away.
Stuart, the central town of the area, houses the Florida Oceanographic Society which is committed to the preservation of the marine environment that surrounds Martin County. A magnificent set up is designed to help injured marine life back to health but also, and probably more importantly, educate as to how the environment is affected by everyday actions and ways to improve the current situation which is one of delicate balance.
Right across the road from the Marine Centre is the unbelievably good Elliot Museum which, outside of Detroit, has one of the best collections of vintage American cars I have seen. Currently is also houses a special exhibition about the infamous Ashley Gang that terrorised Florida in the early part of the 20th Century and self-styled themselves as the ‘Swamp Gang’ as they located themselves and often avoided detection within the Everglades.
I however was there for a completely different reason: the Sound Meditation facility housed within the building. Deena Rahill, a qualified sound meditation professional, takes you through a process whereby for an hour you submerge yourself into a bath of noises, echoes and vibrations. In complete darkness and with your eyes closed you allow this heady mixture to flow over you and reenergise the parts of your body and mind that need it. Yes, I was sceptical as well BUT it worked! I came out feeling totally relaxed and very quiet in my thoughts.
Stuart is also home to a community owned golf course with big ambition. Left for many years without investment it is now the subject of a development program that fits in with all the local desires to maintain and improve the local ecosystem but also to become a championship standard course that would be fit to host professional tournaments. Sailfish Sands is home not only to a 18 hole Championship course but also a reversible 9 holer whereby on alternative days you can play the same fairways but, yep, the other way round. Unique and fun it is used very extensively for beginners and those who want a quick fix. May the fores be with you.
All of these developments, food, marine life, museum, meditation and golf are made with the local resident in mind but of course we as visitors get to enjoy them as well and for the days we are there we can ‘live like a local’.
TravelMole Editorial Team
Editor for TravelMole North America and Asia pacific regions. Ray is a highly experienced (15+ years) skilled journalist and editor predominantly in travel, hospitality and lifestyle working with a huge number of major market-leading brands. He has also cover in-depth news, interviews and features in general business, finance, tech and geopolitical issues for a select few major news outlets and publishers.