Ever Heard of a Camp-cation? – Kids learn new skills while mom and dad relax in Martin County, Florida
By Shelley Caran
New places tend to lend themselves to new experiences—especially in Martin County, Florida. Here, summer camps allow mom and dad a free morning while kids learn about the environment, learn a new skill and just have plain ol’ fun. Once reunited, the family gets to explore this southeast, coastal region together—and maybe pick up a few tips from their child’s fun-filled day. It’s called a “camp-cation,” and it’s brilliant.
Be one with nature
Martin County is home to three centers that offer education-based camps full of activities, experiments and interaction. Children with an interest in the outdoors and wildlife will especially love these.
The Hobe Sound Nature Center opened its doors in 1973 to educate families about Florida’s fragile environment. These days it continues that mission at the weeklong Hobe Sound Nature Center Nature Camp, held from 9 a.m. to noon. Campers aged six to 12 are introduced to the natural world around them through live native wildlife presentations, nature crafts and games, netting and more.
Hosted by the Florida Oceanographic Society, Coastal Discovery Camp is a weeklong experience for children ages 5 to 11 that explores the aquatic and terrestrial ecosystem around the bio-diverse Hutchinson Island. Daily hands-on, feet-wet scientific experiments get campers interacting with Florida Oceanographic’s wide array of live marine animals and plants. When registering, campers are grouped by age and can choose from two camp tracks. The Salty Shorelines Camp explores the plants and animals that call the local waterways their home, with fun activities, games and crafts. The Eco Explorers Camp focuses on marine life and how the ocean works, with daily experiments to explore buoyancy, ocean currents, animal biology and other exciting topics.
At the Environmental Studies Center, kids fish in the Indian River Lagoon, snorkel at Bathtub Reef, investigate live plankton through a microscope and hop on the River Scout to study local waterways. This is a two-week camp that’s packed with fun—the Camp W.E.T. Olympics are a highlight.
On the waves
Florida beaches have a reputation for being great surf spots. In Martin County, little ones learn how to hang ten at surfing camps that focus on fundamental techniques and ocean safety. Or, stay dry and gain the essential skills necessary to maneuver a sailboat, all while parents relax on the beach and explore the coast.
Held at Stuart Public Beach, the weeklong Ohana Surf Shop Camp offers surfers ages five and older the chance to learn about the fundamentals of surfing. Lessons are based on age and experience, and there’s a low counselor-to-camper ratio. In the case of unfavorable surf conditions, campers have the opportunity to try out stand-up paddleboarding and skimboarding.
The surfing experts at Surf Central Surf Shop, along with Martin County Parks and Recreation, hold a weekly Surf Central Surf Camp at the South End of Stuart Beach for future-Kelly Slaters ages eight to 16. The surf camp focuses on having fun and being safe in the ocean. Plus, when the week’s over the fun culminates in a beach party.
Cowabunga Surf and Sport Camp alternates activities, from surfing to skim boarding to body boarding to paddle boarding—campers are constantly kept on their wrinkly toes. Games played on the water and in the sand balance learning and fun. And, oh yes, there will be pizza parties.
One of only three Community Sailing Centers in the United States sanctioned by the US SAILING Association, the US Sailing Center Sailing Camp guarantees the best boating education. A variety of programs each week range from beginner to advanced skill lessons and training on sailing, so even the most practiced captains can learn a thing or two.
If you have children who are interested in the arts, Martin County is home to several programs that promote the performing and creative arts with focused instruction, fun projects and performances.
Children ages four and older explore and expand their artistic skills during the weeklong Crafty Camp held at the Stuart Ceramics Studio. Each day of Crafty Camp, children learn a new skill such as sculpting or painting. These are projects that parents will treasure.
Artists of all mediums will enjoy Elliott Museum Summer Camps, which focus on creativity and ingenuity through acrylic, ceramics and photography-focused sessions. Instructors here are professionals, who offer quality materials and guidance in a real working studio.
The Dance Academy of Stuart’s three locations offer several camps, evening classes and intensives throughout the summer. Children ages three and up, at any skill level, can receive dance training from qualified and experienced instructors with a low student-teacher ratio. The camps include several summer offerings such as princess- and animal-themed camps for younger dancers, hip hop camps for dancers who want to learn choreography, and ballet intensives.
At the Lyric Theatre’s AWESOME! Summer Camp, each day is spent working toward an incredible, camper-produced play—the grand finale. Front and center or behind the scenes, instructors teach kids how each role contributes to the show. Build props or bask in the spotlight, as the show does go on!
Triple-threats should check out StarStruck’s All Star Summer Camp, which is packed with singing, dancing and acting lessons. Shake it in jazz, tap and hip-hop dance classes. Belt it out in group voice class. Set the scene in acting exercises. There are options for the future Jennifer Lopez or Justin Timberlake.
Start exploring Martin County and create the perfect summer adventure for the entire family.