A Wellness Weekend in a New Kind of Neverland
Enjoying the finer things on a getaway to Martin County, FL
By Katie Jackson
When my college friends and I first visited Florida on spring break, we would have laughed at the idea of a wellness weekend. But 15 years later, it was a no brainer. Escaping to the beach for a relaxing few days was essential to preserving our sanity as mothers, wives and career women. So, when my college roommate, Angela, invited me to join her and a few friends for a mini-reunion in Martin County, Florida, I RSVPed yes immediately. I was beyond ready to dust off those wedges and get my wellness on.
Never too old for showing off, or sleepovers
“Welcome to Hutchinson Shores Resort & Spa,” beamed the valet, letting us trade the SUV’s air conditioning for a cool ocean breeze, and the rental car smell for the aroma of freshly baked chocolate chip cookies waiting for us at check-in. Like college girls eager to show off our decorated dorms, we gave each other tours of our rooms. Jane and I had ocean-view rooms, but after dinner at the hotel restaurant, Drift Kitchen + Bar, we all opted to meet in Angela and Becca’s suite so we could watch the sun set over the Indian River.
“To treating ourselves,” Angela said, raising a glass. Wrapped in plush terry bathrobes and lounging on a king-sized pillowtop bed covered in throw pillows, we wound down the evening, laughing and chatting over a shared bottle of wine. The next morning, we woke up early for what we dubbed “spa treatments in motion”. It’s like a workout, but more rejuvenating than grueling. Jane and Angela went for a barefoot jog along the edge of the water, and Becca and I went for sunrise yoga.
Never too far from shore, or shopping
I didn’t want to take my hands out of prayer position and risk losing the serenity established by the resort’s morning yoga practice. I was ready, however, to open my eyes and watch the waves. We could hear them gently lapping against the shore. After Jane and Angela got back from their jog—the hotel’s concierge had suggested a route that Becca and I realized we needed to explore the next day—the valet pulled our car up so we could head into Stuart for some retail therapy.
“Dress like Coco, live like Jackie, act like Audrey and laugh like Lucy,” read Jane, holding up an eye mask at Simple Pleasures Bath & Body—home to the most heavenly collection of handmade soaps, scented candles and essential oils.
“Our theme for this trip!” Angela said with a chuckle as she sampled a lavender whipped body butter.
Our next stop, Girls Downtown, also presented pampering as an art form. I picked out a paisley maxi dress and Becca—who probably only dresses up for weddings—dropped our jaws by coming out of the fitting room in a gorgeous kaftan. Meanwhile, to make our dinner reservations, we practically had to drag Angela and Jane away from the accessories. If they ever starve to death, handbags and jewelry will probably be the reason.
“How about this?” Becca suggested as we left with our purchases. “Let’s agree we can all borrow whatever we buy this weekend.” Three “deals” later we had the kind of pact we hadn’t made in more than a decade.
A different kind of nightlife
We may as well have made our dinner reservation at The Gafford under the name “Clean Plate Club.”
I’d had comfort food and farm-to-table food before, but never a combination of this caliber. The meatloaf rivaled my grandmother’s county fair-winning ‘loaf and the soup of the day—advertised as “Chef’s Whim”—was a lobster bisque that Maine would love to lay claim to.
“I need the recipe for the Florida orange peel vinaigrette,” Angela insisted when the restaurant’s owner stopped by our table.
“And what’s the secret to the mac & cheese?” Becca asked.
“I’ll talk to the chef,” the owner said with a smile. We later learned the chef is his son.
While he couldn’t give out the family recipes, he did point out the list of local farms on the menu, saying, “Get your ingredients from these suppliers, and you’re already halfway there.”
As much as we wanted to end our night with drinks and dessert, we didn’t have the room or time. Yes, this weekend was dedicated to treating ourselves. But, we also wanted to treat the locals, and Angela had made a donation and reservations for a very important event later that night.
Out on the dark beach shortly after 9:30 p.m., our park ranger guide whispered, “I found one.”
There was enough moonlight to make out motion coming from the indentation in the sand she’d led us toward. As we got closer, we saw a turtle shimmy her flippers, covering with a protective layer of sand the eggs she’d just laid. Earlier, when we met for the sea turtle night walk at Hobe Sound Nature Center, we’d learned there are only about 200,000 loggerhead sea turtles left. Observing this endangered animal in the wild had been on none of our bucket lists. Now we know better. We were still replaying the magic of the moment when we got back to the hotel shortly before midnight.
Never too early to do it all again
“Who knew we still had it in us to stay up this late?” Jane asked before we retired to our rooms. Laughing, we reminisced—sharing our versions of the last late night we’d had in Florida.
“I’d love to have my 20-year-old body back,” Becca said with a laugh, “but I think I preferred this trip. This time, we’re in the right place at the right stage in our lives.”
I couldn’t have agreed more. That said, this was a wellness weekend. So, we made plans to meet the next morning to run on the beach before our spa treatments. It would be our final day in Martin County. It seemed sacrilegious to not start it one last time with an endorphin rush and the sun rising over the ocean.