Weekend Escape to Stuart, An Authentic Treasure on the East Coast
By Robin Draper- Authentic Florida
The charming and historic town of Stuart is whimsically known as the “Happiest Seaside Town.” Located on Florida’s East Coast in Martin County, Stuart is an authentic weekend escape that delivers a quaint vibe, endearing inns, sidewalk cafes, art galleries and boutiques.
Downtown historic Stuart
Stuart is also known as the Sailfish Capital of the World where anglers vie for the sports fish in the deep blue Atlantic waters. The ocean, along with the St. Lucie and Indian Rivers, sets a breezy waterfront vibe for the community.
Stuart honors its historical past
Stuart was once a thriving hub for growing Chrysanthemums, where they were often shipped by rail. Local trains still pass through town, adding historic ambiance to an era when locomotives shipped flowers, pineapples and other goods while bringing the first wave of tourists to Florida’s east coast.
Martin County may not be as well known as some of its east coast neighboring counties. That might be a gift for this south Florida destination that lacks the urban congestion and has miles of open beaches, parks and conservation lands reminiscent of Florida’s past. And Stuart is not only a prime place to enjoy your stay but also a launching point to discover the surrounding area.
Kick Off Your Weekend
Old Colorado Inn
Begin your Stuart weekend at a comfy bed & breakfast inn. The enchanting Old Colorado Inn, aptly named because it’s situated on Colorado Avenue, is in the heart of the downtown district and dates to 1914.
Old Colorado Inn room
This elegant hotel offers a range of accommodations including luxurious suites, cottages and guesthouses, all in a tropical setting not far from the Intracoastal Waterway. Enjoy a tropical drink at the downstairs Sneaki Tiki Bar.
Riverwalk Cafe & Oyster Bar, photo, Discover Martin
Then stroll over to the Riverwalk Café and Oyster Bar for dinner. This small, intimate restaurant, located in one of Stuart’s most historic buildings, features freshly caught fish and oysters. Acclaimed chef Steven Feder was recently tapped by celebrity Emeril Lagasse to showcase his culinary expertise on Emeril’s Florida television series. The restaurant’s specialty items include the daily fresh catch, the rotating daily oyster menu (including Baked Oysters, Black Truffle and Asiago Cheese), the Cornmeal Crusted Fried Oysters, the Ahi Tuna Nachos, and prime steaks coupled with an extensive beer and wine list.
Stuart’s Lyric Theatre
After dinner enjoy some entertainment at the local Lyric Theatre, a central gathering place in the downtown. The 1926 building was once a silent movie house, and is handsomely restored featuring performances including concerts, musical, dance and comedy open on most weekends. On the National Registry of Historic Places, the intimate theatre seats 500 and makes for a special experience.
Explore Stuart on Saturday
Blue Door Coffee Shop, photo, Discover Martin
After a restful night you can wake up and smell the coffee, and breathe in the fresh salty air on your way to one of the local coffee shops or local eateries. Consider starting your day at the Blue Door Coffee Shop for a cup of joe. Or go to Maria’s Café for a full breakfast. This mom and pop local eatery has been in business for 24 years and is beloved by locals for its signature biscuits and gravy, fresh pancakes and made-to-order omelets.
Following breakfast, choose from a long list of things to do and see in this pedestrian friendly town.
Stuart’s Sailfish Circle
In the center of downtown Stuart is Sailfish Circle where a signature bronze Sailfish sculpture created by renown local sculptor Geoffrey C. Smith towers above a sparkling fountain creating a perfect place to begin your walking tour.
From the Sailfish Circle, stroll to the Riverwalk, a mile-long waterfront promenade along the St. Lucie River. Watch the line of fishermen under the Roosevelt Bridge, or just sit a spell and soak in the warm sunshine while enjoying the gentle breeze and admiring the public art.
Stuart’s local boutiques make for fine shopping
You also may want to enjoy some local shopping. Two popular stores include Gumbo Limbo, a home accessories shop, and April Daze gift boutique. Or check out the one-of-a-kind art galleries including the Geoffrey C. Smith Gallery, where this famous sculptor’s work “Rising Above” was recently gifted to Pope Francis.
Stuart Heritage Museum
For local history, check out the Stuart Heritage Museum, housed in a circa 1901 storefront that was once a mercantile and feed store. The museum features vintage items from yesteryear including historical displays representing the area. Highlights include a Florida Seminole Village collection featuring authentic clothing, artifacts and a special diorama that depicts an authentic village. Another display features old Stuart and the Flagler Railroad. A glance outside the window will remind you that times have not changed much as the sounds of a train echo through town.
Courthouse Cultural Center and Gallery, photo, Discover Martin
And if you want to experience more art, try the Courthouse Cultural Center and Gallery (open Saturdays from 11 am to 2 pm). The building dates to 1937 once serving as a WPA project. It now features fine art exhibitions of local, regional and international artists.
Schooner Lily for a sunset cruise, photo, Discover Martin
By now, you may be ready to relax and there’s nothing better than setting sail for a two-hour sunset cruise aboard the 19th century Schooner Lily, an old cargo sail boat run by Treasure Coast Sailing Adventures. Long ago, boats very similar to this one sailed up and down Florida’s coastline, transporting citrus, groceries and lumber. Departing from Shepard Park, enjoy this relaxing trip aboard the wooden sailing vessel where the captain will invite guests to hoist the three sails, or you just sit back to enjoy an adventure on the St. Lucie River. Be on the look out for dolphins, jumping sea rays and birds flying overhead while relishing a stunning sunset vista. Bring beverages and snacks to enjoy a prequel to dinner.
Gafford’s Pineapple Martini, photo, Discover Martin
For dinner, enjoy a stop at the family owned Gafford Restaurant for some delicious fare including the famous Mabel’s Fried Chicken, the signature Rib Eye Steak or the local Catch of the Day complemented by locally sourced fresh greens and veggies. And be sure you don’t leave without a glass of the famous Pineapple Martini.
Walk along Stuart’s Riverwalk during sunset, courtesy Discover Martin
Sunday, Fun Day
The next morning wake up to Sunday brunch at the Osceola Street Café. Start with a full espresso bar selection or go for the delicious breakfast menu. Sunday brunch serves up Shrimp & Grits, Biscuits and Gravy, Eggs Benedict or the tempting French Toast made with fresh sourdough bread.
Stuart’s Green Market, photo, Discover Martin
Later, walk to the Stuart Green Market where the community congregates and you’ll have the chance to take home some fresh goods. Located next to City Hall on the St. Lucie waterfront, the farmer’s market sets the stage for top quality produce, fresh flowers, homemade baked breads and pastries and artisan crafts. Stay for Rock’N Riverwalk, a live music concert that follows the market.
What more could you want for a weekend of fun? Stuart melds nostalgia, history, shopping, scenery and fun – with a distinctive vibe that embraces its past while celebrating its laid back ambiance. You’ll also find that it is an ideal place to begin many more adventures in Martin County and discover real, authentic treasures for future travels.
Be sure to check another Authentic Florida post: Martin County, A Florida Remembered on the the Treasure Coast
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About the Author: Robin Draper is a Florida native and blogger devoted to the simple and delightful pleasures for Florida living. This article is connected to Robin’s Google+ profile.