Length: 12 miles.
How to get around: Car.
Best time to visit: Whenever you can spend a full day. Watch the sunrise over the Atlantic Ocean, then head west to see the sunset over Lake Okeechobee, all along the Martin Grade corridor.
Fun fact: The Martin Grade is Florida’s newest scenic highway, designated in 2015.
For more info: Visit martingrade.org.
There are a lot of names for the Martin Grade. The Department of Transportation calls it County Road 714. Road-trippers call it Martin County’s east-west connector. Locals call it “The Grade.”
Rob Dawson has another name for it.
“We call it the road to Old Florida,” the highway spokesman said.
Just a half hour’s drive west of beachy Stuart, the rural area has a character all its own.
“Martin County was the last county to be named a county in the state of Florida, and we’ve done a good job of not developing like the rest of Florida counties have,” Dawson said. “It’s very much representative of what Florida was like 100 years ago.”
Travel the straight stretch of road lined with oak canopy, past expansive vistas of still-active ranchland and grass flats reminiscent of Florida’s cowboy glory days.
Birdwatchers will want to bring their binoculars to the DuPuis Wildlife and Environmental Area, nearly 22,000 acres of prairies, marshes and hiking and equestrian trails.
Even the area’s premiere eatery offers a taste of natural, old Florida. The historic Seminole Inn in Indiantown educates visitors about Old Florida life via its Folk and Farm School workshops, while its Sunday brunch buffet is reminiscent of a timeless family meal.
“It’s a really, cool old charming place,” Dawson said… which pretty much sums up the Martin Grade as a whole.
Photos by Peter W. Cross for VISIT FLORIDA