Time is easy to spend on Hutchinson Island – with the beach, eco-systems and habitats, fishing, watersports, golfing, and fascinating historic spots and museums. There are plenty of things to do in Hutchinson Island to keep everyone happy.
By Steven Winston
Imagine a Florida beach where your own family is the biggest crowd you’ll see. Where’s there’s water not only in front of you, but also behind you. Where the sounds of the waves and soft breezes are louder than the sounds of cars or beach parties. Where the horizon is dotted not by condos, but by historic landmarks. And where the drive toward the beach is as beautiful as the beach itself.
Well, about 100 miles north of Miami, you don’t have to imagine. You can actually experience such a beach!
Hutchinson Island, about 100 miles north of Miami, is a 23-mile-long barrier beach stretching from the top of Martin County north into St. Lucie County. And, once you see this beach, you won’t want to leave.
For one thing, your drive to the beach – along scenic causeways over the two-mile-wide Indian River Lagoon, where pelicans wait patiently on posts for fishermen to toss some lunch their way – will be as scenic as the beach itself.
Hutchinson Island actually has about three dozen beaches, each of them distinct in its own way. Some spots will be white sand, while others will be rocky. Some will have small inlets; others will be fringed by thick woods. Some will be great for fishing, while others, because of 200-year-old wrecks submerged offshore, will be great for diving.
Itinerary: Things to do in Hutchinson Island
You might start off your day at Bathtub Beach, considered the best family beach by locals because of its clear waters, soft sand, and an offshore coral reef that provides spectacular snorkeling and diving.
After lazing in the sun for while, you might opt to see the beach from a different angle – the back of a horse. Hutchinson Island is one of the few areas in Florida that allows horses on the beach. You can ride between a cobalt-blue ocean on one side and thick strands of sabal palms on the other. And a company called Tours on Horseback can help you do it.
Horses won’t be the only animals you see here, either. The endangered manatee – Florida’s beloved “sea cow” – is found in the Indian River Lagoon. Whales migrate here each winter to give birth to their young. And Florida has some 500 species of birds and wading birds, many of which you’ll see here.
After your ride, you may want to take in some of Hutchinson Island’s surprising historic and cultural attractions. For example, the stunning Elliott Museum may have the world’s greatest collection of antique Ford trucks (and baseball cards), along with artifacts from the area’s early days.
For a glimpse into the history of the island, head for Gilbert’s Bar House of Refuge, which served a as a refuge for shipwrecked sailors during the days when this area earned the nickname of “The Treasure Coast.” This is the oldest building on the Treasure Coast, and the only fully-restored house of refuge (of 10) in Florida. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the House (circa 1876) is now a museum displaying historical maritime artifacts, personal items and furnishings belonging to the House's “Keeper” and family, and pieces salvaged from old shipwrecks.
For a look at Hutchinson Island through a different prism, the Florida Oceanographic Society Coastal Science Center has 40 acres of wooded nature trails, and a fascinating visitor center.
Bring your golf bag with you? You can use it at the Island Dunes Country Club, with a nine-hole course open to the public in summer.
After such a busy day at the beach, you’ll have worked up quite an appetite. There are no less than 14 eateries on the island where you can satisfy it, ranging from seafood to steak, and Italian to Islander.
When the sun goes down on Hutchinson Island, the fun doesn’t.
In fact, if you’re here between March 1 and Nov. 15, nighttime brings a very special experience.
This is one of the greatest sea turtle nesting spots in the world. Three species of sea turtle regularly come here to lay their eggs and to nest - loggerhead, green, and leatherback. Martin County accounts for 11 percent of all green turtle nesting in Florida, ranking third among all coastal counties. The county accounts for 35 percent of all leatherneck nesting in the state. An average of 865 loggerhead nests are laid every year along the county’s beaches. And the St. Lucie County side of the island has similar figures.
Turtle walks are conducted from the St. Lucie Nuclear Power Plant, generally on Friday and Saturday nights in June and July (although it’s best to check). Activities begin at 9 with an orientation (no talking on the beach, no lights, etc.), and may last until midnight if the turtle hasn't finished laying her eggs.
A day on Hutchinson Island is not just a “day at the beach.” It’s a day filled with fascinating eco-systems and habitats, workouts ranging from fishing to watersports to golfing, fascinating historic spots and museums, and one-of-a-kind experiences.
On Hutchinson Island, the only problem with “a day at the beach” is that you may need a week.
Resources for Things to do in Hutchinson Island
Martin County Tourism
St. Lucie County Tourism
Beach Tours On Horseback – St. Lucie County Parks & Recreation
Gilbert’s Bar House of Refuge
Florida Oceanographic Society Coastal Science Center
Florida Power & Light’s “Energy Encounter”
Turtle Walks at the St. Lucie Nuclear Power Plant
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