In partnership with Martin County

Grottos, manatees, and top-secret history on the Treasure Coast

This region has really taken to its hidden gem identity

The Treasure Coast is a special place in Florida. While the name started off as a way to distinguish the stretch of Florida shoreline between the Gold Coast and the Space Coast (and refers to a shipwrecked Spanish fleet from 1715), the region has really taken to the identity.

It might have something to do with the fact that there are loads of gems on the coast. As you explore, you might find some of the country’s best seashell hunting, baby sea turtles, wave-beaten limestone grottos, sweet manatees, opulent mansions, and declassified top-secret historic sites.

Check out some of these cool spots along the Treasure Coast!

Blowing Rocks Preserve
Blowing Rocks Preserve. | Photo: Discover Martin County

1. The Nature Conservancy’s Blowing Rocks Preserve

The Treasure Coast has plenty of beaches perfect for swimming and sunbathing, but if you’re looking for a beach with a little extra twist, then check out Blowing Rocks Preserve. The beach features the longest Anastasia limestone shoreline on the U.S. Atlantic coast. The waves have worn the rocks into bizarre and fantastical grottos and coves—but that’s not even the coolest part of Blowing Rocks.

When the tide is high, or after a particularly rough storm, the waves break against the jagged rocks, forcing plumes of seawater up to 50 feet in the air. While you’re visiting, also pay attention to the plant and animal life here; as a preserve, Blowing Rocks is working hard to restore the native habitats of rare creatures like loggerhead, green, and leatherback sea turtles.

It’s also home to a beautiful sea grape tunnel. According to the USGS: “Sea grapes form a tunnel over this section of the dune path at Blowing Rocks Preserve. Sea grapes are smooth-barked and can grow as a tree or shrub. Their round, evergreen leaves are leathery and about 8-inches in diameter. The flowers are small ivory blossoms, which develop into reddish fruits that are edible. A native of Florida, the tropical sea grape does well in areas of high salt and poor soil. It is commonly found in coastal hammocks, dunes and beaches of South Florida and the Keys.”

Sunset over Jonathan Dickinson State Park.
Sunset over Jonathan Dickinson State Park. | Photo: Shutterstock

2. Jonathan Dickinson State Park

You could spend days exploring Jonathan Dickinson State Park, and still not fully experience everything this place has to offer. It’s got so many fascinating things going for it. It was named for a Quaker who shipwrecked his vessel nearby all the way back in 1696; it was home to Trapper Nelson, the “Wild Man of the Loxahatchee” who wrestled poisonous snakes and huge gators wearing only shorts and a pith helmet back in the 1930s; it served as a top-secret military radar training school called Camp Murphy that prepped soldiers for jungle warfare during WWII; and it became a state park in the 1950s.

Today, the park boasts fishing and boating on the Loxahatchee, Florida’s first federally designated Wild and Scenic River; loads of trails for hiking, biking, and horseback riding; the wonderfully curated Elsa Kimbell Environmental Education and Research Center; and epic views from the Hobe Tower Observation Deck. Definitely make sure to rent canoes, kayaks, or motorboats, and take a ranger-led tour of Trapper Nelson’s pioneer homestead.

Hobe Sound National Wildlife Refuge.
Hobe Sound National Wildlife Refuge.

3. Hobe Sound National Wildlife Refuge

Another Treasure Coast beach that stands out among the rest is Hobe Sound National Wildlife Refuge. It’s devoid of the touristy development and crowds that overwhelm most other beaches, so you can really take the time to reconnect with nature and appreciate the cool ocean breezes and spacious sandy shoreline.

Hobe Sound and Blowing Rocks both feature awesome seashell-hunting, and Hobe Sound especially is great for long walks, either along the beach or the nature trails through the mangroves. It’s kept so pristine because it’s a habitat that supports about 40 species that are endangered or threatened. Learn more about these creatures at the Hobe Sound Nature Center before strolling along the nature trail to see them in their element.

Harry & The Natives Restaurant & Bar.
Harry & The Natives Restaurant & Bar. | Photo: Harry & The Natives

4. Harry & The Natives

Enjoy some kitschy Florida fun at Harry & The Natives, a joint beloved by locals and tourists alike. This little diner is chock full of funky decor touches and serves up down-home cookin’ that’ll fill you up. The menu is just as quirky as the atmosphere, featuring classics like coconut pancakes and burgers along with more adventurous offerings like gator hash and conch fritters. They have a full bar, so you can easily spend some time here, especially if there’s live music going on.

Manatee Pocket Walk at Historic Downtown Port Salerno.
Manatee Pocket Walk at Historic Downtown Port Salerno. | Photo: Port Salerno

5. Manatee Pocket Walk at Historic Downtown Port Salerno

Stretch your legs with a stroll through Historic Downtown Port Salerno. Make sure to venture around the boardwalk, known as the Manatee Pocket Walk, as you explore. The waterfront here was dredged and made more accessible to manatees, so if you’re lucky, you might spot them relaxing in the water.

The town of Port Salerno was once a commercial fishing stronghold, but today, people are drawn to the village for the walkable waterfront, lined with shops, restaurants, nightlife spots, and awesome views.

Stingray at Florida Oceanographic Center.
Stingray at Florida Oceanographic Center. | Photo: Martin County

6. Florida Oceanographic Coastal Center

As you make your way up the Treasure Coast, stop into the Florida Oceanographic Coastal Center. It’s the best place to get up close and personal with the marine life that makes Florida so unique. There’s a game fish lagoon, a sea turtle pavilion, a tank where you can touch delicate sea stars, a tank that displays rays and coral, plus nature trails and plenty of interactive displays to keep kids entertained (or edu-tained, rather).

Check the schedule to see when the staff are giving talks and doing feedings to get the most out of a trip here. The Center does a ton of great work educating humans and protecting animals and their habitats, and every visit helps support them.

Indian Riverside Park
Indian Riverside Park. | Photo: Discover Martin County

7. Indian Riverside Park

Jensen Beach at the northern end of the Treasure Coast, is a great place to spend a day relaxing after a road trip. The heart of Jensen Beach is Indian Riverside Park. From the kid-friendly splash fountain, butterfly garden, and Children’s Museum of the Treasure Coast to the Maritime & Yachting Museum and the fishing pier, there’s something for everyone at the park. End your day with a stroll along the walking path and enjoy the fresh breeze off the river.

The Treasure Coast is filled with things to do. From unexpected adventures through former top-secret military camps to the best quiet beaches for relaxing, there’s a lot to experience. Quaint small fishing towns, endangered wildlife, epic waves, and more are just a few of the gems that make the Treasure Coast so priceless.

Click below to take this trip!