Stuart, Florida is a nice stop for cruisers for many reasons. First and foremost is it’s prime location on Florida’s Treasure Coast with ocean access through St. Lucie Inlet and more than one comfortable anchorages right off the ICW. If you’re a water person, you’ll find no end to the activities available in Stuart. You can anchor in one of the two anchorages in Manatee Pocket, which is a hurricane hole at Port Salerno in Stuart. There are plenty of marinas to offer fuel and water. Within walking distance, less than a mile, there is a West Marine, a Winn Dixie, coin laundry, canvas maker, fantastic produce stand, incredible marine consignment shop and flea market, not to mention the numerous waterside restaurants, boatyards, and fishing docks. There is a huge warehouse right on the water in the southern anchorage of Manatee Pocket that has been made into a coffee shop and artist’s co-op with free WIFI and fabulous original pottery, tile, painting, and stained glass. And here is a little gem of cruiserly local wisdom, a 5 minute walk from the dingy dock will reveal a 24-hour ice machine that dispenses 10 or 20 lb. bags of ice, or loose ice into your ice chest, for $2.00!
There are two public parks to dingy to, this is especially nice if you have a dog. The parks are beautiful and full of birds, squirrels, palms and pines. The landside amenities for the cruiser are endless. And here’s another secretto look for while you’re here, there are colonies of wild, green parrots living in large nests in the tops of the palms. They are quite vocal and scold you if you get to close. They are great fun to observe.
In the harbour, you can expect to see bottlenose dolphins hunting their breakfast every morning. Since we’ve been here I’ve seen a baby dolphin spyhopping, (that’s popping his head out of the water and looking around), and an adult dolphin tossing a large mullet into the air over and over, like a dog playing with a toy. There are herons, sandhill cranes, gulls, and lots of pelicans. We’ve seen several spotted eagle rays gliding gracefully below the surface, leaping out of the water every now and then. The Spring is a wonderful time to be here because all of the wildlife is very active this time of year.
If you want to have some fun, take the dingy or kayak up one of the numerous creeks and see if you can spot an alligator or a manatee. Or, pack a picnic, and dingy out to one of the lovely deserted islands between the ICW and the inlet. We did this and had a blast. These little islands have clean beaches with sandy shoals that you can walk out onto at low tide and watch tiny crabs and minnows hide in their nurseries of marsh grass and shallows. Big Causaurina pines provide plenty of shade, and the water is cool and refreshing.
You can also go all the way out to the inlet in your dingy and fish around the rock jetties. We spoke to someone who dove the jetties and spotted a huge spiny lobster there. People are catching mostly mackerel, pompano, kingfish, snook, and catfish. Offshore, not for the dingy motorist, there are an abundance of sailfish, after all, Stuart is the Sailfish Capitol of the World! Stuart can also boast a six square mile reef, which is considered the northernmost of tropical coral reefs. The reef is accessible by dingy on the outside of the inlet, or if you dingy to Peck Lake, part of St. Lucie state park. Or take the big boat and anchor there as it provides a nice anchorage, and beaches on both the ICW side and ocean side.
There are all sorts of hidden surprises for fun and relaxing in the area of Manatee Pocket. We’ve yet to discover everything. During a sunset cruise last night in our dingy, we met a couple on a trawler from Maryland. They told us about the Bathtub Beach, (where shallow pools of ocean water are warmed by the sun), and the surfing beach, ( where local surfers maintain a tough front and build surf shacks at their favorite break). Guess we’ll just have to do some more exploring…