Port St. Lucie is on Florida's Atlantic Coast, known as The Treasure Coast.
The story of “The Treasure Coast” begins over 300 years ago when a fleet of 11 Spanish ships wrecked offshore somewhere between the St. Lucie River and Cape Canaveral.
These ships had been sent to collect new wealth from the American possessions of the Spanish Empire and bring it to Spain. On their way back, this treasure-carrying fleet was sunk by the winds of a hurricane. Gold, silver and jewels were scattered over the seafloor.
To this day, these treasures can sometimes still be found washed up on the shores by lucky beachgoers, giving the region its well-deserved name.
Best Things to Do at Port St. Lucie (The Treasure Coast)
With barrier islands hugging the coastline for miles and plenty of preserved, undeveloped land, this area around Port St. Lucie is just about the furthest south you can go in South Florida and still find that “small town” atmosphere.
But there's still a ton of things to do at Port St. Lucie!
And if Florida is where you want to spend a lot of your RV Lifestyle time – take a look at all the other posts we've done on this great state!
Avalon State Park
One of your first stops at Port St. Lucie should be Avalon State Park, on North Hutchinson Island right along Highway A1A.
During World War II, the Navy used this site as a top-secret training ground for their underwater demolition team called “Frogmen” (now known as Navy SEALs).
In 1943, beach obstacles were placed in the offshore water. Frogmen would dive to locate these hazards as an exercise they would later use in the D-Day invasion of Normandy.
With more than 650 acres, the park stretches from the Atlantic, across the beach dunes, through the maritime hammock, to the mangrove forests along the Indian River Lagoon.
The park is home to a variety of wildlife. You can spot migrating herons, egrets, osprey, and bald eagles.
You may even see threatened and endangered sea turtles, like the Loggerhead, Atlantic Green, and Leatherback. They nest on the beach during the spring and summer.
It’s fairly remote and there’s over a mile of undeveloped beachfront along the Atlantic which makes it a great spot to set up for the day.
Just south of Avalon is the National Navy UDT-SEAL Museum. It is the only museum dedicated solely to preserving the history of the United States Navy SEALs and their predecessors.
This museum really is fascinating and an inside look at the history of an elite, super-secret group of warriors, rarely and
only more recently in the public eye.
Those who hope to join the SEALs have to endure some of the most rigorous training ever devised. Of all those who attempt to endure and persevere, only a few elites make it.
The museum traces the history of the SEALs back to their roots in WWII, through Korea, Vietnam, Panama, the Cold War, and Desert Storm all the way to today. There are vehicles, vessels, tactical equipment, and weaponry from all of these periods which serve to chronicle the storied history of these elite units.
Among interesting memorabilia here are:
- Panama dictator Manuel Noriega's chair (they captured him)
- A model of Osama Bin Laden's compound (they killed him)
- Captain Phillips's famous orange lifeboat, complete with bullet holes made by the SEALs when they killed his Somali pirate captors.
The museum also honors those who made the ultimate sacrifice at the Navy SEAL Memorial. The names of all the
Frogmen from World War II to today’s Navy SEALs who have died in combat and training are carved into black, granite
panels on the walls surrounding the sculpture and its reflecting pool.
The initiatives of the Museum provide a glimpse into Navy SEAL training, as well as preserving the Navy SEAL standards of excellence:
“To place the welfare of others before self. To demonstrate uncompromising integrity. To lead and be led. To never quit. To persevere and thrive in adversity. To demand discipline. To expect innovation.”
The SEAL ethos is also a great read if you’ve never seen it before.
Hours are 10am-4pm Tues-Sat and 12pm-4pm Sun. Admission is $15/person.
St. Lucie County Aquarium
A short drive away is the St. Lucie County Aquarium. This is a small aquarium but the main exhibit is the Smithsonian Marine Ecosystems Exhibit. It was retired from the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of Natural History!
The Marine Ecosystems Exhibit explores living models of six different Florida marine and estuarine ecosystems and teaches you about the importance and complexity of these ecosystems.
The largest display is a living model of a Caribbean coral reef ecosystem. The other displays include:
- lagoon hardbottom
- nearshore reef habitats
- deepwater Oculina coral reef
There are several smaller aquarium displays and microscope displays where you can get a glimpse of the microscopic marine world. A touch tank also gives you an up-close encounter with local marine life.
Hours are Mon-Sat from 10am-4pm and Sun from 12pm-4pm. Admission is $4.25/person.
Savannas Preserve State Park
Further north towards Port St. Lucie is Savannas Preserve State Park. This park encompasses more than 6,800 acres and stretching more than 15 miles from Fort Pierce to Jensen Beach. It contains the largest, most ecologically intact stretch of freshwater marsh in southeast Florida.
Stop at the Environmental Education Center to begin your exploration and see the status of the over 15 miles of multi-use trails here for hiking, biking, and horseback riding. If you can get here in the spring the savannas are blanketed in colorful wildflowers.
So you don’t get confused, just north of the state park is the Savannas Recreation Area run by St. Lucie County, there’s a campground here if you can get a site!
Best Hiking Trails at the Park
If you are looking for a short walk, the quarter-mile Glass Lizard Trail (near the Education Center) is your hike of choice!
The Glass Lizard trail takes you through pine fatwoods and loops around to the marsh edge. For a longer hike, take a look at the Gopher Tortoise Trail that spans roughly one mile through fatwood terrain.
The south end of the park also has two nature trails, the South End Lookout Trail (1.6 miles round-trip) and the 0.9 mile round-trip Hawks Bluff Nature Trail loop off Jensen Beach Blvd and Savanna Rd.
Due to the nature of the Hawks Bluff Trail, you can experience five distinct ecosystems in less than a mile! Pine fatwoods, wet prairie, basin marsh, marsh lake, and scrub fatwoods!
Guided Kayak Tours of the Park
One of the most popular ways to explore the Savannas Preserve marsh is through guided kayak tours every Friday and Saturday!
A $10 donation and reservations by calling the park education center at 772-398-2779 are required. They provide all the kayaking equipment!
Head south from the state park, cross the causeway over to Hutchinson Island and seize your chance to visit some of Florida’s best beaches on the Treasure Coast at Jensen Beach and Stuart Beach.
An interesting bit of history you’ll find here is that from 1895 to 1920, Jensen Beach was known as the “Pineapple Capital of the World”.
The pineapple plantations here were shipping over one million boxes of pineapples each year before a combination of deadly freezes, blights, and fires destroyed the industry at the turn of the 20th century. The fruit legacy is celebrated annually during the Jensen Beach Pineapple Festival.
Stuart Beach is another amazing beach in Port St. Lucie. There are a few things you should check out near Stuart Beach besides the water.
While you’re at Stuart Beach, visit the stunning Elliott Museum which may have the world’s greatest collection of antique Ford trucks (as well as 95 vintage cars, 10 vintage motorcycles, and 5 wooden boats). Plus exhibits on the local history of the area.
Hours are 10am-5pm daily and admission is $14/person.
Florida Oceanographic Society Coastal Science Center
Right across the street from the Elliott Museum, you can explore the Florida Oceanographic Society Coastal Science Center.
It has a 57- acre marine life nature center featuring a 750,000-gallon gamefish lagoon, stingray touch tank, daily programs on sea turtles, and local fish identification. Plus, nature trails with guided tours.
The Society conducts research and restoration programs designed to maintain healthy coastal ecosystems and helps preserve Florida's unique environmental heritage.
Hours are 10am-5pm Mon – Sat and 12pm-4pm Sun. Admission is $12/person.
Gilbert's Bar House of Refuge
For a glimpse into the history of the island, head for Gilbert’s Bar House of Refuge. This house served as a refuge for shipwrecked sailors during the days when this area earned the nickname “The Treasure Coast”.
This is the oldest building on the Treasure Coast and the only fully-restored house of refuge (of 10) in Florida. The House 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.
Jonathon Dickinson State Park
This is a video tour of Jonathan Dickinson State Park near Jupiter, FL. We visited it in early March of 2020 and found this park to be a delight. Take your bikes, your hiking shoes, kayaks and canoes.
Continuing south you’ll encounter another gem in the Florida state park system, Jonathan Dickinson State Park.
The park is named after a Quaker merchant who was shipwrecked in 1696 near the present-day park with his family.
He wrote a journal describing their encounters with local tribes and their harrowing journey all the way up the coast to safety in St. Augustine.
Although he never returned to the area, his name lives on in this 11,500-acre preserve of untouched Florida wilderness near Hobe Sound.
A mosaic of thirteen ecosystems within the park including sand pine scrub, sand dunes, pine flatwoods, mangrove and river swamps, and cypress sloughs exist within the park.
About 20 percent of the park is covered in coastal sand pine scrub, a biological community so rare it is designated “globally imperiled”.
As a result of the variety of ecosystems, this place is bursting with diverse wildlife. There are bobcats, deer, otters, manatees, alligators, a multitude of birds (more than 150 species), and even the occasional black bear that live and thrive in this wilderness.
The Loxahatchee River winds its way through the park, passing under a canopy of centuries-old cypress trees. Named by the Seminole Indians, “Loxahatchee” means “River of Turtles”.
Hiking in the Park
For those of us passing through, the park offers a variety of activities including camping, canoeing, hiking, bicycling, picnicking, and fresh and saltwater fishing.
There are four scenic nature trails here. The Kitching Creek and Wilson Creek Trails (7.5 mile loop) both lead out from the picnic area and work their way through pine fatwood, along the respective creeks.
Hobe Mountain observation tower, the highest natural hill in Florida south of Lake Okeechobee at a whopping 86-feet above sea level.
The Hobe Mountain Trail (0.4 miles) is a shorter boardwalk trail that meanders through the sand pine scrub to the 27-foot tall observation tower with 360-degree views, sitting on top Hobe Mountain.
Water Activities in the Park
On the river, you can rent canoes, kayaks, and motorboats to explore and navigate the local waterways.
Or let a captain do the navigating for you on a boat tour down the Loxahatchee River. The 40-foot Loxahatchee Queen II offers a two-hour-long exploration of the upper reaches of the Loxahatchee River. It is accessible only by boat.
It includes a ranger-guided tour of the restored camp of Trapper Nelson, the famous “Wildman of the Loxahatchee.”
Trapper Nelson's Homestead
A man known as Trapper Nelson homesteaded on the banks of the Loxahatchee River after coming to the area in the 1930s. He lived off the land, trapping wild game for food and selling furs for income.
After garnering acclaim as the “Wildman of the Loxahatchee,” the onetime hermit began transitioning his homestead into a tourist attraction after WWII. Visitors could rent boats and go on boat tours while Trapper would wrestle alligators and handle native poisonous snakes.
After buying close to 1,000 acres of land along the Loxahatchee, Trapper’s land was preserved by the parks department after his mysterious death in 1968.
Port St. Lucie Campgrounds
There are more than a dozen great campgrounds in Port St. Lucie. For a complete list and all of the details you need, check out our Florida Atlantic Coast RV Travel Guide…
From “The Historic Coast” of St. Augustine, to “The Space Coast” in Cape Canaveral, and “The Treasure Coast” of Port St. Lucie – the Atlantic Coast of Florida has something to offer for everyone.
We cover a variety of areas in this guide from sugar-sand beaches along the coast, inland to Florida’s magnificent first-magnitude springs, to the largest lake in the state, and the subtropical wilderness of the Everglades.
Florida’s Atlantic Coast does not disappoint… we hope you’ll take the time to see for yourselves!
This guide is written as a seven-day exploration of Florida’s Atlantic Coast!
We provide a suggested route and itinerary, links to multiple campgrounds and boondocking spots, and the best spots to see along the way. Don’t plan your trip to Florida without it!