It is the time of year many of us are thinking about a respite from the cold winter and inevitably have cabin fever. We envision white sandy beaches, azure waters, sunny skies and temperatures in the 80s. Hence, it’s time for my annual Hidden Gems of Florida feature. It is also Valentine’s Day and what a perfect day to plan that getaway with your loved one.
I hadn't returned to Florida's East Coast, since the debut of my annual Hidden Gems column in 2010 (as the Gems were on the West Coast 2011-17). And am I ever glad that I did return. Centrally located on Florida's Treasure Coast, Martin County, proved to be one of the most exciting areas I've ever explored in the Sunshine state. This was from my exquisite stay on Hutchinson Island at the recently opened Hutchinson Shores Resort and Spa to days spent eating, walking and eating even more, both in cozy Jensen Beach and charming Stuart, the county seat of Martin County. Stuart is reminiscent of Old Florida, having been ranked No. 3 in the 2015 annual Best Small towns to Visit Guide by Smithsonian Magazine. It is also proud that “Only in Your State” ranked Stuart as one of the eight most beautiful, charming small towns in Florida, and House Beautiful ranked the area No. 9 in the 50 most beautiful towns in America. Stuart was awarded America’s happiest seaside town in 2016 by Coastal Living Magazine for its historic and quaint downtown. This lesser known region of southern Florida has an allure that took me by surprise.