I lived in Jensen Beach and worked in Stuart for three years. I got to know the town not only as a great place to work but a great holiday location away from the crowds of South Florida in the likes of Miami Beach.
Situated two hours South of Orlando and about two hours North of Miami on Florida’s East Coast, Stuart has all the conveniences of a big city but with a small town feel. It is less than an hours drive from Palm Beach International Airport which is the closest airport if you’re arriving by plane.
There are a number of festivals in town, like the Seafood Festival or the Stuart Boat Show. In November every year, they also have the Stuart Airshow which attracts a massive crowd. Regardless of when you visit Stuart there’s plenty to see and do.
The Roosevelt Bridge
The Roosevelt Bridge is a centrepiece in Stuart, crossing the St Lucie River and providing access to the town from the North. I used to love driving to work over the bridge in the mornings at sunrise or home again at sunset. My wife and I would also go running over the bridge in the evenings and watch the fireworks there on July 4th. As a high point it gave you a great view of the surrounding area.
Stuart’s downtown area sits just adjacent to the bridge on the Southern shore of the river. There are plenty of shops, bars and restaurants. It’s a great place to walk around and just enjoy the surrounds.
There is something beautiful about driving to work from Jensen Beach to Stuart Florida every morning. This time of year the sun is coming up in the east over the Atlantic and the sky is changing colors from dark blues to pinks to light blue. As I begin to ascend the Roosevelt Bridge over the Indian River I see the gold lining around the clouds over the Atlantic to my left as the rising sun shines through.
The River Walk
Down by the river downtown you’ll find the Stuart Riverwalk which is a picturesque boardwalk that goes along the river from under the Roosevelt Bridge to the Eastern end of town.
You’ll find people running, walking their dogs and just enjoying the Riverview along here. I used to try and make time to enjoy the riverwalk on. Sunday afternoon.
Speaking of Sunday afternoons, downtown Stuart comes alive with a market and a live band at 4pm for Rock’n’Riverwalk. This can be a great way to enjoy some tunes and take in the relaxing atmosphere.
The Lyric Theatre
Located in downtown, this theatre often has some interesting acts available. They will also show movies during the summer months. We managed to catch a very local version of the Nutcracker one holiday season.
From Sailfish Marina in Port Salerno you can take a boat cruise down the intercostal which makes for a great afternoon. It will give you a completely different perspective of Stuart, Jupiter Island and how some of the other half live.
Jonathan Dickinson State Park
Another activity close to Stuart is to visit Jonathan Dickinson State Park. For a $6 per vehicle entrance fee you will get access to the park which has everything from camping, kayaking, horse riding and hiking. Each of these activities has their own costs, but it all takes place in a beautiful setting.
We went kayaking up the Loxahatchee River a little ways, but we didn’t see any alligators the day we were there. If you have plenty of time, you can kayak all the way to Trapper Nelson’s. Trapper Nelson was an American trapper, hunter and zoo keeper who lived from 1909 to 1968. The homestead gives a well preserved look into how Trapper Nelson used to live.
Bathtub Beach & Hutchinson Island
If it is the beach that you prefer, just a short drive down SE Ocean Boulevard from downtown will take you across to Stuart Beach and Bathtub Beach which can be a great place to enjoy the water or sunbaked. There is also plenty of accommodation in this area too.
Where to Eat
One of my favourite places to go for food in Stuart is the downtown area as there are several restaurants to suit a range of budgets.
Sailor’s Return $$$$
The Sailor’s Return is by the Stuart Marina on the other side of Roosevelt Bridge from downtown.
It is the perfect spot to relax and unwind after a busy day. You can watch the sunset over the Marina while you enjoy fresh seafood or my favourite, the Chicken Kiev cordon bleu.
They have an outdoor dance floor and often have a band playing on weekends.
The Stuart Boathouse $$$$
Located downtown by the riverwalk, the Stuart Boathouse offers delicious food with a spectacular view over the river.
It is on the more pricey end of things, but it is an ideal place for dinner with a view. There is even an outdoor table shaped like a boat down by the water.
We just got a flatbread on our last visit which is a more affordable option.
Spritz City Bistro $$$
Located right near the Boathouse, Spritz is a great place for a beverage or a bite! It doesn’t have a view to speak of but the food is great. On our last visit we just got dessert. I had a delicious tart and Danielle enjoyed the tiramisu.
O Gourmet French Bistro $$$
We haven’t actually eaten a meal at O Gourmet French Bistro but I thought it was worth a mention as it offers different cuisine to some of the other places in town and the decor inside is really interesting.
I did however have an upside down apple tart for dessert here which was delicious.
If you want a similar view to the Boathouse but something more affordable, then you might want to check out Mulligan’s which is located on the river walk between the Boathouse and Sailor’s Return. It has an eclectic mix of beach paraphernalia which brings a very different atmosphere to some of the other restaurants we’ve already looked at.
Mulligans is actually a local chain, with restaurants also in Jensen Beach and Vero Beach. They have a fairly broad menu including everything from seafood to burgers and other American fare.
Pelican Cafe $$
If outdoor dining is more your thing, then located a short walk from Mulligans is the Pelican Cafe, right under the Roosevelt Bridge and overlooking the water. The food here is pretty good – I’ve had the burger and chicken sandwich.
You just have to be careful of mosquitos at certain times of the year.
Coffee Blue Door $$
If it’s just a coffee or a light dessert you are after then check out Coffee Blue Door near downtown. It’s a great atmosphere and they have a table with board games. You can sit inside or out under the lights and there’s always someone keen for a chat.
Port Salerno is located 10-15 minutes from downtown Stuart and also offers water front dining on a marina. There are also some nice shops, galleries and ice cream shop at Port Salerno.
District Table & Bar $$$
One of the prime places to eat, District Table fills up quickly, so it can be hard to get in there. The restaurant has a great setting but does not have a water front view. This place is all about delicious food. It includes what I would call upmarket American fare. We got a delicious sharing plate on our most recent visit.
The Twisted Tuna $$
Just down the road from District Table you’ll find the Twisted Tuna which is a little bit like Mulligans. It is a bar right on the water. They do pretty decent pizzas here but my personal favourite is the gator bites!
They also often have a band playing and it is right on the water.
Brothers Q BBQ $
Brothers Q was my favourite lunch destination and in my opinion, the best BBQ in Florida. It is just a food truck in a nondescript gas station parking lot. Their brisket is melt in your mouth and their ribs are also delicious. Most days of the week my preference is the mix and match sliders (usually I get one pulled pork and one brisket). They pack them full of meat so you get great value and they give you a couple of sauces to choose from (sweet, tangy or hot). I usually go with the tangy sauce because I’m not out to prove anything. I also get a side of their Mac and cheese which is hands down the best Mac and cheese I’ve ever had.
There is one dish I like better than the sliders and it is only available on Wednesdays (and you have to be quick because they sell out fast). It’s called the Four Horsemen and it is the very definition of deliciousness as well as a vegan’s worst nightmare. They start with pulled pork and brisket, then they wrap that in chicken breast which is then wrapped in bacon and top it off with some delicious creamy sauce. You have to try it!
There aren’t many seating options by the food truck so my favourite thing to do is grab my order, get a drink from the gas station and head down to Sandsprit Park to eat by the water. There’s nothing quite as amazing as smashing some BBQ while watching the boats sail by.
Have you been to Stuart, Florida? What are some of your favourite places to eat and things to do there?