Beaches, like most things in this world, come in all shapes and sizes. Everyone has a different idea of what makes a beach a really good beach, but luckily, there's one place where you can find all different kinds of beaches in one spot: Martin County in Florida. This stretch of A1A is home to huge beaches with kitsch galore, small and hidden coves, beachside fishing, perfect sea-shelling opportunities, shoreline wildlife preserves, and loads more. Whether your idea of the perfect day at the beach involves people watching and enjoy a drink while looking out at the waves, or you'd rather head off the beaten path to a quiet patch of sand where you can enjoy a long walk, there's a beach for you. Here's our guide to the best beaches along the A1A in Martin County.
Start off your beach cruise at the Bob Graham Beach in Stuart. It's a total hidden gem of a spot, the kind of place you're very likely to have all to yourself when you visit. The grassy dunes, seashell-studded stretch of sand and blue water set a perfect scene. The quiet beach makes an ideal location for fishing or wildlife spotting, as well. It's conveniently located a quick drive from the popular destination of Jensen Beach.
Pro tip: While there is a parking area, you won't find lifeguards, a changing area or restrooms, so keep that in mind when you're planning!
Stuart Beach is located right in the town of Stuart, and makes a great stop after visiting the Elliot Museum, the Florida Oceanographic Center, or one of the many restaurants around. Free parking abounds, it's spacious, and you'll find amenities like lifeguards, a snack bar, showers, a playground, and bathrooms. It's clean, with sand that's not too rocky, and water great for surfing and fishing. This Treasure Coast gem is the kind of beach that, anywhere else in Florida, would be teeming with tourists. Instead, it gets enough visitors that it's well developed and has lots to do, but never feels jam-packed.
At the southern tip of the A1A on Hutchinson Island is Santa Lucea Beach. Park at the lot, walk past the showers and stroll across the wooden boardwalk to the unguarded beach and natural area. This is prime sea-shelling and fishing territory, and the water is the perfect temperature for swimming. There are even interpretive signs with information on the history of the beach. The waves here also make for good surfing. Oh, and the beach is pet-friendly, so feel free to bring your pooch for a dip in the water as well!
A hop, skip, and a jump away (about 0.4 miles, if we're being technical) is another off-the-beaten-path gem of a beach, Fletcher Beach. It's just south of where the A1A veers back onto the Florida mainland, but it's still well worth checking out. The water makes for great swimming, and again, surf fishing is popular here as well. As far as amenities go, you'll find a bathroom and parking, but no lifeguards or snacks. That's what keeps the untouched, undeveloped atmosphere of the beach and makes it feel so secluded, though!
Ross Witham Beach, with limestone rocks surrounding it, has the feel of a private grotto, which make it unlike other beaches on this stretch of the Treasure Coast. If you come at high tide, you'll see the waves crashing against the rocks! But the limestone isn't the only unique feature of Ross Witham. It's also the beach closest to the Georges Valentine Underwater Archaeological Preserve. This underwater museum of sorts protects the wreck of an Italian barkentine ship called the Georges Valentine, which in 1904, ran into shallow water during a storm and sank. Seven of the 12 crewmembers were lucky enough to make it to the house of refuge located right off the shore, and five perished in the disaster. The wreck is a popular dive site to this day.
Bathtub Reef Beach is a popular spot for visitors, especially families with kids, thanks to its calm and warm water. This is the result of a natural reef just offshore that breaks the waves and creates a "bathtub" effect. Plus, you won't even need to swim or snorkel to be able to see the reef (although there is some stellar snorkeling here). This beach also forms tide pools at low tide, which are always fun to explore. If you're really lucky, you might even spot a sea turtle! It's a clean beach with lifeguards and plenty of amenities, so it's one of the best beaches for kids, but it's also one of the more popular beaches in the area for all ages.
If you're a fisherman, then definitely leave a few hours to spend at Tiger Shores Beach. It's a favorite for casting out a line. Reportedly, some fishermen like to stick a PVC pipe in the sand to use as a fishing rod holder. Also, feel free to bring along some cold beverages (in cans, since glass is banned on Martin County's beaches). Otherwise, this is another great beach that's mostly quiet and uncrowded!
Hobe Sound Beach is special in that the drive to the beach, through a tree tunnel on SE Bridge Road, is as magical as the beach itself. Once you reach the beach access, you'll be treated to cool breezes, breaking waves, and a guarded but largely quiet stretch of sand. You're free to bring your dog, and if you're into surfing or fishing, this is another spot to indulge in your favorite pastimes. Hobe Sound is especially lovely in the morning, or at sunset, so plan your trip to make the most of the natural beauty here.
If you need a break from all that beaching, head to Harry & The Natives. The quirky joint serves up delicious down-home cookin', Old Florida vibes, live music, and a full bar, making it perfect for breakfast, brunch, lunch, dinner, a quick snack, or a few drinks. The original cypress cabin changed hands and names a number of times after it opened as a cafe in the 1940s. Then, a man named Jack MacArthur bought it and named it The Farm in the 1950s. His son Harry grew up helping out around the restaurant, and though Harry left in 1976 to work and travel around the world, he came back to the restaurant in the 1980s, eventually remodeling it into the funky eatery it is today, dubbing it "Harry & The Natives.” The menu features diner staples and Southern cuisine, along with some more offbeat offerings (gator hash, lobster burgers, and orange pie, anyone?) so there's something for everyone.
As you make your way to the southern part of Martin County, you'll encounter the Hobe Sound National Wildlife Refuge. It's the largest contiguous section of undeveloped beach in Southeastern Florida, and not only does it offer a taste of what Florida is like in its natural state, it's also one of the busiest sea turtle nesting areas in the Southeastern US. Stop by the visitor center to learn all about the turtles, and then check out the Indian River Lagoon Beach, a "mellow" stretch of shore that's perfect for really immersing yourself in nature. You'll find plenty of hiking trails here as well. There's also the Jupiter Island portion of the Refuge, which offers 3.5 miles of Atlantic Ocean beachfront.
The final beach on your tour is likely to be one of your most memorable along the A1A: Blowing Rocks Nature Preserve. It's the site of successful large-scale, native coastal habitat restoration, so it's another beach that's quieter and undeveloped. The name comes from the jagged Anastasia limestone (or coquina) rocks at the edge of the sand; when the tide comes in, the waves crash against them and water is tossed into the air in an impressive scene. As you stroll the beach, you'll find chimneys and shelves, burrows, blow holes and rocky pools carved into the fossil-studded limestone. The waves are at their highest in the winter, so there's really not a bad time to visit.
As you cruise south, you'll start to appreciate the features that make each beach unique and worth visiting. Whether you try your hand at fishing, scuba diving, surfing, or snorkeling, or you just want a quiet place to sunbathe or read a book, you're bound to find a beach that will make your vacation perfect!
Natural beaches, shady drives and quaint downtowns are just the beginning of what makes the communities of Martin County unique. From the charm of Stuart and Hobe Sound to the surfing vibe of Jensen Beach to the organic farmlands and rich history of Indiantown, there’s no place like Martin County.