South Beach Jetty Park, Fort Pierce Florida
What to do in Fort Pierce, Treasure Coast Florida Vacation
Fort Pierce, Florida
When you want a laid-back beach town sprinkled with a little bit of Old Florida cool, South Beach Fort Pierce, the Sunrise City, could become your new favorite spot.
This seat of St. Lucie County is divided into North Fort Pierce and South Fort Pierce. The mainland and Hutchinson Island are connected by two short causeway bridges with designated walking paths. If you are staying near the ocean, you can easily walk into the historic downtown and enjoy an expansive water view over the bridge. The mainland has miles of shoreline along the Indian River, while the beachside enjoys morning sunrises over the Atlantic Ocean.
As you would expect when discovering Florida, there is water everywhere, including various inlets, channels, and marinas. This is a true boater’s and angler’s dream.
Sunrise Sands Beach Resort, Ocean Front Hotel on Hutchinson Island, Fort Pierce Florida
Day 1: Fort Pierce, Florida
We arrived on Thursday at a no-frills, no-fuss, yes-friendly, beach hotel with a stunning location. Steps to the sand, we were in the heart of this little beach hideaway around Jetty Park. We were lucky enough to find a single vacancy at the last minute at the oceanfront Sunrise Sands Beach Resort even though it was in-season for Florida, and vacationers and snowbirds were everywhere. Yes, a ginormous sea turtle was staring at us in the shower, a mural, but that made perfect sense with the room’s beach décor.
The hotel has ocean and river views from all angles. The rooms are decorated in a simple, cottage-style and stocked with the bare necessities for a beach stay. This place is built for laid-back fun instead of over-the-top luxury; however, the staff was perfect from check-in and the first margarita to our final goodbye. They seem genuinely happy to have you there.
Nachos topped with blackened swordfish from Taco Dive Beachside
How are the beaches?
The beaches were surprisingly uncrowded even though every parking space in the little circle around the Jetty Park was taken. It seems this local hideaway tucked at the tip of Hutchinson Island has retained its neighborhood personality more than the larger beaches found elsewhere along the Treasure Coast. Local has its perks!
Down the stairs and around the corner, you can get your first taste of the Sunrise City. We picked complimentary margaritas at the hotel bar and sat outside next door to enjoy a perfect spring-like day and blackened swordfish nachos at Taco Dive Beachside.
Enjoying the area on foot, or by scooter!
Afterward, a walk down the beach toward South Beach Park is the perfect way to stretch your legs before dinner. You can walk for days down the flat, open beach. We enjoyed a 3 mile, round trip, pre-dinner walk, crossing at Jaycee Park to look at the boats navigating the white caps on the Indian River, resulting from a bit of weather coming in from the north.
Dinner was on the water, Gilligan-style island atmosphere at the Square Grouper Tiki Bar (you must be 21 years of age to enter). True to its beach-vibe, you seat yourself, it’s first come-first served, and you will find local bands playing on the stage many nights.
Margaritas served outside while enjoying live music at Square Grouper Tiki Bar, Fort Pierce Florida
Fort Pierce is the restaurant’s second location. The first one opened in Jupiter in the early 1890s (although starting with a different name and owners). The Sunrise City’s location along the Fort Pierce Inlet Riverwalk opened in November 2016. What’s a “square grouper,” you may ask? Well, it’s not a fish, although it is a consumable good! The waterways and inlets around Florida are filled with stories about pirates, pleasure-seekers, and the occasional drug and rum runners. The U.S. Coast Guard reportedly refers to abandoned bales of marijuana as “square groupers,” and so, the current restaurant has adopted the name.
Mostly bar food, a simple salad topped with shrimp felt good as day turned to dusk. Their San Miguel Margarita is a perfect blend of Maestro Dobel 100% agave tequila, reposado, and extra-Anejo aged tequila, shaken with Grand Marnier, fresh lime juice, sour mix, and a splash of orange juice. Not too sweet, salt on the rim, perfectly cold, and sipped slowly over intimate conversation and a colorful Florida sunset.
Day 2: National Navy ADT-SEAL Museum
Before a full day of lounging on the sand, we headed across the causeway bridge to the National Navy SEAL Museum, located on the training grounds for the original Navy combat divers, or Frogmen.
Entrance to the National ADT-SEAL Museum, Fort Pierce Florida
“Often called the ‘quiet professionals’ they take on the most dangerous missions, often anonymously, and ask for nothing in return. The National Navy SEAL Museum and Memorial provides a unique view into the world and history of Naval Special Warfare and the heroes who have served.”
~Navy SEAL Museum website
The U.S. Navy SEALs evoke a sense of awe and unspoken (and spoken) respect. Bad-ass warriors, motivated patriots, they make an impact. Sometimes we hear about it; other times, we don’t. These (mostly) men stare down intense training and even more intense missions and then ask for more. It is here where we can learn about the SEALs and those who support them and their missions.
The museum is laid out in reverse-chronicle order, starting with the most recent military conflict and working back to the very first Frogmen. Volunteers, many of who served themselves, are available for questions and, if you’re lucky, a story of their own.
This is the actual vessel where Capt. Phillips was held hostage by Somali pirates for 5 days. Inside you see rows of seats in a very small space.
I met a Vietnam veteran and his recently acquired four-legged companion. This beautiful dog helps him work through the demons that continue to creep in decades after he laid down his weapons of war.
He pointed out the actual Maersk Alabama Lifeboat that was captured by Somali pirates in April 2009. If you saw the 2013 Tom Hanks movie Captain Phillips, you know the story.
You can peer inside the tiny capsule on display at the museum to see where Captain Richard Phillips was held by pirates for 5 days in incomprehensible conditions. You’ll have a new appreciation for this hostage situation and other events that often go unseen and unnoticed by most of society—stuff that is taken care of by our military men, women, and four-legged soldiers. If you haven’t seen the movie, I recommend it…anything Tom Hanks is a good bet; this story is captivating.
“Conducting clandestine missions behind enemy lines. Capturing enemy targets and intelligence against impossible odds. Bringing a threatening act of sea piracy to resolution in the blink of an eye. When they say ‘The Only Easy Day Was Yesterday,’ it’s a motto backed by legendary achievements.”
The U.S. Navy SEAL motto: The only easy day was yesterday
You’ll see the actual Sikorsky UG-60 “Black Hawk” helicopter that flew U.S. citizen Jessica Buchanan and Danish citizen Poul Hagen Thisted to safety after being held hostage in Somalia. Weapons and equipment from the Cold War, World War II, and other events are on display, as well as full-sized and replicas of the transportation vehicles used by the Navy. Even if you’re not interested in war, the history surrounding each event will give you a greater understanding of the world we live in today with its continued challenges. Then, if you choose to dive deeper into the SEALs’ stories, there are books available in the museum store.
Books from the museum store. I’m looking forward to learning more about the stories and leadership lessons of our SEALs
Learn about 2-legged and 4-legged heroes serving with American Military.
Click on a title to learn more
America’s Hidden Heroes by Tom Hawkins, USN (SEAL), Ret.
Raising Men, Lessons Navy SEALs Learned from Their Training and Taught to Their Sons by Eric Davis, Navy Seal Sniper Instructor
Senior Chief Turbo, Memoir of a Navy SEAL K-9 by R.C. Cook (based on true events)
Sea Stories, My Life in Special Operations by Admiral Willaim H. McRaven, U.S. Navy Retired (author of Best Selling Make Your Bed
Afterward, we stormed the beach, although not in the SEAL way. More like a sun-screen slathered beach chair lounging, dive deep into a great book, bring me a drink sort of storm.
Historic Downtown Fort Pierce was the dinner destination. There are plenty of food styles to choose from in this Old Florida town along the Fort Pierce City Marina. We poked our head into The Fort Steakhouse, drooled over the menu at the Rooster in the Garden, and were finally drawn into the Wasabi Thai Sushi Restaurant on Orange Avenue. A cool glass of Thai Iced Tea (it’s ok to have dessert with dinner, right?) served with a platter of fresh sushi was the perfect answer for a lazy day in the sun.
Thai iced tea and a platter of fresh sushi from Wasabi Thai Sushi in Historic Downtown Fort Pierce, FL
Getting downtown was part of the fun. There are electric scooters all along the sidewalks in this part of Fort Pierce. They are available to rent for $1/minute (as of this writing), and you gain access through the Link city app. (www.link.city).
Note: I suggest you download the app before going because you will need to enter your credit card number and scan in your driver’s license. I use a card with a low credit line for these types of apps, just for security.
We rented the scooters right outside our hotel and went as far as the causeway bridge’s base. The scooters lost power before going over the bridge, and I think it was to avoid novices like us from taking them over the bridge as a safety precaution. We parked the scooters and walked the rest of the way downtown. An easy, enjoyable walk!
Getting to downtown Fort Pierce was an easy walk over the bridge and along the water. The water views go on for days!
Walk around the marina to find the Manatee Observation and Education Center, view boats in the marina, and maybe even a live band at Cobb’s Landing.
We walked back over the bridge and picked up scooters for the ride back. You can enjoy the sunset as you zip along the sidewalk, stopping at Cream Republic, “the sweetest spot on South Beach” for a scoop of hand-crafted small-batch ice cream (try the pistachio with chocolate syrup), then back to the hotel where they had a live band playing and we got the best seat in the house because we were guests at the hotel.
You can see beautiful boats in the harbor and peer over the boardwalk into the water at the Manatee Observation and Education Center.
Scooters are a great way to get around Fort Pierce
Sunset from the deck of the Sunrise Sands Beach Resort. A live band was playing on the patio below and delicious smells from the restaurant were carried up with a soft ocean breeze.
Day 3: Coffee and Farmers Market in Historic Downtown Fort Pierce
The last day of a getaway always seems to be a mix of savoring every last moment while looking forward to what’s next. We left early enough to enjoy a latte and chai tea in downtown Fort Pierce at the Old Florida Coffee Company located in the PP Cobb building where a Trading Post and General Store once operated. We sipped the coffee while strolling the Farmer’s Market and Arts Fair in Gazebo Park, admiring the small stands with colorful local produce. Muffins for breakfast and rustic fig bread for dinner were the perfect treasures to take home from our Old Florida getaway.
Waterviews from downtown Fort Pierce, Florida. A lovely downtown area that is made for enjoying the year-round sunshine of Florida!
When You Go: Resources for Fort Pierce, Florida
Sunrise Sands Beach Resort
110 S. Ocean Drive
Fort Pierce, FL 34949
Located 2 hours south of Orlando and 1 ½ hours north of West Palm Beach
Taco Dive Beachside
2025 Seaway Drive
Fort Pierce, FL 34949
1920 Seaway Drive
Fort Pierce, FL 34949
National Navy ADT-SEAL Museum
3300 N. Hwy A1A
North Hutchinson Island
Fort Pierce, FL 34949
Wasabi Thai Sushi Restaurant
217 Orange Avenue
Fort Pierce, FL 34950
“The Sweetest Spot on South Beach”
1122 Colonnades Drive
Fort Pierce, FL 34949
Old Florida Coffee Company
Historic PP Cobb Building
100 Avenue A
Fort Pierce, FL
Ariel view as seen from Google Maps showing the causeway bridges, Atlantic Ocean, and mainland of Fort Pierce, FL