The Treasure Coast – America’s Happiest Seaside Town

In 2016, Southern Living Magazine readers voted Stuart, Florida “America’s Happiest Seaside Town.” It ranked above some amazing coastal towns in California, Oregon, Maine and the Carolina’s’ to earn that distinction. I imagine the voting criteria included things like, location, affordability, and activities for families. While those things are important, I think what makes Stuart special, and therefore its residents happy,  is sea air, salt water, sunshine, a strong sense of community, picturesque scenery and a laid-back attitude that makes everyone feel welcome.

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Strolling the Riverwalk in downtown Stuart

About Stuart:

Stuart is in Martin County Florida, which is located on the East coast of Florida, just north of West Palm Beach. This area is commonly referred to as the Treasure Coast. I wrote about how this coast got its name here. There is water in virtually every direction, with two rivers and the Atlantic Ocean lapping at its shores. People come here for the beaches, great fishing and a myriad of outdoor activities that can be enjoyed all year long. They stay because it feels like home. Downtown Stuart exudes laid-back, old Florida charm, with its quaint shops, historic theater, art galleries and abundance of good eateries.

It is the kind of place that invites you to take a lazy stroll down Osceola Street while savoring the deliciousness of an ice cream cone and thinking, “this is living.” Take a dizzying spin around “confusion corner,” see the iconic bronze statue that symbolizes Stuart’s other moniker, “the sailfish capital of the world”, shop the Green Market on a Sunday morning or enjoy a free concert at the Band Stand on the weekend; visit the Stuart Heritage Museum for a history lesson, or spend the entire day lounging on a beach. Any one of those is guaranteed to make you feel happy.

sailfish statue
The prize that fishermen from all over the world come here to catch!

On a balmy summer evening, or a crisp fall night, take a walk along the Riverwalk that begins at the band stand next to the Boat House in downtown. Depending on the night, you will hear great local musicians at several locations along the way. Follow the path under the Roosevelt bridge to Sailor’s Return and watch the sun setting over one of Stuart’s prettiest marinas, then turn around and head back to the Pelican Café to watch the lights on the bridge cast a golden glow on the river below.

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Roosevelt Bridge

Kick off your flip flops and sit for a while in this tropical setting. The music is always great here, food is reasonably priced and bottles of wine are half priced on Wednesday night. That’s enough to make me smile!

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On another day, head East, across the river bridges to Hutchinson Island, the jewel of Martin County. Launch a kayak or paddle board from MacArthur Boulevard and paddle toward the St. Lucie Inlet.  The ocean spills into the river at Sailfish Point, creating an array of blues and greens in the crystal clear water that will leave you refreshed; body and soul. If you are lucky, you might see a stingray or dolphin along the way.  Didn’t bring your boat or board? TC Paddle Watersports at the Mariott Resort will fix you up with the right gear. Getting exercise while enjoying nature in the great outdoors, who wouldn’t smile at that?

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While on Hutchinson Island, visit the House of Refuge and Gilbert’s Bar. The 1876 refuge was built to house stranded sailors along this coast. It is the last refuge still standing in the US. See the Coquina Rock shoreline that serves as a foundation for the Refuge, and creates one of the most picturesque views along this stretch of beach. Watch the ocean splash against the rocks, feel the wind in your hair and the salt on your skin – now, that’s happy. Turn around, walk across MacArthur Boulevard and watch the sun set over the river. It will delight your soul.

lbeach day jan 4 like this one best of all
ocean side on Hutchinson Island
river side on Hutchinson Island

It comes as no surprise that Stuart, Florida was voted “happiest seaside town in America in 2016.” We believe it still is!

Where to Stay

Hutchinson Island Mariott 

The Old Colorado Inn

Hutchinson Shores Resort – coming soon!

17 Comments on “The Treasure Coast – America’s Happiest Seaside Town

  1. Sounds like a fab place to live, no wonder people are so happy. I love living near the sea, although here we don’t get the beautiful and consistent good weather that you have in Florida. My husband and I want to spend sometime in Florida, perhaps these seaside Town will make the perfect base for few months?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Gilda, there are many beautiful places to have an extended stay in Florida.I will be showcasing cities along our coasts all summer. You will begin to notice subtle and not so subtle differences as we travel the State.I hope that will help you narrow your plans. Summer is the most economical time to visit, but it is also the hottest and most humid. I strongly suggest December through May as your target dates, unless you can take the heat. It goes without saying that it is always a beautiful place to visit.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I don’t know much about Florida even though my first port of entry from South Africa to America was Miami. However, this little seaside place looks like a great spot to spend some chill time. When we read “water on all sides” we can’t help but extrapolate what this means in terms of climate change and climate adaptation… sea level rise etc. Wonder how they deal with flooding? and how proactive this community is to the issue of sea level rise?

    Peta (& Ben)


    • Peta and Ben, it is indeed a great place to spend some chill time. No doubt, climate change and rising tides have had an affect on our shoreline. Our county is responsive and even proactive in many instances when it comes to protecting our most valuable resource. I would not want to live anywhere else in the world.


  3. Hi Suzanne,
    We’ve been hearing about Stuart for a while…based on the great info in your article it may be time for a visit! Sounds great.


    • Nancy, it is a wonderful place to raise kids, or to live out retirement. We moved here when our daughter was entering middle school and stayed for retirement. It’s perfect for us. Keep me posted if you decided to visit when you get back to Florida. We would love to connect with you guys.


  4. I love places like this Suzanne – there’s nothing like being near water, a small town atmosphere, friendliness, a few attractions, and good food. We live in a similar type of area in Australia and I would never swap it to move back to the city (even though our kids love city living, our lifestyle surpasses it in every way – and I can see yours does too!)
    Thanks for linking up with us at MLSTL and I’ve shared on my SM 🙂


    • Hi Leanne, we love it here and while I do miss the city from time to time, I would never live there again. I enjoy the mlstl linkup and always find interesting blogs to follow. Thanks for hosting that forum.


  5. We will have to check out Stuart. While my husband and I recently moved to Florida, we landed in Orlando for now (that’s where we found jobs first.) But being on the coast is our ultimate goal for retirement.


    • Hi Jennifer, our little town has it all when it comes to what we wanted for our retirement years. I’m sure you will find a good fit when the time comes. You can’t go wrong by choosing the coast.


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