a treasure coast destinationIyna Bort Caruso
Hutchinson Island is set along the Treasure Coast of Florida, a stretch named for the Spanish fleets that ran aground centuries ago and left gold, silver and assorted treasures on the ocean floor. Offshore reefs that delight snorkelers and scuba divers today were responsible for untold shipwrecks.
A pencil-thin barrier island between the Atlantic Ocean and the Indian River estuary—part of the Intracoastal Waterway—Hutchinson parallels the stretch from Fort Pierce in the north to Stuart at its southern point and is connected to the mainland by three causeways. Palm Beach International Airport is 45 miles away.
The island boasts 23 miles of beaches with a range of characteristics and a patch of sand to suit every beach-lover: rocky, dune-filled, wooded and, of course, lovely sandy beaches. Family-friendly Bathtub Reef Beach is among the most visited. As with most seaside resorts, activities revolve around the water. Surf fishing is a popular sport. Hutchinson Island also offers quick access to open waters for deep-sea fishing. For landlubbers, locals say the island has some of the best shelling and beach glass around. Shell and glass collectors are routinely in residence at low tide.
In the latter half of the 1800s, a series of rescue stations were built along the Florida coast to shelter crews who ran into trouble at sea. Today only one is left in the entire state and it’s on the island, Gilbert’s Bar House of Refuge. It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and serves as a maritime museum.
Hutchinson Island is a habitat for more than 2,220 marine and wildlife species, some of which are on threatened or endangered lists including nesting sea turtles. Depending on the season, whale, dolphin and manatee spotting offers guaranteed thrills. What’s more, the Florida Oceanographic Society features acres of nature trails, marine programs and research opportunities.
For year-rounders and snowbirds, the island offers riverfront and oceanfront homes including condominiums, single-family residences and town homes as well as estates in exclusive gated communities.