Just north of Fort Pierce at Mile 963.5 lies the village of St. Lucie on the western shore. Like the county, the river (which meets the Indian River farther south at “the Crossroads”), and the inlet, the village of St. Lucie is believed to have been named for St. Lucie of Syracuse, an early Christian who was martyred by Romans in 304 A.D. The village was one of the original settlements in these parts, and although it is difficult to go ashore, you can enjoy its Old Florida architecture from the water. Immediately south, the river is dotted with spoil islands that are first-class locations for anchoring, shore picnics or overnight camping. Depths around the islands range from over your head to just over your shoetops, so you’ll have to feel your way with care. Here, too, the Florida Inland Navigation District spoil island brochures are very useful. (To get one, call FIND in Jupiter, 561-627-3386.)
At Mile 965 you’ll enter Fort Pierce, the largest town on the Treasure Coast. Originally a U.S. Army post built on the west bank of the Indian River in 1838 during the Second Seminole War, it was named for its commander, Lt. Col. Benjamin K. Pierce (whose brother, Franklin, later became President of the U.S.). With its large harbor, major all-weather inlet, and a stop on Flagler's Florida East Coast Railroad, Fort Pierce has become the Treasure Coast's major intermodal transportation hub. It has plenty of facilities for the cruising boatman, including Riverside Marina & Boat Works, a full service or DIY yard and Harbortown (with a popular restaurant and other marine services) at the mouth of Taylor Creek. Opposite and south of the inlet is the Fort Pierce City Marina, a first-class facility close to just about everything, right in the heart of the city. Also, there's the Pelican Yacht Club and Inlet Marina on the south side of the channel between the inlet and the port.
Pilot your boat with care passing Fort Pierce Inlet on the ICW between the two Fort Pierce bridges. The considerable currents and tides in the area tend to move the channel around from season to season, sometimes faster than markers and charts can keep up.
The inlet itself, on the other hand, is tamer and better maintained than most others along the northern and central Florida coast. Straight, wide and deep enough for ocean going ships, this inlet is probably the best access to the Atlantic between Palm Beach and Mayport. But mind the wind and tide. As it is with other Florida inlets (no matter how straight, wide or deep), when a rushing outgoing tide meets a strong onshore wind, a really nasty and sometimes difficult chop will result.
Cruising southward from Fort Pierce, the next point of interest is Jensen Beach, a pretty resort village at Mile 981.5.There are motels and shopping close to the waterfront and plenty of room to anchor on either side of the Jensen Beach Causeway. (In this area, watch for moderate shoaling from Marker #217 to about 2,000 feet south of Marker #220.) There are a few marinas, restaurants and watering holes reached via their own privately marked channels from the ICW to the western shore.
Don't be surprised if you see a lot of pineapples here, both real and symbolic. Jensen Beach has chosen the pineapple as a village symbol not only because it is a universal sign of hospitality, but also because in the late 1800s, Jensen Beach grew so many pineapples it was often called “The Pineapple Capital of the World.”
Just south of the village on the west side of the Indian River is the Dolphin Bar & Shrimp House where Frances Langford’s Outrigger Resort once stood. Dockage is available for dining; new residences have been built on the site. The Maritime & Yachting Museum (formerly on the south fork of the St. Lucie in Stuart) has relocated to Jensen Beach — with a different name — Maritime and Classic Boat Museum. It's in Indian Riverside Park, just a bit to the north of the former Langford property. New docks and buildings are scheduled but the completion dates have not been announced as of our press time.
If you like docking and living well, continue southward to Mile 985, immediately south of the Stuart Causeway. There another privately marked channel leads eastward to the Hutchinson Island Marriott Beach Resort & Marina, an outstanding resort with world-class amenities and services available to marina guests. Included is a great little "tram" ride to the beach from the hotel. (Continue...)
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