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Archive for October 15th, 2012

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Finally, the last part of underdeveloped US 1/A1A.

We left off at Savannas Preserve State Park. Go down South Indian River Drive. At some point it changes to Northeast Indian River Drive, and you’re in Jensen Beach. Look for the Northeast Dixie Highway turnoff on the right. Go down that for half a mile and you’ll see a relic of Florida tourism gone by, the Stuart Welcome Arch.

When this part of Dixie Highway was well-used, visitors from the north would flock down in their jalopies at breakneck speed. I think they may have exceeded 30 mph! When they got this far, they would see ‘Stuart’ emblazoned on the Arch as they passed through. On their way home, they would see ‘Jensen’. The Arch has been renovated over the years, and the names are still on each side. There’s an abandoned Twistee Treat right next to it. Perfect place to park and walk around to get the whole over-Arching experience.

Back over on Indian River Drive is Indian Riverside Park, which is part entertainment complex. There are a couple of museums, a long pier out into the Lagoon, and an old house on a Indian Mound. I always like when a lot of cool stuff is close together like this.

There’s another museum further down the road. Beyond that a ways is the last surviving House of Refuge in the state. There were a series of such houses along the east coast to help shipwrecked sailors. One of the shipwrecks is right off the coast from here, the Georges Valentine. This is also were you’ll start to see the rocky stretch of the east coast, which goes down to Jupiter. I was there on a stormy day, and I can imagine how desolate this area must have been when the Refuge was first built. It reminds me of some parts of California along the Pacific. Without the seals, though.

I included the Bay Tree Lodge, but you’ll have to park on the roadside if you want to get a closer look. An OK-looking building, but maybe more effort than it’s worth to see it. (see Google map)

Cross the US 1 bridge to get to the historic buildings in Stuart. Visit the Stuart Heritage Museum if you want to learn more about the area’s history. Some historic sites are close by as well. To see the sites closer to US 1, I suggest parking at Shepard Park. I’m all about the free parking.

If you want to visit St. Lucie Inlet Preserve State Park, there’s no easy public access. You can either park and walk for a few miles, or take a boat. (see Google map)

Head south and you can visit a couple more bits of Stuart history. Then down Dixie Highway will get you to Seabranch Preserve State Park. Look sharp, there’s only a parking lot near the VFW with a small picnic area. Go beyond that if you’re into nature hikes through the sand and scrub.

To the east is St. Lucie Inlet Preserve State Park. It’s accessible by boat, or a very long walk. Should you have a kayak, the best access point is at the end of Cove Road. There’s a big dock on the west side of the park that you can probably see from there. If you want to take the land route, head south from Seabranch until you get to Southeast Bridge Road and take a left. When you reach Beach Road, go north by the fancy homes sheltered by palm trees and seagrape bushes. You may go by Beach Road 2, a Florida’s 100 building, since it’s on North Beach Road. It does look pretty cool, but I don’t think you can see it from the street. From what I’ve turned up, the owners prefer it that way, so don’t look hard. At the end is the parking area for the north end of the Hobe Sound National Wildlife Refuge, which costs 5 bucks to use. From there, it’s 3 miles up the beach through the refuge to get to the state park. (see Google map)

Off US 1 further down is Hobe Sound, and the old Olympia School. It was in sad shape when I was there, but it’s been recently renovated, which I’m always happy to find out.

Further down and A1A and US 1 merge and stay so into Palm Beach County. The next concentration of civilization is miles down, because you’re going through federal and state preserved land until you get to Jupiter. Nothing but sand dunes covered in palmettos and grass. It’s hard to believe that West Palm Beach is so close.

You’ll go through more of the National Wildlife Refuge first, and there’s a visitor center on the east side of the road. They didn’t know about Reed Wilderness Seashore Sanctuary, the NNL that’s part of the refuge. Surprising. (see Google map)

Right next to the refuge is Jonathan Dickinson State Park, which contains a hodge-podge of history. The man the park was named for was a Quaker who shipwrecked here in the 17th century. There was a military camp here during World War II, and an eccentric trapper lived on the Loxahatchee River. It’s a big park, with an observation tower that gives you a spectacular view of the area. You can see the Atlanticto the east, and the scrub and trees going on and on in all other directions. Further in is a visitor center, and nearby is a picnic area which is the jump-off point for a boat tour of the Loxahatchee. It goes to the trapper’s former home. Be advised that there are only about 4 tours a day, and they’re dependent on times. Too low and they won’t go. I’ve not managed to get there at the right time yet. I want to take the tour, but definitely need to plan ahead for it when I next get down there.

After leaving the park environs, you’ll soon be in Jupiter. The city, not the planet. It’s in Palm Beach County, and is the last bit of calm before you enter the maelstrom that is South Florida. Any time I’m going north from Miami, it’s where I feel like I’ve finally escaped from Miami. ‘Cause it’s all urban, urban, urban from North Palm Beach to Homestead. Yeah, since I left, I do not miss it down there.

OK, upbeat. I’ve fallen in serious like of Jupiter. On the north side of town is an old lighthouse. Blowing Rocks Preserve is not too far away, on Jupiter Island. I keep getting there at the wrong time. I look forward to seeing it, since it’s like the area near the House of Refuge. But with plants growing along the shore, so it’s not so barren. (see Google map)

Cross the bridge on US 1, and the Burt Reynolds & Friends Museum is on the right. It may be permanently closed, though, since when I was last there the grounds looked ill-maintained. There’s a nice park with an old home on a mound in it. It also has the best Italian restaurant in the world.

Well, maybe I exaggerate. But Casa Mia (on Indiantown Road, west of US 1) has some of the best Italian food I’ve ever had. I stumbled on it when I stayed nearby during the first time I was in Jupiter. When I was there five months later, it was still there and as great as before. I found out later that the father of one of the owners runs a very popular restaurant in London. I like to do Italian for my birthday in November. I’m not saying I’ll go every year; it’s over a three hour drive from Ocala. But maybe I will. Yep, it’s that good. And I’m not the only one who thinks so(see Google map)

Actually, the insanity doesn’t start until a few miles down. So you can get to Juno Beach without too much fuss and see the Loggerhead Marinelife Center. It’s right on US 1 in Loggerhead Park, so it’s a breeze to find. (see Google map)

That’s it for the less utilized parts of A1A and US 1. Future posts about the routes will be about the urbanity of them all. See you on the road!

Route length: 120 miles

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