This was one of my typical North-South weekends, where I spend one day up north and the other down south. On Saturday, I drove an hour north to Stuart and Hutchinson Island. where I began the day with a nice long walk along Jensen Beach, which is just north of Hutchinson Island. I came across this beach a few years back by sheer accident – I made a wrong turn and ended up at Jensen Beach. I loved it so much, I now go back and make that same wrong turn a few times each year. Afterwards, I went to the Florida Oceanographic Coastal Center, which I’ve passed by many times, but this time, I actually stopped in and checked it out. A marine life nature center, with many nice aquariums of exotic and native fish, there are also a few touch tanks, including a stingray touch tank, which I was more than happy to touch away. I hiked along the one-mile long trail that features several small bridges and a replica of an Indian camp, complete with an Indian hut. There is also a game fish lagoon, with many different species of big fish, including tarpon and snapper.
I then drove onto Hutchinson Island and parked at a beach park, where I strolled along the beach until I came across the House of Refuge Museum At Gilbert’s Bar. Not knowing what exactly it was and intrigued by the lookout tower (I thought it may have been a lighthouse), I checked it out and it happened to be a Coast Guard post back in the early 1900’s. Gilbert’s Bar is the waterway around this area where there were several shipwrecks around the turn of the 20th century. I investigated about the island a bit more, then hit a couple parks that go under the Hutchinson Island Causeway, where I took several pictures of the surrounding areas.
My next stop was downtown Stuart, where I had nice lunch right on the water at the Pelican Cafe. I have been to Stuart several times before and I never get sick of walking around the downtown area or the dock. I capped off the evening with a walk around Jupiter Beach Park in Jupiter, where you can see the lighthouse all lit up (see last week’s post), and then a stroll around the lake at the Juno Community Center, which is just south of Jupiter. As I was driving out of Juno, I passed a street called Fairchild Garden Blvd. I found that very ironic, as I would end up at a place called Fairchild Garden on Sunday.
Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden is a beautiful botanical garden in Coral Gables, which is just east of Miami. Since I have been there a few times, I brought along a good friend who hasn’t but loves botanical gardens. She was not disappointed, to say the least. I think she even took more pictures than me. And that’s saying something, since I have become quite the Japanese tourist. I hardly ever took pictures before – and then I went digital! Now, I’ve got snap-itis! A rare and sometimes deadly disease, only cured by a dead battery or a full memory card. But back to the gardens. The day started off a bit on the cloudy side, but then the sun broke through, and the true glory of these gardens shined through. Several works of art from many reknown artists, including Chihuly and Botero, dotted the landscape as we walked the meandering path that flows around the lush grounds. We explored several small gardens, such as the Butterfly Garden, the Rainforest Garden and the Spiny Forest of Madagascar, an amazing collection of cacti and prickly plants from the world’s fourth largest island. After sitting down for lunch at the Garden Cafe, we were ‘joined’ by a snowy egret, who dazzled everyone with his lizard-catching skills. We then toured the Tropics Conservatory and the Tropical Fruit Pavilion, which contains many exotic fruits that I’m not going even attempt to spell (or pronounce). The path then wound through the Palmetum, which features several spectacular varieties of palm trees and bushes. After walking through the Sunken Gardens, which follows a mulch path down to a small but beautiful waterfall, we continued along the path around the outer side of the grounds that border several gorgeous lakes and leads back to the entrance.
We ended this incredibly beautiful day with a visit to Matheson Hammock Park, which features a man-made atoll pool, and where you can view the spectacular skylines of downtown Miami and Key Biscayne. And if you look hard enough, you can even see the Cape Florida Lighthouse that I was coincidentally at last weekend.