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Man with muscular atrophy rides in friends' backpacks to see Europe

An Indiana man took a trip to Europe thanks to his friends and hundreds of generous strangers.

Kevan Chandler, 30, suffers from spinal muscular atrophy, which has left him confined to a wheelchair. Despite his diagnosis, he has stayed positive and dreamed big his entire life.

A few years ago, his friends helped him complete his dream of urban spelunking. They carried Chandler on their backs as they explored the North Carolina sewer system.

Chandler has since been able to realize an even bigger dream: exploring Europe.

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“These amazing countries are filled with wonders that would normally be inaccessible to me, from catacombs to gardens to ancient monasteries,” Chandler wrote on his GoFundMe page. Thanks to the support of his friends and hundreds of GoFundMe donors who don’t even know him, Chandler was able to raise more than $35,000 to fund the trip.

He says those strangers helped "carry" him through Europe just as much as his friends did.

He hopes to write a book about the experience as well as create a documentary.

Chandler posted photos of the trip to social media while abroad.

You can follow his journey on Facebook and Instagram.

>> Click here or scroll down to see a video of Chandler and photos from his trip

<iframe src="//;border=false" width="100%" height="750" frameborder="no" allowtransparency="true"></iframe><script src="//;border=false"></script>[View the story "Man with muscular atrophy rides in friends' backpacks to see Europe" on Storify]

Beach goers told to stay out of ocean after jellyfish invade Myrtle Beach

Beach goers are being told to stay out of the water after numerous jellyfish sightings at Myrtle Beach.

The Department of Natural Resources said that the extreme heat has brought the jellyfish up from Florida.

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A jellyfish actually stung a department official on Saturday, and on Sunday the National Weather Service issued a beach hazard warning.

Most jellyfish stings result in immediate pain and red, irritated marks on the skin. Most stings can be treated by rinsing the area with salt water, applying vinegar or a baking soda paste and taking a pain reliever, according to Mayo Clinic.

Four Seasons

Each New Year, I reconcile, with all the exactness of an accountant, the deadlines and vacation dates clamoring for space on my newly unfurled calendar. This has all the appeal of tabulating my taxes (mid March) or submitting my house to a spring cleaning (May). After, the date boxes are no longer glorious tabula rasas, hours waiting to be marked up like so many unwalked beaches. Instead, they present a year brimming with plans. Logged in ballpoint is my time, rationally seceded to tennis lessons and check-ups. Time is a luxury, as the saying goes. I can't help revisiting the Pete Seeger lyric - "To everything there is a season" - either, while I'm setting up reminder e-mails and confirming my flight to the Keys for this New Year's Eve (planned months ago). I never make resolutions, but I'm penciling in some time to break with tradition. I resolve to spend one weekend each season in complete and utter luxury. SPRING One of my deeply held beliefs about luxury in Florida is that it's never off season here. Shellacked resorts with gorgeous gardens and busy cabanas are full-service year 'round. Private beaches are prosperous with sunbathers whether it's January or July, and the spas offer massages on the waterfront, even in December. I'm so resolute in my new approach to the calendar, so committed to easing the seasonal rotation, that I leave my datebook et al in the car when I arrive at Loews Don CeSar Beach Hotel on St. Pete Beach. If a resort can be a valentine, then the Don CeSar, often called the "Pink Palace," is all that and a box of candy. It's easy to glide through the lobby here, and I do, right over the gleaming floors and past the potted palms and swank piano. Windows exhibit the Gulf and blazing chandeliers illuminate the warm environs. In my suite, everything is plantation-white except for a few sand-colored decorative touches. The bedspread looks like a creampuff. Once in my bathing suit, I stroll around the massive structure, which is Mediterranean-style and literally blushing in the waning light (the confectioner's color is an appropriate contrast to the strong, stately lines of this castle). As I head for a cabana through the pink-tinged sand, my feet damp from an unscheduled trip through the Gulf shallows, I peer up at the Moorish bell towers. The resort is like a silent screen star: a face full of character. Indeed there is something not quite real about The Don CeSar, its glamour ethereal. While enjoying the whirlpool's soothing current, I listen to the stirring of the Canary Island date palms and make a mental note to do Valentine's Day here next year. It's difficult to avoid the romance of The Don CeSar, which hosts 300 weddings annually, fêting the nuptial couples with released butterflies or pouring flower petals from the sky. One architect from the resort's past took one look and called it a "Sleeping Beauty." I lie in similar repose that night, after a massage at Spa Oceana and dinner at The Maritana Grille. SUMMER Ah, summer on the Italian Riviera. Dusk settles over the Ligurian fishing village of Portofino Bay, where the Tuscan-hued row houses rise up from the harbor, a laundry line of international flags snaps in the wind and the waiters flap white tablecloths over café tables. I step gingerly onto the cobblestones. A merchant offers me a glass of wine from his cart, but I've set my heart on gelato. As if on cue, singers begin the opera Volare and I give myself over to spontaneity, taking the glass. I admire the irreverent trompe l’oeil paintings on the exteriors of the tall, slim buildings. I find myself at a village fountain surrounded by grape vines and upturned wine barrels. The evening is arid, pleasant enough for a quick coast down the Roman aqueduct water slide. Though the Italian Riviera has long occupied my summer vacation wish list, I've never actually been there. International vacations require more than the usual diligence to plan. But at Loews Portofino Bay Hotel at Universal Orlando, little is required of me other than a willingness to believe I am, in fact, in Italy. Just a water taxi ride away from Universal Studios, Loews Portofino Bay Hotel is a perfect replica of the real one, conceived by none other than Steven Spielberg. With a host of awards to its name, this hotel boasts 750 rooms and suites done up in luxe Italian style. Trattorias, bocce ball courts and étagères in the bathrooms cater to discriminating guests, while traveling pets will be pleased by their own gourmet room service. No detail has been overlooked, which I discover when the Mandara Spa brings its services to me. Even better, it turns out, than zipping down that Roman style water slide, or twirling around in the enclave-private Hillside Pool, is having my own personal spa ritual. My selection, Cleopatra's Secret, has me lolling for uncounted minutes in oils. Once I've toweled off, taking my good old-fashioned time, I stroll through the piazza and get that gelato. FALL There's something in me that craves Maine or Massachusetts in autumn. I want port by the fire and a landscape in dramatic flux. I want to gather my free time around me like a blanket and doze. If I were still making checklists, fall trips would necessitate all of the above. By the time I pull into The Ritz-Carlton, Amelia Island - after passing rugged marshes and tangled trees voluptuous with Spanish moss - I'm mentally updating my list. From the extensive patio of my Garden View Suite in the late afternoon light, I chart the almost imperceptible change in the hue of the Atlantic Ocean to slate. The moon is already large and the beach flares up, peach colored. I watch preparations for a bonfire. What's so luxurious about this hotel, with its graceful position on a largely undeveloped barrier island, is its first-class service, glorious natural surroundings and absolute lack of pretension. On the Club Level, there's the requisite fireplace burning, as well as five stunning food presentations each day. There I curl up with both coffee and cabernet and dig into Dostoevsky. In the award-winning restaurant, Salt, I dine on Hawaiian tuna carpaccio and foie gras with saffron quince compote, sample the prodigious wine list and am very tempted to join the "seat" in the kitchen - a private room from which diners observe their special menu dishes being prepared. Outside, there are meandering boardwalks, Adirondack chairs andswings. On the lobby level I shop for Prada and have port in the elegant lounge. In the spa, I'm scrubbed with salt and honey, wrapped and then smoothed in shea butter. The scalp massage alone drives any latent impulses to task right out of my head. When I'm done, trailing the scent of lime and mango through the silk-papered halls, I slide right into a piping hot bath in my suite's polished tub where I have a view of the ocean. On a cool day, and despite preponderance of fluffy robes in my room and the Afternoon Tea presentation in the Club Lounge, I decide to explore the landscape. In keeping with my toned down approach to fall getaways, I scout the marshes by kayak. Before leaving, I join a Tai Chi group on the sand. After a weekend here, I discover that I'm more flexible than I've ever been. WINTER Each year, successfully planning the holidays represents no less than a major coup. I''m always overextended and left wishing I could remand my family to some fair isle where it's all planned for me - and to the hilt. So when my husband and I abscond this year to The Breakers hotel in Palm Beach in the middle of the holiday flurry, we bring along high hopes and a few unwrapped gifts. It's easy to imagine sugar plum fairies in our Junior Ocean View Suite, which is awash in the vivid pastels of sea glass. The Breakers' newly remodeled guest rooms and suites feature a fresh, new decor in a distinctive and classic style that offers the highest standards of guest comfort. Accommodations are complete with custom-designed furnishings and fixtures, marble bathrooms and decor inspired by the resort's tropical oceanfront location. Soon we're drawn to the billowing curtain sheers. We step through them onto the balcony and the Atlantic spreads out before us, bracing and powerful. We don our finest and head downstairs. In the lobby, we're entranced by Christmas trees swaddled in ribbon and tulle, thick garlands hanging from the arches and painted ceilings. A harpist plays carols. The resort features an array of restaurant and culinary concepts to satisfy diverse preferences. Travelers can choose from seafood, modern American and Asian cuisine. In the spa the next day, I feel like I'm in a European-styled wardrobe complete with blonde wood and prim settees.I help myself to apple and cucumber water (the spa features a variety of infused waters) and breathe in the mentholated air in the steam sauna before submitting to a facial. After, I stop into the Guerlain boutique - and buy some last minute gifts. For myself. The Spa at the Breakers offers Guerlain facials. When we leave the next day, I turn around to watch this majestic hotel, heralded by its long driveway of twinkle-lit palms lined up like so many nutcrackers, slip away. My New Year's resolution has been carried out just as gracefully. I plan to make it all over again next year. A WINE FOR ALL SEASONS Every November for the past 15 years, The Ritz-Carlton, Amelia Island has been assailed by the roar of jet engines and cartons of corks when skydivers spirit the annual wine Beaujolais nouveau down to the hotel grounds. The dry red wine is delivered by plane straight from southern Burgundy's rolling hills and welcomed in this spectacular ceremony, having been bottled shortly after fermentation to prevent any aging. The wine's arrival in Amelia Island is symbolic: In the Beaujolais region of France, its appearance heralds the start of fall and warrants a full harvest festival. The Ritz-Carlton, Amelia Island has taken up this age-old European tradition, fêting celebrants with hors d'oeuveres, French dishes and desserts. Not to be outdone, The Breakers Palm Beach keeps a 28,000-bottle collection of vintages all maintained by an expert sommelier and reflecting 1,600 selections. The wine cellar, a centerpiece of the Florentine Room, is protected by 19th-century, hand-painted leaded glass doors, which show a Chinese slate floor, redwood racks and the elegant bottles.

Florida's Pompano Are Fine Fighters, Finer Eating

Florida has numerous species of jacks swimming in its waters, but the most prized is the Florida pompano. Found off beaches and in inlets throughout the state, hungry anglers know that fresh pompano equals a delicious fish dinner. Pompano typically feed in shallow water for small shrimp, crabs and other shellfish. From the surf, anglers target pompano with mole crabs, also known as sand fleas. Throwing a sand flea at a pompano is the equivalent of dropping a cookie among kids – it will get picked up. Surf fishers spend hours digging for sand fleas and still more hours keeping them alive for a few days of pompano fishing. While sand fleas may be the best bait, small cut pieces of shrimp will certainly catch a fair share, too On the Gulf Coast of Florida, pompano fishermen tend to throw artificials more frequently than east coasters. With the Gulf’s usually calmer surf, anglers aim for pompano by casting parallel to troughs with small bucktail or nylon-haired jigs tipped with a bit of shrimp. Gulf Coast anglers also drift passes on strong outgoing tides, employing a near-vertical jigging technique known as the pompano pump. This technique allows everyone on the boat to take advantage of drifting over a school of hungry pompano. Color can play an important role in catching pompano with jigs. Typically in cleaner water, yellow, white or brown hues are best, while in dirtier or stained water bright pink or chartreuse often get the nod. Jigs should be heavy enough to keep close contact with the pompano, which are definitely bottom feeders. Anglers barely feel many pompano strikes – often the only thing you’ll feel is extra weight on the line. Short, quick pops of the rod tip will mimic a fleeing shrimp and produce more strikes. When tipping a jig for pompano, a fingernail-size piece of shrimp will suffice. Too big a piece and you’ll lose the action pompano find irresistible. Pompano tackle can be any light inshore rod, and braid is almost a necessity to detect the soft strikes. Surf anglers usually employ a longer rod to reach farther out into the surf. While not as glamorous as their cousins, the permit, pompanos are definitely representative of their hard-fighting jack family. Their abundance throughout Florida’s waters makes them one of the most sought after gamefish for shore-bound anglers. And in addition to the fun of catching pompano, their puffy, white meat makes for great eating.

Butterfly Peacock Bass Fishing Tips

More than 300 miles of urban canals in Dade and Broward counties have fishable populations of butterfly peacock bass, an introduced species that reaches nine pounds.

Butterfly peacocks prefer live fish or fish-imitating lures, rather than plastic worms commonly used for largemouth bass. The best bait for butterfly peacocks is live shiners, but artificial lures also work well, including topwater plugs, jigs and crankbaits. Light spinning tackle is recommended in canals for this open-water fighter.

Intersections, dead ends and fallen trees concentrate butterfly peacocks. Shade provided by bridges, culverts, vegetation, and other structures provide some of the most productive spots. Butterfly peacocks are caught only during daylight hours, as they do not feed at night.

Kissimmee: Just For Fun

You've got three days. Let's see how much pure family fun you can cram in. Ready, set, go! In Kissimmee, the challenge is: so much fun, so little time. So allow me to help you to fit it all in with this yippee!-conducive itinerary. Day One Cruise Irlo Bronson Highway (Hwy. 192) and watch the fun pop out: fantastic gift shops, amusement parks, and family restaurants shout for your attention. Head to the Old Town Shopping, Dining and Entertainment Attraction and hit Happy Days Go-Cart Track for a little go-cart action. Then check out the Ferris wheel, bumper cars or laser tag, or amp up your experience with the rock wall, ropes course, zip line and much more. In one section, rides and games are tot-sized and throughout, snack stands and restaurants sell kid favorites: cotton candy, popcorn, giant pretzels and pizza. In between rides, hit the fun shops, selling everything from sports team paraphernalia to magic tricks. For the brave in the family, spice the fun with fear factor at Old Town Grimm Haunted House. Recommended for kids ages 10 and older, it's an old-fashioned scare mansion with loud noises, ghoulish actors, flashing lights, and spooky special effects. For the less-than-brave, ask for the "light scare" treatment. Old Town stays open until 11 p.m. for late-night family amusement. Day Two After your first active day and late-night out, sleep in and then head to St. Cloud for hometown fun and fulfillment. Take the kids to Lakefront Park to fish for bass and perch. When you finish feeding the fish, head downtown for a bite to eat. For top night-time dining and entertainment, make reservations at the Medieval Times dinner show. Day Three Begin the day at Gatorland, where toddlers to teens will have fun at attractions that range from a fountain playground to gator feedings that appeal to gruesome appetites. Plan to stay at least three hours to hit all the shows, climb the observation tower overlooking gators galore, pet farm animals, visit baby gators and munch on a lunch of gator nuggets (or more conventional snack fare) at Pearl's Smokehouse. Spend the afternoon in downtown Kissimmee, checking out the traditional hometown with its lovely churches and cowtown heritage. Look for murals that depict a time when cattle ranching was the town's main industry and artwork including sculptures that rotate out each year. 'Fraid we've run out of time, yet still more fun awaits. Perhaps you should consider extending your vacation so you can make it to all the parks, museums and other attractions we couldn't fit in.

Places to Propose

You've gotten the ring... and the courage. Now, it's time to pop the question. There's just one minor detail: Where should you do it? The question, "Will you marry me?" should be asked in an achingly romantic spot. It must be magical, memorable and most importantly, mandate a "Yes!" In Florida, the odds are in your favor. Every section of the Sunshine State is spilling over with sensuous scenarios sure to elicit success. Here are just a few: Pop the cork and the question with your heads in the clouds, on a heavenly hot air balloon ride. Blue Water Balloons in Orlando offers a champagne toast flight. What a way to spend the day! Have a dolphin do it. Discovery Cove in Orlando can have a buoy personalized with your proposal delivered by a dolphin, along with a video recording or photographs of the special moment. Create your own fairytale at Walt Disney World. While you're holding hands over dinner at Victoria and Albert's at the Grand Floridian, the concierge will arrange to carpet your hotel room in rose petals. Charter a glass coach to the wedding pavilion, where a violinist adds ambience and a photographer forever preserves your proposal on film. Afterwards, watch fireworks from your chariot before returning to a heart-fluttering floral fantasy. Other ideas are taking your beloved to Cinderella's Royal Table inside the castle or chartering the 52-foot "Grand 1" Yacht to watch the nightly fireworks. Discover the keys to romance. Florida Yacht Charters & Sales, Inc. offers romantic sails through the Florida Keys, complete with culinary-skilled captains to help couples cast away their cares. There's nothing more sensual than the gentle lapping of waves against the hull. Traditions live on for a reason. You won't go wrong with an intimate, candlelit dinner and dance, especially at the sexy Leopard Lounge in The Chesterfield Hotel. It's located three blocks from the ocean and two blocks from Worth Avenue in glamorous Palm Beach, where you are sure to find the perfect bauble to bedazzle your betrothed. Fan the flames of romance at The Lodge & Club at Ponte Vedra Beach. The "Stir the Fire" package is sure to melt your hearts. Begin the evening with a sumptuous candlelit dinner on your oceanfront balcony; feed each other decadent desserts in your whirlpool bath, then cuddle up fireside with a glass of champagne. Who knows? She might discover a diamond at the bottom of her bubbly. Propose under a canopy of stars. After an exhilarating day of fishing, hiking or kayaking, relax by a crackling campfire and let the wilderness work its magic. There are hundreds of beautiful state parks throughout Florida to pop the question. ( St. Augustine is hauntingly romantic. Start with a champagne sunset cruise on a tall ship, saunter with spirits of the night on a ghost tour and take a horse and carriage ride back to a charming Victorian-era bed and breakfast inn. America's oldest city is dripping with history, and it's a lovely locale to create some of your own. A dollar says she (or he) will accept. Particularly if the dollar is among the quarter of a million's worth on display at Cabbage Key's rustic island bar. Instead of autographing it like hundreds before you, pen your proposal before taping it to the wall. Cabbage Key is a fun stop on an island hop. Visit popular Sanibel and Captiva, or cruise to lesser-known North Captiva, a remote island with crushed shell roads and no cars. Accessible only by boat, it is the consummate blend of wild, natural beauty and catered comfort. The North Captiva Island Club offers vacation rentals with resort amenities, and even accepts pooches. Share a romantic seaside picnic and surprise her with a sparkling ring tucked in a seashell, or soar above the shore in a bi-plane or helicopter, where the vista below reveals "Marry me" carved in silky white sand. Sip champagne at sunset, and express your undying love as the embers of the golden orb extinguish beyond the horizon. With 1,260 miles of coastline and waters ranging from emerald green to midnight blue, Florida's beaches present a panoply of aqueous settings for a picture-perfect proposal.

Feds will require airline baggage fee refunds when bags are delayed

A new measure signed into law will require airlines to refund baggage fees when bags are delayed.

With the new law, “passengers won’t have to spend a ton of time tracking down a refund when the airline doesn’t deliver,” according to U.S. Sen. John Thune, chairman of the Senate Commerce committee, during remarks on the Senate floor last month.

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The measure in a Federal Aviation Administration re-authorization extension bill signed into law in July directs the U.S. Transportation Secretary to issue regulations on the matter within a year.

The new regulations would require an airline to “promptly provide to a passenger an automated refund for any ancillary fees paid by the passenger for checked baggage” if the bag is not delivered within 12 hours of arrival of a domestic flight, or within 15 hours of arrival of an international flight. The passenger would need to notify the airline of the lost or delayed baggage to get the refund.

U.S. airlines collected more than $900 million in baggage fees in the first quarter of 2016, according to the U.S. Bureau of Transportation Statistics. American Airlines collected the most baggage fees among U.S. airlines, with $262.5 million in baggage fees in the quarter. Delta was in the No. 2 spot with $197.7 million in baggage fee revenue in the same period.

Vero Beach, Hutchinson Island and Martin County Area Beaches

Beaches and parks are listed geographically from north to south.   Beaches with this symbol have beach wheelchairs available, either provided as a courtesy, or available for (prearranged) rent and delivery from private companies. This area offers an outstanding number of golden Florida beaches, including many protected state and national parks. The local city and county beaches have plenty of onshore activities, and the area is known for several offshore shipwrecks that are perfect for some spectacular scuba diving.


 Sebastian Inlet State Park 

Sebastian Inlet State Park features some of the best surfing in the state in three miles of blue Atlantic water. Situated on the tips of two barrier islands, the park is surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean to the east, the Indian River Lagoon to the west and the Sebastian Inlet flows between the two. It is a favorite spot for picnicking, swimming, surfing, fishing, boating, snorkeling, Scuba diving, bird watching, and camping.  Vero Beach 

Vero Beach is where you can escape the hustle and bustle of everyday life. This area offers plenty of public beach access and a number of full-service parks, depending on your needs. Humiston Beach Park and Jaycee Park are the only areas in Vero Beach that provide beach wheelchairs. 

Wabasso Beach Park is located in Vero Beach amidst some popular family resorts. It has wide, quiet beaches that are perfect for swimming.

Golden Sands Beach Park is a traditional beach park with lifeguards, grills and picnic area, dressing facilities, restrooms and showers. It's a good place if you feel like snorkeling or Scuba diving.

Jaycee Park is more than eight acres of oceanfront park perfect for family gatherings. There is a playground, a restaurant, a scenic boardwalk, a large picnic area and a buoyed swimming area.

Finally, Humiston Beach Park is located in the heart of Vero Beach's island shopping district. Throughout the year, this four-acre park is the center for arts and crafts shows and other festivals. 

Hutchinson Island This beautiful barrier island features 21 miles of pristine beaches including Fort Pierce, Port St. Lucie, and the beaches of Martin County from Jensen Beach to Stuart Beach. Public parks lie along seven miles of this Atlantic coastal stretch, projecting an unspoiled, tropical tranquility. Fishing is also abundant, and several offshore shipwrecks provide excellent diving opportunities. From the Pines north of Ft. Pierce Inlet south to Waveland Beach, there are 33 points where you can access these beautiful Indian River beaches. 

Pepper Park Pepper Park is best known for the 1700s Spanish wreck Urca de Lima that lies sunken in 15 feet of water just 200 yards offshore. So put on your fins and mask, and swim out to take a look. Aside from the great snorkeling and Scuba diving, the park also features tennis, basketball and volleyball courts, picnic areas and a boardwalk.

 Fort Pierce Inlet State Park/North Jetty Park 

Fort Pierce Inlet State Park/North Jetty Park is a 340-acre state-owned oceanfront forest overlooking sand dunes and the sparkling Atlantic Ocean. The North Jetty is a prime spot to try some fishing, and there are picnic and camping sites, grills and restrooms. If you're a nature lover, you'll find plenty of wildlife here, so bring your binoculars for some bird watching.


South Jetty Park and Pier, on the south side of the Fort Pierce Inlet at the end of Seaway Drive, is a 1½-acre ocean park with a 1,200-foot fishing jetty, boardwalk, restrooms, picnic areas and pavilion. South Beach Boardwalk is a scenic boardwalk set at the top of tall, sea-oat-dappled sand dunes from which you can see the sparkling ocean below. If you are looking for a place to lunch, there are raised picnic pavilions, as well as showers and restrooms.

The Beaches of Martin County

Encompassing the communities of Port Salerno, Stuart, Palm City, Jensen Beach, Indiantown, Jupiter Island, Hobe Sound and Hutchinson Island, Martin County serves up beautiful beaches and more than 75 parks – not to mention the most bio-diverse lagoon ecosystem in the Northern hemisphere, the St. Lucie Inlet.

Jensen Beach is bustling with excitement. Locals and visitors alike flock to the sandy shores of this park on Hutchinson Island. Several picnic pavilions, as well as volleyball courts, bathrooms and showers make this a complete all-ages park.

Stuart Beach overlooks the Atlantic Ocean and golden sand beach, featuring a 250-foot boardwalk. Volleyball and basketball courts are on site, as well as a playground and the Elliott Museum, which houses a collection of Americana dating back to 1750. Bathtub Reef Beach is an undeveloped 1,300-foot beach with a shallow offshore reef that is good for snorkeling and diving. During low tide, inspect the tidal pools of the rocky reef for sea life. The park features lifeguards and a river boardwalk on the west side of MacArthur Boulevard leading to the Indian River. St. Lucie Inlet State Preserve is set on the north end of Jupiter Island. This 928-acre park has 2½ miles of remote beach accessible only by boat. A boardwalk leads from docks to the shore. Inland you can explore the mangrove-lined creeks, or offshore, search the limestone reef for unique underwater life. Blowing Rocks Preserve has extensive rock formations on and off shore. Fishing, snorkeling and diving are popular along this beach on Jupiter Island. There are no lifeguards on duty, but there is an extensive boardwalk area on the Intracoastal side on the park, as well as a nature center. You can enjoy the park even on days the ocean is too rough for swimming. Just be careful as you watch geysers explode through the formations when the waves crash on the rocks.

Hobe Sound National Wildlife Refuge is a pristine 967-acre park featuring 3½ miles of beach on Jupiter Island. It's one of the state's most popular turtle nesting beaches, so if you are here in the spring or summer, you'll be sure to spot some nests. On the mainland, preserved nature trails weave along the Intracoastal Waterway.


Photos by Lauren Tjaden for VISIT FLORIDA


Exploring the Treasure Coast


Sea oats and native vegetation line the beach at Hobe Sound National Wildlife Refuge. ~ Contributed Photo


In September 1696, a young Quaker merchant of Jamaica named Jonathan Dickinson was shipwrecked near the St. Lucie Inlet along with his family and other passengers and crew members. Dickinson encountered the local Ais Indians, a tribe that lived along the shores of the great lagoon called Rio de Ais by the Spanish, and now called the Indian River.


Although Dickinson never returned to the area, his name lives on in Jonathan Dickinson State Park, an 11,500-acre preserve near Hobe Sound that allows visitors to step back in time and see what this pristine area looked like before it was settled by Europeans. Located at the confluence of the Indian River Lagoon and the St. Lucie River in southeastern Florida, the St. Lucie Inlet includes the communities of Stuart, Jensen Beach and Hobe Sound. The inlet separates the barrier islands of Hutchinson Island to the north and Jupiter Island to the south. In stark contrast to the faster pace just to the south, these destinations feature a culturally vibrant, yet laid-back quality of life centered on beaches, boating, fishing, community and the outdoors.


Jonathan Dickinson State Park, Hobe Sound ~ Martin County Convention & Visitors Bureau


Dickinson was not the first European in the area, of course. St. Lucie first appeared on the maps of Spanish explorers in the early 16th century as Santa Lucea. And less than 20 years after Dickinson’s woes, a Spanish treasure fleet was shipwrecked. It was the first of many galleons carrying gold to wreck, giving the region its name, the Treasure Coast.


Because of the area’s isolated location and the treacherous reefs just offshore, the structure known as Gilbert’s Bar House of Refuge was established to provide food and shelter to shipwrecked sailors. The nearby Elliott Museum boasts exhibits focused on art, history, and technology.


St. Lucie is known for its fishing. Dubbed the “Sailfish Capital of the World,” the peak months are December through March, then June and July, with more than a dozen tournaments filling calendars from October through January each year. In addition to marinas, deep-sea charter and professional guide services are readily available.


Featuring a remarkable amount of shoreline for its small size, Stuartboasts a charming, walkable historic downtown. The Lyric Theatre, a former silent movie house, anchors the heart of the restored downtown in neoclassical style and is the town’s most visible landmark. It has hosted an eclectic mix of classical and pop performances, from Vero Beach country singer Jake Owen to Ricci Martin, the Rat Pack member’s son.


The town’s old courthouse, now the Court House Cultural Center, contains scheduled art exhibits and sponsors the ArtsFest each March. The Stuart Heritage Museum, formerly the George W. Parks General Store, memorializes the town’s early 20th-century history and architecture. 


The city is on its second name. When first settled in the early 1890s, it was called Potsdam, a name selected by German settlers. Following the 1895 arrival of Henry Flagler’s Florida East Coast Railway, the town was renamed after local landowner, Homer Hine Stuart.


Hobe Sound     ~ Allie Cooper Evans


Located about 10 miles south of Stuart is the village of Hobe Sound. With an eclectic assortment of shops, boutiques and galleries, Hobe Sound hosts cultural events that draw people from the entire Treasure Coast, like the Hobe Sound Festival of the Arts in early February. The town’s name comes from the Jobe Indians (the Spanish pronounced the name “HO-bay”), one of the Native American groups that lived in the area before the European settlement.


Hobe Sound is home to one of Florida’s finest nature preserves, the aforementioned Jonathan Dickinson State Park. This 11,500-acre refuge contains an abundance of tropical and subtropical wildlife and offers camping, canoeing, hiking, bicycling, picnicking and fresh and saltwater fishing. The 40-foot Loxahatchee Queen III offers two-hour-long exploration of the upper reaches of the Loxahatchee River, which is accessible only by boat and includes a ranger-guided tour of the restored camp of Trapper Nelson, the famous “Wildman of the Loxahatchee.”


Jensen Beach  

Jensen Beach was once known as the “Pineapple Capital of the World” before a combination of deadly freezes, blights and fires destroyed the industry at the turn of the 20th century. The prototype Old Florida beach town, it has a roundabout and a handful of good (and unpretentious) restaurants including Conchy Joe’s (on the water) and 11 Maple Street (gourmet in an Old Florida house).


The town, which sits on the land side of the Intracoastal Waterway, is home to many local restaurants. Just up Indian River Drive, the town’s most famous eatery is the Dolphin Bar and Shrimp House, a seafood house boasting a spectacular river view. Known for years as Frances Langford’s Outrigger Resort, it was owned by Langford, a 1940s and 50s-era movie star best known as Bob Hope’s sidekick.


Conservation-minded Langford lived in the town for more than 50 years before her death in 2005. Ask any local, and he or she will tell of Langford’s generosity and then send you to nearby Frances Langford Park, which has baseball diamonds, a playground and fitness trails. Not only does the restaurant have photographs from Langford’s Hollywood career, but patrons waiting for a table can have a look at her vintage fishing reels.


To visit Jensen Beach’s oceanside beauty, head out on the causeway to Hutchinson Island. Beach lovers frequent Sea Turtle Beach, a wide, sandy beach named for the loggerhead and green turtles that lay their eggs there in late spring. Heading south on Hutchinson Island, you’ll come across Bathtub Beach, which is popular with families because a coral reef protects the shore and keeps the waves to a minimum.


Jensen Beach hangs onto its history and uses it to its advantage. Even though the pineapple industry collapsed by 1920, the pineapple is a permanent part of the town’s identity. The annual Pineapple Festival (complete with the crowning of Miss Pineapple) is held each November and remains Jensen Beach’s defining community event.

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