Saint Lucie County is located on the Atlantic coast and is the geographical center of the Treasure Coast tri-county area. The county is located 225 miles south of Jacksonville and 120 miles north of Miami and covers 588 square miles. Saint Lucie County contains three incorporated municipalities: Ft.Pierce (the county seat), Port St. Lucie and St. Lucie Village; and Hutchinson Island, a barrier island community. The cities, along with extensive undeveloped acreage in the unincorporated areas, make up the county's rich and diverse character.
"The Most Liveable"
With a countywide population of more than 265,000, St. Lucie has been one of the fastest growing counties in the nation, as well as one of the most liveable, as indicated in the "Survey of American Cities" in Money Magazine. Residents enjoy an average monthly temperature of nearly 74 degrees. The county boasts miles of uncrowded beaches, barrier islands, and the Fort Pierce Inlet. The inlet is a major hub for commercial freighters and fishing boats, private yachts and sailboats, and other small craft. Nearby is South Beach Jetty where you can watch vessels to your heart's content, as well as a bounty of wildlife.Inland you'll find about 110,000 acres of citrus orchards and cattle ranches.
Home to Numerous Scientific Centers
The county is home to the Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institution, a marine research and education facility. It is the nation's third largest oceanographic institution, and the home of the Smithsonian Marine Research Station. Both attract international attention to the area through their world class research facilities.
Saint Lucie County is soon to be home to a $40 million U. S. Department of Agriculture Lab, where scientists will do research on citrus and other crops. The lab, when opened, will employ about 110 technicians and 36 scientists in an 85,000 square foot building, about 3 times the size of the present, yet outdated, lab in Orlando. The new lab will be next to the University of Florida Research Center, owned and operated by the University of Florida's Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences.
Major transportation arteries for Saint Lucie include Interstate 95, The Florida Turnpike, State Road 70, U.S. Highway 1, and State Road A1A. The Florida East Coast Railroad services the area, with regularly scheduled freight trains running year round. Amtrak serves the area through West Palm Beach and Orlando. St. Lucie International Airport, situated on 4600 acres, is designated as the next regional airport to service South Florida. Delta Airlines began service from the airport in 1996, and service is also available for charter, private, and cargo planes. The county has a full-time U.S. Customs office for international trade and travel, and has received designation as part of the Central Florida Foreign Trade Zone--to encourage expansion of international trade.
Historic, with Eyes on the Future
Port St. Lucie, with a population of more than 131,000 has grown by about 48% in the first five years of this decade, and has outpaced West Palm Beach in size. It is located south of Ft. Pierce and north of Stuart, just off the Atlantic coast. The Indian River and the north fork of the St. Lucie River traverse the east side of the city, providing for various water sports and entertainment, such as fishing, boating, swimming, and waterskiing.
The 80-square-mile community was originally developed as a retirement community 36 years ago, and is broken up into a variety of neighborhoods. One of the oldest neighborhoods, Sandpiper Bay, was known as Port St. Lucie's "country club estate section." A Club Med Resort, located in Sandpiper Bay, draws travelers and vacationers from around the world.
The bulk of Port St. Lucie's growth is taking place in St. Lucie West--easily accessed by Interstate 95 or the Florida Turnpike, two miles to the east. Originally developed by Thomas J. White Sr., the master planned community of 4600 acres, contains a variety of developments catering to both retirees and younger families. In 1994 the Balfour Holdings Florida acquired St. Lucie West.
Home to PGA, N.Y. Mets
In 1996, the PGA committed to making St. Lucie West its winter home, and the golf association purchased the St. Lucie West Country Club for its members. Future plans include two PGA public golf courses, a 20 screen theatre including a virtual reality center, numerous restaurants, two hotels, and a family entertainment center. Also within the development is the 7300 seat Baseball Stadium, the spring training facility for the New York Mets, who train there from February to April, and the Florida State League St. Lucie Mets, who train from April to August. The 100 acre complex consists of offices, 7 practice fields, and training areas.
St. Lucie Village
North of Ft. Pierce sits St. Lucie Village, nestled in large shade trees and bordered by the Indian River. Home to more than 500 residents, this historic village plays host each year to Heritage Day. The festival offers consumers a glimpse into their past, with demonstrations on quilting, basket weaving, cast netting, switchmaking, spinning, and a fish fry, as well as a tour of five historic homes dating back to 1875. The settlement, incorporated in 1961, could be found on navigational maps before the rest of South Florida was established.
Running through both Martin and St. Lucie Counties, Hutchinson Island offers tranquility--and a 22-mile-sand-beach playground for the young and old, beautiful year round. The barrier island is bordered by the Atlantic ocean on the east, and the Indian River on the west, also known as the Intracoastal Waterway. Island housing throughout St. Lucie County consists of mainly high rise condominiums. The relaxed lifestyle and uncrowded beaches make it a haven for "seasoners" and visitors alike.
Other Recreation "Hot Spots"
Schools and Universities
The St. Lucie County School District has 30 public schools. Fort Pierce has 13 elementary schools, 1 middle school, 3 high schools, and the Anglewood Center for teenage mothers and fathers. Port St. Lucie has 10 elementary, 2 middle schools, and 1 high school. Private and parachial schools are also available. The main campus of Indian River Community College is located in Ft. Pierce, while a branch site is open at St. Lucie West; it is a two-building, full service center, located adjacent to the Florida Atlantic University Treasure Coast Center. Barry University also offers a satellite campus in St. Lucie West.
For those who like to shop, there's the Orange Blossom Mall in Ft. Pierce. It contains 70 stores and restaurants with anchors Belk Lindsey and Sears, the Grove Food Court, and Picadilly Cafeteria. Two outlet centers are within easy driving distance. The Manufacturer's Outlet Center, located at I-95 and Exit 65, or Florida Turnpike and State Road 70 (Exit 152), consists of over 40 specialty stores. The Horizon Outlet Center is located in Vero Beach, and has over 85 designer outlets such as Polo, Reebok, Mikasa, Liz Claiborne, and Ann Taylor. There's also downtown Ft. Pierce, offering a variety of new and collectibles.
It's All Here--Culture, Science, History
For culture and history buffs, there is the St. Lucie County Historial Museum, the A. E. "Bean" Backus Gallery, the McAlpin Fine Arts Center and Science Center/Planetarium, Florida Power and Light's Energy Encounter, Heathcote Bontanical Gardens, the St. Lucie Community Theater, and UDT/SEAL Museum. The UDT/SEAL museum sits on the same beach where the first U.S. Navy Frogmen trained in 1943, and pays tribute to those who served as scouts, raiders, naval and/or underwater combat demolition units, and the present Navy Sea, Air, Land Teams.
For those who like to study energy, the Florida Power and Light's (FPL's) Energy Encouter is a way to learn about electricity. It is geared for both the young and old, knowledgeable and novice. Located at the FPL nuclear power plant on Hutchinson Island, it provides an opportunity to explore the power of electricity. FPL's nuclear power plant has two reactors; Unit One began operating in 1976 and Unit Two in 1983. Each unit produces 839 megawatts of power. Of course in the event of a hurricane, the island's residents are the first to be evacuated. To enable the approximate 5,000 residents to return, county officials have provided business owners and residents with special orange placards to be displayed in the car's rear view mirror. The placards, which are free, can be obtained at either the Martin or St. Lucie County Sheriff's Office.
For sports enthusiasts, there's the New York Mets, the Florida League St. Lucie Mets, jai-alai (also called the world's fastest game), fishing, boating, and of course, golf. Jai-alai season runs November through April, while golf can be played year round. The avid golfer will find a variety of challenging courses to choose from, not only in St. Lucie County, but all along the Treasure Coast.