Many mariners pop out of Fort Pierce Florida Inlet into the Atlantic for fishing adventures or a jaunt to the Bahamas. Others simply stay in Fort Pierce for the winter to enjoy the intimate Old Florida feel of the restored downtown that sits along the Intracoastal Waterway.
The city’s namesake, Lt. Col. Benjamin Pierce (brother of President Franklin Pierce), established a headquarters for the U.S. Army here during the Seminole Indian War in 1838. Accented by water fountains and sculptures, today’s streets are easy to navigate. Manatee loll at the Manatee Observation & Education Center. The restored 1,200 seat Sunrise Theatre attracts Broadway shows, while the A.E. Backus Museum & Gallery honors native son Albert Ernest Backus. Born in Fort Pierce in 1906, the self-taught painter was renowned for his Florida landscapes. Kids enjoy the P.P. Cobb General Store & Eatery with its candy, specialty sodas and unique sundries.
This place likes gatherings. On the first Friday of every month, close to 5,000 people flock to the waterfront for Friday Fest. On Saturday mornings, just as many head to Melody Square for the Downtown Farmers’ Market, one of the largest in the state with more than 70 vendors. Around the corner, the rhythm of the Jazz Market fills the air while artisans sell handmade crafts, stained glass, art work and hand-painted glassware.
At the barrier island north of the inlet, you can swim, surf, snorkel or scuba dive at Fort Pierce Inlet State Park. Nearby Pepper Park is the jump off for exploring the Urca de Lima shipwreck, 200 yards offshore. The ship sank in a 1715 hurricane as it was returning from Cuba to Spain. It is part of the Florida Underwater Archeological Preserve, and the mooring buoy there should be used in lieu of anchoring.
Keep heading north and you will come to the Navy SEAL Museum, the only museum dedicated to preserving the history of the Navy SEALS. It features an 82-foot special operations craft and the Maersk Alabama, the lifeboat in which Somali pirates held a U.S. cargo ship captain hostage. The incident was turned into a popular movie starring Tom Hanks.
WHERE TO DOCK
This Safe Harbor marina adjacent to the ICW at Taylor Creek has more than 300 slips. It is the site of the north facility of Whiticar Boat Works (772-460-0660), which can handle just about any repair or maintenance job.
Fort Pierce City Marina
The renovated city marina can take boats up to 150-feet and is steps to everything in the historic downtown. The entrance channel is located north of the marina and passes through the manmade barrier islands that double as habitat for shore birds, fish and oysters. Contact the marina on VHF 16 before entering.
Pelican Yacht Club
This private yacht club also welcomes transients to its 93 ship-fixed docks. Check out The Crow’s Nest rooftop bar or relax poolside.
WHERE TO DINE
Harbor Cove Bar & Grill
Located at Harbortown Marina, the casual eatery has an outdoor deck, happy hour and regular entertainment.
Enjoy lunch or dinner at the city waterfront or just sit at the Mojito Bar, which often has entertainment.
Manatee Island Bar & Grill
This restaurant sits right on the inlet with wonderful views. The menu is varied including steak and seafood entrees, burgers, salads and more.
The Braford Steakhouse
“Ranch-to-table” is the buzz phrase at this eatery. They serve open-range quality beef from local Adams Ranch.
The Rooster in the Garden
The Braford’s farm-to-table fine-dining option. Lunch and dinner include farmhouse salads, small plates and burgers in an airy space that once housed an old bank.
A short cab ride from the city for barbecue lovers. Meats are cooked low and slow and accompanied by made-from-scratch sides.