Fort Pierce and Jupiter
South of Vero Beach, Hwy-A1A continues along North Hutchinson Island past the National Navy SEAL Museum (772/595-5845, closed Mon., $8 adults), which describes the various roles played by Navy SEAL units, whether it’s serving as underwater divers in demolishing enemy property during wartime, or assassinating bad guys like Osama bin Laden. Among t he displays of wetsuits and explosives is an Apollo capsule—it was Navy SEALs who rescued returning astronauts after they “splashed down” in the ocean. The most popular sight is the bright orange lifeboat in which the real-life “Captain Phillips” was held hostage in 2009 before being rescued, as depicted in the Tom Hanks film. On either side of the museum, undeveloped stretches of the coast have been preserved in a pair of parks, where you can enjoy uncrowded beaches or wander along boardwalks through thickly forested mangrove swamps.
Bending inland across the North Bridge, Hwy-A1A links up briefly with US-1, the old Dixie Highway, through the town of Fort Pierce (pop. 39,365), a market center of the famous “Indian River” produce-growing district. After this half-mile detour, Hwy-A1A returns to the shore, passing along the way by the very good St. Lucie County Regional History Center (closed Mon. and Tues., $4 adults), at the east end of the South Bridge, where broad-ranging displays tell the history of the region, showing off a hand-carved canoe and explaining the “fort” in Fort Pierce (it was built in 1835, during the Seminole Wars).
Heading south from Fort Pierce, Hwy-A1A embarks on a nearly 30-mile run along Hutchinson Island, where dense stands of pines block the views of largely undeveloped beachfront. On the coast just north of Palm Beach, the town of Jupiter has a landmark lighthouse, which you can climb inside up to the top for a grand view, and Roger Dean Stadium is spring training home of the Miami Marlins and St. Louis Cardinals, as well as their Class A Florida League farm clubs. Pop culture fans may also want to know that Jupiter has long been home to movie star Burt Reynolds. After achieving world-wide fame in movies like Deliverance and Smokey and the Bandit, he established an acting school here, the Burt Reynolds Institute for Film and Theatre (535 Park Ave., 561/743-9955).
Midway between Jupiter and Palm Beach, the hamlet of Juno Beach is home to the entertaining and educational Loggerhead Marinelife Center (14200 US-1, 561/627-8280).