The airport restaurant was rated No. 1 in the United States. The airport was rated the No. 1 location for U.S. Customs clearance to The Bahamas. The nearby U.S. Navy SEAL Museum is a must-see. The town is right in the middle of Florida’s spectacular Treasure Coast. And it’s less than 100 nautical miles from Sun ‘n Fun. Let’s fly to Fort Pierce!
When flying to Treasure Coast International Airport from Lakeland, stay north of the military airspace. From the south, watch for a potential presidential temporary flight resriction. In 2015, Fort Pierce was voted the No. 1 location for U.S. Customs clearance in FltPlan’s Pilots Choice awards (see photo captions for details on all the above).
In 1943, preparations began for the World War II assaults on the beaches of Normandy and southern France. The first volunteers for Naval Combat Demolition Units and Underwater Demolition Teams (UDTs were the forefathers of today’s SEALs) trained on the beaches of Fort Pierce. Today, you can visit the National Navy UDT-SEAL Museum, which honors these “Frogmen” and their contemporary counterparts, the highly trained and specially equipped men and women of the Navy SEALs (Sea, Air, Land). This museum showcases the secret world of naval special warfare. Displays include a steel-plated Humvee armed with a .50 caliber machine gun and automatic grenade launchers, a Sikorsky UH–60 Black Hawk helicopter deployed on missions around the world and shot down three times, the lifeboat where Somali pirates held Captain Richard Phillips captive in 2009, and “swimmer delivery vehicles,” which can transport up to six SEALs underwater as they breathe compressed air from the craft’s internal life-support system.
Take the path behind the museum to Pepper Park Beachside and swim in the crystal-clear water. Just 100 yards off the beach, snorkelers and scuba divers can access a beautiful reef, 15 to 30 feet below the surface. Bring your own gear, rent some, or charter a boat. Between the SEAL museum and the inlet you’ll find Fort Pierce Inlet State Park. Leashed pets are welcome in the park, though not on the beach. Look for roseate spoonbills, large pink waterbirds that use their spoon-shaped bills to filter out small animals from soft mud. Ibises have long, narrow, curved beaks. Bobcats patrol the dense foliage in the park. You can fish for snook, redfish, and speckled trout from the inlet’s shore.
Boaters might want to stop at Marine Connection Liquidators; this giant facility is like the Home Depot for everything marine; they have some diving equipment, too. Gardening fans will want to visit Heathcote Botanical Gardens to see the largest public tropical bonsai collection in the U.S., plus a Japanese garden, a rainforest, colorful bromeliads, and a gift shop. Head to the marina early on Saturday mornings for the farmer’s market and craft show, full of good food, produce, flowers, and quality handmade arts. Visit the A. E. Backus Museum and Gallery to see this self-taught impressionist painter’s depictions of Florida’s tropical landscapes. Living modestly, Backus gave generously to numerous individuals and charities and mentored many new artists, including numerous African-Americans who would later be called “The Highwaymen” because they sold their work from the trunks of their cars while sitting alongside old Dixie Highway. Check out the Highwaymen website and then head out on the Highwaymen Heritage Trail, a self-guided tour around town.
The pet-friendly Seahorse Beach Bungalows have small kitchens and are near Fort Pierce Inlet State Park. Relax in their tropical courtyard or make the short walk to the Atlantic. Conveniently located just north of Pepper Beach and the SEAL museum, the Mellon Patch Inn provides tropical décor, lush gardens, and hot breakfast. Rent a kayak and paddle the Indian River; the dock is adjacent to the inn. Make sure you dine at the Original Tiki Bar & Restaurant, also on the Indian River. Conch chowder, freshly shucked oysters, and Cuban sandwiches make this the perfect place for a tropical feast. So, fly to Fort Pierce for a perfectly tropical getaway!
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