If the stress of the holidays is looming large, maybe it’s time to hit the road and get out of town.
There is a world of discoveries about two hours north of Miami, where the pace is a little slower, the crowds are a little slimmer — and Interstate 95 is way less of a cluster.
Hopscotch past Broward County to discover the sights of Palm Beach, St. Lucie and Indian River counties on this guided day trip up the coast. It will take you from luxury shopping in Palm Beach to hiking through hardwood hammocks in Fort Pierce to an overnight stay in Vero Beach, should you wish to take a load off for the night.
All you need is a tank of gas and your GPS of choice.
Stop 1-A: 11:30 a.m.
Poolside BBQ Lunch at Four Seasons Palm Beach
Start your journey on a luxurious note with a poolside lunch overlooking the ocean at the Four Seasons Palm Beach.
Chef Ricky Amezcua hosts a special weekend barbecue series at the waterfront AB&G (Atlantic Bar & Grill), featuring everything from grilled rib-eye to freshly caught mahi and lobster, paired with sides like goat-cheese horseradish mashed potatoes, steamed broccoli and truffle parmesan fries, and Florida craft beers.
If you go on a weekday, AB&G’s lunch menu is inspired by global beach culture, ranging from Mexico to the Middle East.
2800 S. Ocean Blvd., Palm Beach; 561-582-2800, fourseasons.com/palmbeach.
Stop 1-B: 11:30 a.m.
Al’s Red Barn Grill, Fort Pierce
If you’d rather bypass the glitzy Palm Beach lunch and start your exploration farther north, head to Al’s Red Barn Grill in Fort Pierce. This will allow you to take your time at the other stops on the itinerary. Just be prepared for the solid two-hour drive from Miami.
As you drive north on Kings Highway (State Road 713), you’ll notice a funky red barn. This is Al’s Family Farm. Founded in 1977, the farm is known for its handpicked fruit — namely oranges — from the area’s fertile Indian River groves.
Swing by for freshly squeezed orange or lemon juice, honey, tomatoes, dragonfruit or a case of farm-fresh Valencia oranges. For a hearty and inexpensive lunch, the grill serves burgers, sandwiches and Mexican food.
Kids of all ages can play in the OJ Corral, a homemade “agri” playground made of painted tractor tires with games like old-fashioned orange races, putt-putt golf and a maze of hay bales. Tours of the property can be arranged in advance.
2005 N. Kings Hwy., Fort Pierce; 772-461-7222, alsfamilyfarms.com; closed Sundays.
Stop 2: 1 p.m.
Worth Avenue, Palm Beach
If you opt for lunch at the Four Seasons, don’t leave Palm Beach without a stop along Worth Avenue, the island’s luxury shopping corridor. If you go to Al’s, consider making a pit stop here first.
Take in the sights of Palm Beach’s impressive limestone mansions with terracotta tile roofs overlooking pristine beaches and endless Atlantic Ocean. It’s all beautiful excess here, with intricate facades peeking above tall, manicured hedges on spotless streets with glimpses of private pools and tennis courts beyond.
As soon as you set foot on the pavement, you’ll notice a palpable quiet that simply doesn’t exist in Miami. Whether it’s window shopping or power shopping, Worth Avenue has all the spoils in a beautifully landscaped, Mediterranean setting with high arcades, ivy climbing up storefronts and pocket gardens blossoming with bougainvillea. The street is anchored by Saks Fifth Avenue and Neiman Marcus, with every designer flagship under the sun, as well as boutiques, like Calypso St. Barth, and contemporary fashion labels, like Sandro and Maje.
Worth Ave., Palm Beach; 561-659-6909, worth-avenue.com; most shops open 10 a.m.-6 p.m.
Stop 3: 4 p.m.
Endless Summer Vineyard & Winery, Fort Pierce
Just a five-minute drive north of Al’s and an hour and a half from Palm Beach, you’ll reach Endless Summer Vineyard & Winery inland in Fort Pierce. Owner-vintner and Florida native Gary Roberts has combined his longtime love of surfing with his passion for sweet muscadine wine.
His collection of classic surfboards decorates the winery’s tasting room, where guests can sample unique blends of Noble, Carlos and Doreen varieties of muscadine grape with clever names like We Be Jammin’, Beach Nut and Rasta Mon Red Red wine.
If you’re there on a Sunday, expect a festive party with live music in the vineyard where guests gather at picnic tables made of vintage surfboards, a bocce court and a small inlet with a sandy beach.
4200 Johnston Rd., Fort Pierce; 772-460-0500, endlesssummerwine.com; closed Mondays.
Stop 4: 5:15 p.m.
Fort Pierce Inlet State Park
Drive east to Fort Pierce Inlet State Park and start with a short hike (roughly 30 minutes, although you can easily do it faster) on the hardwood hammock nature trail, made up of a tangle of live oak, seagrape, wax myrtle and red bay trees. Keep your eyes peeled for marsh rabbits, gopher tortoises, butterflies, snakes and migratory birds beneath the dense canopy.
Next, head toward the beach for a leisurely sunset stroll as the sky starts to change color. With its jetty to the south and reef line just offshore, the beach at Fort Pierce is known for its surf break when conditions are right. It’s a totally different vibe from Miami beaches, with a wider shoreline, more consistent waves, darker sand and deeper blue-green sea.
905 Shorewinds Dr., Fort Pierce; 772-468-3985, floridastateparks.org/park/fort-pierce-inlet.
Stop 5: Overnight
Costa d’Este Beach Resort & Spa, Vero Beach
Take the scenic route north on State Road A1A for 13 miles to Vero Beach and Costa d’Este Beach Resort & Spa. Owned by Emilio and Gloria Estefan, this oceanfront boutique hotel brings a little Miami Modern flair to Vero’s largely rustic and colonial style architecture. With a breeze-block fountain and cheese-hole facade emblazoned in neon, this stylish retreat is your stop for dinner — and your home for the night, if you’d rather not make the two-and-a-half hour drive back to Miami just yet.
Wave Kitchen & Bar serves a sophisticated menu of fresh Florida seafood, steak and Cuban classics like ropa vieja with black beans, rice and plantains, straight from the Estefan cookbook.
Rooms are chic and modern, featuring comfortable beds and oceanfront balconies in natural wood and cream tones with nautical accents like porthole-style windows.
In the morning, wake up early for a walk along the tranquil, uncrowded beach, where you can also launch kayaks or standup paddleboards. Before your drive home, book a treatment at the spa for a tension-melting massage.
You’ll leave feeling refreshed with a whole new perspective on what you can do in a day in South Florida.
3244 Ocean Dr., Vero Beach; 772-562-9919, costadeste.com; rates from $193.
Shayne Benowitz: email@example.com, @ShayneBenowitz