A Tour Through History

Experience the area's rich history at the Elliott Museum or scuba diving through underwater wreckage.

The House of Refuge on Hutchinson Island. Courtesy of the Historical Society of Martin County.
Ever since Spanish gold from the 1715 Treasure Fleet, one of colonial Spain’s biggest maritime disasters, was discovered off the coast of Vero Beach, the area has been luring treasure hunters, beachcombers, and divers to its shipwreck-dotted shores. While many wrecks require a boat to access, the Georges Valentine, which rests in shallow waters 100 yards south of the House of Refuge Museum on Hutchinson Island, is beach-accessible. One of 12 under-water archeological preserves in Florida, the wreckage of the three-masted barkentine is home to soft corals and an array of sea life, including lionfish, moray eels, parrotfish, sharks, and stingrays. Divers and snorkelers can explore the site on their own or with a guide, which requires open-water certification.
Wreckage from the Georges Valentine in 1904, off the coast of Hutchinson Island. The House of Refuge stands in the background. Courtesy of the Historical Society of Martin County.

If you don’t want to go it alone, Stuart Scuba, which has been leading wreck dives in the area for years, offers a daily dive package of the Georges Valentine site with a divemaster (one-tank $90/person; $65 each additional person). If you don’t have your own equipment, the dive shop also rents combo packs ($35) with a buoyancy compensator, regulator, and pressure gauge.

After your dive, be sure to spend some time in the Elliott Museum, where you can peruse the permanent display of rare archeological artifacts, including shipwreck treasures. Or take a tour of the House of Refuge, the last of 10 stations built along the Atlantic Coast in 1876 by the U.S. Department of the Treasury as lifesaving havens for marooned sailors.

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