What to Explore in Downtown Stuart

A look inside the allure of Stuart’s historic downtown district

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The iconic Roosevelt Bridge. Photo by Paul Piasecki
The iconic Roosevelt Bridge. Photo by Paul Piasecki

The city of Stuart has earned accolades in recent years, ranking number two on USA Today’s 2023 list of the best coastal small towns in America and named the “happiest seaside town” by Coastal Living in 2016. The heartbeat of the city is the historic downtown district, which was established way back in the late 1800s and has evolved over the years into a vibrant area filled with arts, culture, and top-notch dining and shopping experiences. 

Historic downtown Stuart
Historic downtown Stuart

“It’s the heart of our county,” says Candace Callahan, current executive director of Stuart Main Street, the nonprofit that has overseen the downtown district since 1987. “Being surrounded by water, we’re almost like a little island, so you get that coastal vibe. I see all different walks of life come through here day in and day out. It’s a perfect place to work, play, and live.”

Here, a look at some of the fun to be had in downtown Stuart, from history tours to arts excursions and a whole lot more.

Indulge in History

To learn all about Stuart’s rich history, pay a visit to the Stuart Heritage Museum. The building itself has an interesting backstory: originally built in 1901, it served as a general store until the owner tragically perished in a fire in 1943. It then became Stuart Feed Supply, which sold seed, fertilizer, insecticides, and pet and garden supplies. In 1988, the City of Stuart purchased the building to house a museum. Today, visitors can take in a wide variety of carefully preserved old photographs, memorabilia, school yearbooks, indigenous artifacts, and more. 

Old Colorado Inn
Old Colorado Inn

Another long-standing building downtown is the Old Colorado Inn. The main inn was built in 1914, but the property includes a few other historic buildings as well. Today, the quaint hotel is owned by local residents Steven and Ashley Vitale, who renovated the inn in 2012, updating the suites and cottages while maintaining the historic charm. Guests can also opt to stay in one of three stand-alone homes located a couple hundred feet from the inn. The Ernest Lyons House is situated steps from the Riverwalk and St. Lucie River and accommodates 10 guests. Built in 1890, it was later restored by preservationist Thomas Connelly. The two-story Owl House River Retreat, with sweeping water views and room for 14 guests, was erected in 1904 and features a four-pointed gable roof. And the four-bedroom Clifton Guest and Fishing Lodge was built by renowned architect Sam Matthews in 1914 and later renovated by Stuart-based interior designer Dianne Davant. 

Learn about local history at the Stuart Heritage Museum. Photo by Paul Piasecki
Learn about local history at the Stuart Heritage Museum. Photo by Paul Piasecki

Explore the Arts

Stuart wouldn’t be Stuart without art—it’s in the city’s name, after all. “Stuart’s arts scene is vibrant and growing,” says Nancy Turrell, executive director of MartinArts. “All of the layers, from retail shops to buskers on the street, give Stuart a vibe that is full of energy and fun. It makes it a place you want to be.”

The historic Art Deco–style Lyric Theatre. Photo by Paul Piasecki
The historic Art Deco–style Lyric Theatre. Photo by Paul Piasecki

Anchoring the downtown area is The Lyric Theatre, which was built in 1925 and originally served as a silent movie house. The old theater offers year-round performances including concerts, plays, musicals, dance shows, and more. This month’s calendar includes The Jersey Tenors February 14, a Bee Gees tribute February 23, and The Gibson Brothers February 25.

Art is rampant in the area, with plenty of public works and private galleries alike. A focal point downtown is the iconic 18-foot sailfish fountain, sculpted by renowned Stuart-based artist Geoffrey C. Smith. Visitors can see more of Smith’s art at his two local galleries. 

One could spend an entire day gallery-hopping, with dozens of spots to visit. Gallery 36 showcases fine art photography; Rare Earth Gallery features pottery, glass and sand art, crystals, and more; and the Gilt Complex, in addition to being a framing store, also displays the work of local artists.

The iconic sailfish fountain by artist Geoffrey C. Smith. Photo by Paul Piasecki
The iconic sailfish fountain by artist Geoffrey C. Smith. Photo by Paul Piasecki

Encompassing Colorado Avenue and surrounding streets, The Creek District was designated the arts and entertainment section of downtown Stuart in 2019. Art Walks happen here the first Friday of every month, featuring gallery tours, music, and food. The district has partnered with the City of Stuart to jazz up sidewalks with mosaic tiles depicting flamingos, dolphins, and more, a project that will continue through 2026.

Over on SE Ocean Boulevard, the nonprofit MartinArts has its home base in Martin County’s original courthouse building, where they have a rotation of exhibitions on display throughout the year in the gallery (this month, catch the All Florida Juried Art Show until February 29). They also host ArtsFest every February, which features a live-painting competition and a local “Chopped” competition similar to the Food Network show of the same name. 

On the music front, downtown offers a plethora of free shows—including the family-friendly Rock’n Riverwalk every Sunday and a slew of restaurants/bars with live music. Plus, MartinArts members enjoy free admission to their Sunset Concerts in the Gallery the second Tuesday of every month ($5 for nonmembers).  

Other venues do require tickets but are well worth it. Terra Fermata has been a hub for local music lovers since 2012. The outdoor venue located in The Creek District books some of the best local musicians as well as national acts and draws crowds with its laid-back vibe (it’s dog-friendly too). 

Dine and Imbibe

Whether you’re seeking pizza, seafood, sandwiches, ice cream, grab-and-go, or a cup of joe, there is no shortage of dining options downtown. Joining the more than 30 establishments on the scene, one of the newest is the two-story Waterfront, which replaces Mulligan’s following a massive renovation. It brings chic, Miami vibes to the Treasure Coast with an upscale downstairs lounge that serves handhelds, small plates, salads, and soups. Upstairs, guests can enjoy an elegant fine-dining experience with a delectable menu of entrées including cabernet-braised lamb shank, bone-in rib eye, and pesto shrimp and scallop pasta.

Short rib empanada at Hudson’s on the River. Photo by Luis Cruz
Short rib empanada at Hudson’s on the River. Photo by Luis Cruz

A well-known spot in town is La Grande Martier, formerly called Café Martier, which was built in the old post office arcade building in the roaring ’20s. One of the oldest commercial buildings on the Treasure Coast, the space operated as a speakeasy from 1920 to 1933 and is rumored to be haunted by two resident ghosts who allegedly enjoy moving things around to mess with patrons. The restaurant has been restored to its original 1920 French Mediterranean Revival grandeur, and the authentic speakeasy still operates daily, serving Prohibition-era cocktails as well as craft beer, wine, and espresso. It’s also a hot spot for European-inspired brunch and serves dinner as well.

Grab a crab cake and an espresso martini at Stuart Boathouse. Photo by Luis Cruz
Grab a crab cake and an espresso martini at Stuart Boathouse. Photo by Luis Cruz

Other popular eateries include Spritz City Bistro, Luna Italian Cuisine, Colab Kitchen, and the aviation-themed The Hangar. Over the years, the city has aimed to increase alfresco offerings, which include Stuart Boathouse, Hudson’s on the River, and Riverwalk Café & Oyster Bar. 

Stuart also has some hidden gems. Sucré French Bakery is a sweet spot for breakfast, lunch, and pastries, and 18th Seminole Street Italian Bistro is a quaint, intimate restaurant in a historic home.

Shop ’til You Drop

If retail therapy is what you’re after, check out some of the many shops lining Colorado Avenue, Osceola Street, and beyond, selling everything from clothing and gifts to home goods and furniture. 

Many of the retail spaces are independent boutiques that have been staples downtown for decades. At Gumbo Limbo Coastal Chic & Coastal Kids, you’ll find casual coastal-inspired clothing, jewelry, and accessories, including children’s wear. Another great shop for kids is Milli et Jaime children’s boutique, which opened a few years ago in a historic home that was converted into a retail space. Gypsea Cottage stocks boho-inspired women’s wear, plus beach gear and home decor. You can buy clothing and shoes and get a mani/pedi too at Tootsies. And April Daze Boutique is a treasure trove of chic women’s clothing and more. “There’s nothing better than making a woman feel confident and good about herself,” says owner April Hope. “We also have a ‘funny corner’ with gifts and edgy merchandise.” 

The chic Milli et Jaime children’s clothier on SE Osceola Street.
The chic Milli et Jaime children’s clothier on SE Osceola Street.

 Fans of tie-dye and psychedelic funk will feel at home at The Dirty Hippie, with an inventory of fashion and fun wares that fits its name. And those looking to satisfy their spiritual needs can stop by Psychic and the Genie and Genie’s Gems for healing crystals, tarot cards, psychic readings, and more.  

Thinking of giving your abode a makeover? Pop into Allabastro Designs, Francesca Morgan Interiors, or Ally Whalen Design to book a consultation with one of these incredibly talented designers and peruse their luxury home decor.

If you’re visiting the area from out of town, don’t forget to stop by Harbor Wear before you leave for souvenirs like shirts, hats, key chains, and totes.

April Daze Boutique on Colorado Avenue. Photo by Paul Piasecki
April Daze Boutique on Colorado Avenue. Photo by Paul Piasecki

Enjoy “Sunday Funday”

Downtown Stuart is great every day of the week, but on Sundays it’s the place to be. Start the day at Market on Main, a weekly farmers market in Flagler Park held from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Around seventy vendors sell everything from gluten-free and vegan baked goods, fresh produce, and spices, to pet products and artisanal goods. Stroll the market while listening to the live acoustic entertainment or take part in one of the wellness activities on site, such as yoga and Zumba classes. At least 500 people attend the market each week, but don’t worry, there are plenty of free public parking spaces in the area to accommodate everyone. On the first and third Sundays of each month, Market on Main designates a special section for pint-size entrepreneurs to sell their homemade products. “Main Street’s mission is all about being incubators for small businesses, so we duplicated that idea and started focusing on the youth and nurturing youth entrepreneurship,” says Callahan. “We’re giving them the space and the capacity to nurture their talent and their skill set. It’s also great to get them out from behind their computer screens every once in a while and into real-world situations.

When you’re ready, walk over to the stage by the St. Lucie River for Rock’n Riverwalk, which runs from 1 to 4 p.m. and features live music ranging from blues and Americana to reggae and classic rock. When the show’s over, grab a drink at Sailor’s Return, which offers stunning views of the Sunset Bay Marina & Anchorage, before driving over the Roosevelt Bridge at dusk to catch a breathtaking sunset on the way home.

Rock’n Riverwalk brings crowds to its riverfront concerts every Sunday
Rock’n Riverwalk brings crowds to its riverfront concerts every Sunday.
Coming Events

Every Sunday: Rock’n Riverwalk

Free family-friendly concert with music ranging from blues and Americana to reggae and classic rock; 1-4 p.m.

Every Sunday: Market on Main

Weekly farmers market in Flagler Park featuring vendors, live acoustic entertainment, and wellness activities; 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.

First Fridays: Art Walk

The Creek District hosts an evening of gallery tours, music, food, and more the first Friday of every month; 5-9 p.m.

February 10-11: ArtsFest

A celebration of the arts with exhibitions, live performances, and more hosted by MartinArts since 1988.

February 24-25: Downtown Stuart Art Festival

Featuring more than 100 gallery-style booths, with proceeds benefiting Stuart Main Street.

March 23-24: Downtown Stuart Art & Craft Festival

Crafters display and sell paintings, wooden sculptures, ceramics, jewelry, baskets, and more; artfestival.com

April 20: Earth Day Downtown Cleanup 

A day dedicated to beautifying Stuart by picking up trash, removing gum from sidewalks, and planting greenery.

April 27: Southeast Bunfest

Hosted by The Humane Society of the Treasure Coast, it’s a day to celebrate rabbits and guinea pigs, attend educational seminars, enter raffles, and play in the kids’ zone.

August 3: Pup Crawl 

A fun day for dogs and their humans to go bar-hopping downtown, with proceeds benefiting The Humane Society of the Treasure Coast.

October 26: Hobgoblins on Main

Children parade down Osceola Street in costume and trick-or-treat at local businesses.

November TBA: Treasure Coast Brew Fest 

Craft beer and wine tasting (for attendees 21 and over), plus food trucks, live music, and games for people of all ages.

November 29: Christmas on Main

Annual Christmas tree lighting and celebration.

December 6: Stuart Christmas Parade

A tradition since 1960, presented by the Visiting Nurse Association of Florida.

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