Thereâs a world of discoveries north of Miami where the pace slows down, the crowds dissipate and everything feels familiar, yet somehow different. Hopscotch past Broward to exploreÂ Palm Beach, St. Lucie and Indian River counties on this day trip up the coast that takes you from luxury shopping in Palm Beach to hiking through hardwood hammocks in Fort Pierce.
All you need is a tank of gas and your GPS handy. That’s exactly what I did with my mom and my sister Kristy a few weeks ago. We also brought a selfie stick!
Stop One: 11:30am | Poolside BBQ Lunch at Four Seasons Palm Beach
Start your journey off on a luxurious note with a poolside lunch overlooking the ocean at the Four Seasons Palm Beach.
Chef Ricky Amezcua hosts a special weekend BBQ series at the oceanfront AB&G Grill, featuring everything from grilled rib eye to freshly caught mahi mahi and lobster, paired with sides like goat cheese horseradish mashed potatoes, steamed broccoli and truffle parmesan fries, while highlighting a selection of Florida craft beers.
If you happen to make your journey on a weekday, AB&Gâs lunch menu is inspired by global beach culture, ranging from Mexico to the Middle East.
Lunch at AB&G Grill is served from 11:30am-4:30pm; 2800 S. Ocean Blvd., Palm Beach; 561-582-2800
Stop Two: 1pm | Worth Avenue, Palm Beach
Drive north on South Ocean Boulevard where Palm Beachâs impressive limestone mansions with terracotta tile roofs overlook pristine beaches and endless Atlantic Ocean. Feast your eyes on the beautiful excess of intricate facades peeking above tall, manicured hedges on spotless streets with glimpses of private pools and tennis courts beyond.
Turn left on Worth Avenue, Palm Beachâs luxury shopping corridor, and park. As soon as you set foot on the pavement, youâll notice a palpable quiet that simply doesnât exist in Miami.
Whether itâs 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
Stop Three: 4pm | Fort Pierce Inlet State Park
Settle in for an hour and a half driveÂ to Fort Pierce Inlet State Park and start your exploration with a short hike (roughly 30 minutes, although you can easily do it faster) on their hardwood hammock nature trail, made up of a tangle of live oak, sea grape, 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 towards 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. Itâs 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; Open daily until sunset
Stop Four: Overnight | Costa dâEste Resort & Spa, Vero Beach
Take the scenic route north on A1A for 13 miles to Vero Beach and Costa dâEste Resort & Spa. Owned by Gloria and Emilio Estefan, this oceanfront boutique hotel brings a little Miami Modern flair to Veroâs largely rustic and colonial style architecture. With a breezeblock fountain and cheese hole facade emblazoned in neon, this stylish retreat is your stop for dinnerâand your home for the night, if youâd rather not make the two and a half hour drive back to Miami just yet.
The 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. Youâll return to Miami refreshed, with a new perspective on how much you can do in a day in South Florida.
3244 Ocean Dr., Vero Beach; 772-562-9919; Nightly rates from $193
A version of this story originally appeared in the Miami Herald Tropical Life section.