If you’re looking for things to do in Hutchinson Island and its neighboring town of Stuart, Florida, you’ll appreciate this slightly eclectic but can’t-miss mix of activities.

Hutchinson Island, located an hour north of West Palm Beach and just 15 miles from the mainland city of Stuart, seems to be one big best-kept secret in itself. As a barrier island nestled between the Atlantic Ocean and the serene Indian River on Florida’s Treasure Coast, much of the location remains in its wild natural state with 20 miles of sandy beaches that are some of the least crowded you’ll find on the Atlantic Coast. And, like a Russian nesting doll, Hutchinson Island seems to be one secret containing a slew of other great secrets. Here, we highlight a few of the best unexpected haunts and highlights that should make their way into your itinerary during a stay at Hutchinson Shores Resort & Spa, which officially premieres this summer.

Beach Bound On Horseback

There are few places in the Sunshine State where you are permitted to ride horseback on the beach. But, thanks to the lack of crowds and development, Hutchinson Island is home to one such outfitter: Tours on Horseback, leading hour-long, three-mile beach excursions that depart from the island’s Frederick Douglass Memorial Park every weekend (and weekdays by appointment). After trekking by the surf, you’ll explore some 40 miles of equestrian trails in the Fort Pierce-Port St. Lucie area.

Unbeatable Barbecue

A trailer outfitted with a massive grill and smoker in front of an off-the-beaten path Valero gas station? Don’t let the tucked-away location on St. Lucie Boulevard in Stuart fool you. Owned by two brothers originally hailing from Pennsylvania, Brothers’ Q BBQ is a food truck serving the real deal: seriously slow-smoked barbeque that has been hailed as the best in South Florida. Think tangy pulled pork served overflowing on a bun, true Texas-style brisket that practically melts in your mouth, and ribs so tender, they fall off the bone in the first bite. While you can’t go wrong with any of these options, just be sure to get a side order of their three-cheese smoked mac n cheese.

A Satellite of the Smithsonian

Located on the north end of Hutchinson Island on the South Causeway Bridge, The Smithsonian Marine Station is actually a satellite facility of the Smithsonian Institute in Washington, D.C., drawing scientists from around the world to investigate the plants, animals, and physical processes in the ocean and Indian River Lagoon. With a small aquarium facility open to the public, this hidden gem features a dazzling display of local wildlife and touch tanks. In fact, the living reef exhibit is actually set in a tank that was originally in the Smithsonian’s Museum of Natural History in our nation’s capital.

Free Summer Films

While the Lyric Theater is probably one of the most notable landmarks in downtown Stuart – originally constructed in 1926 as a silent movie house – the Mission Revival–style building is home to a lesser-known highlight: free movies in the summer. Last year, they screened classics like Casablanca, Chinatown, The Usual Suspects, Gone with the Wind, and more.

An Unusual Reef

Those honeycomb-looking structures poking out of the idyllic lagoon of Bathtub Reef Beach on the southern end of the island are not built by bees, but worms – sabellariid worms. They build their home – the massive porous reef – by cementing together sand and shell fragments. The reef is also responsible for creating a unique protected lagoon at low-tide, where the water doesn’t get too deep (perfect for young ones and snorkelers alike), so go ahead and explore. The water is as warm and calm as your bath at home – hence the name.

Where to Stay Hutchinson Shores Resort & Spa