The Treasure Coast, on the East coast of Florida, got its name from the Spanish galleons full of treasures that shipwrecked off the coast in the 17th and 18th centuries. The area has a tropical climate, making it an ideal place for outdoor activities the whole family can enjoy -- from active fun to wildlife sightings.
1. Parks and Recreation
At Jonathan Dickinson State Park in Stuart, families can enjoy the many biking, hiking and equestrian trails, as well as boating, canoeing and kayaking along the Loxahatchee River that runs through the park. Programs for children are available at the Elsa Kimbell Environmental Education and Research Center, located in the park, where kids can learn about the local wildlife, see Florida's reptiles and amphibians and learn about underwater nature. For a fun afternoon out, take the kids on a boat ride down the Okeechobee Waterway in the St. Lucie River to Lake Okeechobee, the second largest fresh-water lake in the United States. If the kids like to fish, your family can get in some fishing on the lake.
The Maritime & Classic Boat Museum in Jensen Beach has two main galleries chronicling the history of boats and their uses for military, commercial and recreational activities. The museum also has a restoration facility and restoration programs, where kids can see older boats -- including mahogany recreational boats from the 1930s -- come back to life. Summer camps are available for kids ages 6 and up. The Children's Museum of the Treasure Coast, located at Indian River Park in Jensen Beach, has hands-on interactive activities for children of all ages. Here, kids can have fun at a pretend town market, learn about the human body and the importance of diet and exercise, design their own dream homes and even put on their own plays in the theater area.
3. Wildlife Learning Centers
For an up-close and personal look at some magnificent animals, take the kids to The Manatee Observation & Education Center in Fort Pierce. Here, kids will get to see wild manatees -- they often swim right up to the center, although there's no schedule or guarantees, since the manatee are free and don't actually live at the center -- and learn more about the Treasure Coast's ecosystem and inhabitants. Aside from rotating exhibits, the center also offers school programs, field trips, camps and special events for children of all ages to learn the importance of preserving these unique animals. The Busch Wildlife Sanctuary is a nature center and wildlife hospital whose goal is to rehabilitate and release injured, abused or abandoned animals. Children can learn about these animals through weekly activities, night walks and summer camps. There are also nature trails available throughout the property where visitors can catch sight of panthers, foxes, bears, eagles, crocodiles and snakes.
4. Fun Centers
Sailfish Splash Water Park in Stuart has four-story tall water slides, a 1,000-foot lazy river, cabanas, shaded picnic areas and a lap pool. There's a zero-depth pool for younger children, where they'll find a water playground, sprays and slides. Children can take swimming lessons, diving classes or join the swim team. Superplay USA, in the Treasure Coast city of Port St. Lucie, is an indoor entertainment center with batting cages, laser tag, miniature golf, bowling and arcade games. The center is also available for special events and birthday parties.
- US Army Corps of Engineers: St. Lucie Lock & Dam
- Offshore Blue: Okeechobee Waterway Cruising Guide
- Palm Beach Post: Explore the Treasure Coast
- Florida State Parks: Jonathan Dickinson State Park
- Florida State Parks: Elsa Kimbell Environmental Education and Research Center
- Sailfish Splash: Water Park
- Superplay USA: Indoor Fun Center
- Children's Museum: Exhibits
- Maritime and Classic Boat Museum: Exhibits
- Manatee Observation and Education Center: About the Center
- Photo and Co/Lifesize/Getty Images