I guess being born on the western shore of the Chesapeake Bay, I have always loved the sea. Many years ago while volunteering to cut down Casuarina (Australian Pine) trees in The Nature Conservancy’s Blowing Rocks Preserve, I fell in love with an extraordinary environmental vision. The Nature Conservancy (TNC) of Florida was embarking on a plan to turn back the hands of time on a little stretch of coast on Jupiter Island. TNC planned to re-contour the land and replant the coastline to look the way it did when the first Europeans set foot here. This simple goal fired my imagination because it showed that beautiful things that we have lost can still be recovered, a theme that runs through my entire business and personal philosophy.
According to historical record, the first Europeans to land on this part of Florida’s shoreline were probably the party of English Quaker Jonathan Dickinson, whose riveting tale of shipwreck and survival is the oldest known book to still be in print in North America. Jonathan Dickinson’s Journal is a Florida treasure that no admirer of thrilling stories should miss. In the century to follow, over 2,000 Spanish sailors travelling in a large convoy of ships were caught in a massive hurricane right off the coast. Over half of them lost their lives, including the General in charge of the Spanish Navy. This event, known as the 1715 Plate Fleet disaster deposited millions of dollars in Spanish treasure along the coast from Jupiter to the Sebastian Inlet. These treasures were not rediscovered until the 1950’s and 1960’s when pioneering treasure salvors Kip Wagner and Mel Fisher began bringing them up.
Add a lunch stop at a quaint 1920’s roadside motel and restaurant made of Pecky Cypress from nearby Kitching Creek (Harry and the Natives Restaurant) and a climb to the top of a beautiful red-brick, historic lighthouse high on a bluff above the Jupiter Inlet and you have the ingredients of our nautically-inspired tour.
I will readily admit that this is one of the oddest tours we have ever stitched together. The tour is assembled as a strong, salt-air, sea-tinged group of sentiments and a collection of adventurous, raucous but true, tales. I guess what moves me the most is that the towns of Jupiter, Tequesta, and Hobe Sound are intertwined with miles of protected dunes, pines, scrub, and salt-tolerant native species, such that one strongly feels the nearby presence of the sea here. In this little corner of Florida, there is a simplicity and charm that still recalls a long ago era of the Sunshine State’s coastline and my poem of gratitude and admiration is this tour simply entitled Three Little Towns by the Sea.