This northern enclave of Palm Beach County never ceases to offer new surprises. From wildlife rehabilitation to Major League spring training games, Jupiter packs a surprising variety of activities into a relatively small city. During our last visit here, we discovered the tropically delightful outdoor dining spot on the Intracoastal known as Guanabana’s. This time we enjoyed a personalized tour of the waterway with Captain Art Steffey of PonTiki Boat Cruises. We departed from the pier directly behind Guanabana’s, and Captain Steffey entertained my wife Gloria and I with his South American adventures as we leisurely motored around the emerald-green waters of Jupiter Inlet and took pictures of the historic Jupiter Lighthouse. The small and comfortable boats carry a maximum of six passengers and are perfect for family outings and intimate reunions. Unlike typical tour boats with regularly scheduled sailings, PonTiki offers private, custom cruises on a per-person basis, meaning customers can choose the time of day that best suits them, even during the middle of the night under a full moon. All drinks are included, and the unique vessels even feature waterslides so passengers can slip right into the quiet channels surrounding the inlet.

We began our most recent stay here at the Jupiter Beach Resort & Spa, a Four Diamond hotel at the eastern terminus of Indiantown Road in the center of all the area has to offer. Here the celebratory mood begins at check-in, when guests receive a complimentary glass of champagne amidst the cozy backdrop of the warm, wooden tones of the lobby. Just downstairs lies the Opal Spa, which offers a number of pampering services to make your vacation even more relaxing. Nestled between the lobby and the Atlantic is an Olympic-size pool, waterfall Jacuzzi and the outdoor dining extension of our next destination, Sinclair’s Ocean Grill. The charm continues with the open-air kitchen of the establishment, where guests can observe the savory dishes being crafted, such as the tender Grilled Tenderloin sautéed with oyster and shiitake mushrooms. Gloria opted for the chef’s fresh catch of the day, a sweet-potato-encrusted hog snapper that we both wished would show up on the regular menu. We started off our dinner with a fluted basket of chewy homemade breads and homemade soups, of which the Roasted Chicken simmering in a savory broth of aromatic vegetables and orecchiette pasta proved to be particularly delightful. We shared a crunchy crème brulee for dessert, accompanied by cups of deliciously robust coffee.

After dinner, we took a five-minute drive to Harbourside Place, Jupiter’s new defacto downtown on the banks of the Intracoastal Waterway. Here we strolled along a section of Jupiter’s 2.5-mile Riverwalk, darted in a few of the shops that were open and spent a few relaxing moments sitting in Adirondack chairs and listening to live music at the beautiful Harbourside Place Amphitheatre.

Upon return to the resort, we discovered that the electric motor had unexpectedly died on the door to our comfortable king room, which led to an unexpected surprise. When the helpful staff were forced to dismantle the door to get our room back open, the manager decided to relocate us to a two-bedroom penthouse suite that appeared to be larger than our Port St. Lucie home. Although we were only there for the night, we found this accommodation with a huge separate living/dining area to be perfect for pre-wedding parties and family groups traveling together.

The next morning we took a short walk south along the gorgeous beach to a small outcropping of Anastasia limestone formations similar to those at the nearby Blowing Rocks Preserve in Martin County, where we sat for a few minutes enjoying the spectacular interplay of tides and stone. For breakfast, we headed over to one of Jupiter’s most popular morning spots, the Royal Café, in the

Concourse Village Shopping Center, where it appeared that almost everyone knew everyone else’s name. This old-style coffee shop still features bar-stool seating and award-winning omelets (the Spanish Omelet was truly delicious!).

We finished our morning at one of our favorite Jupiter destinations (and one of the city’s most picturesque spots), the Busch Wildlife Sanctuary. One of the closest animal refuges to the Treasure Coast, the Sanctuary takes in more than 5,000 injured and orphaned animals annually and boasts permanent exhibits of everything from Florida Panthers to crocodiles, bears and several species of owls in the aviary section. The boardwalk area leading through the cypress wetlands is particularly stunning.

You’ll also find the Loggerhead Marinelife Center just to the south in nearby Juno Beach. This 12,000-square-foot facility is dedicated to the preservation of sea turtles, and you can actually sign up for a nighttime tour to watch one lay her eggs.

We lunched that afternoon at Calavera’s Cantina in Harbourside Place. This unique Mexican restaurant is decorated by playful skeleton murals and even some unique chandeliers embossed with images of skeletons imported directly from Mexico. Calavera’s sets itself apart with its own unique creations, beginning with its homemade tortilla chips seasoned with a special copyrighted blend of more than 30 spices and served with either smooth or chunky salsas (both were yummy). The restaurant also makes and bottles its own ancho chipotle sauce (A creamy blend of medium-heat smoky chipotle and mild, sweet ancho chili peppers), which I found delicious on everything). While Gloria enjoyed the Carnitas (roast pork), I ordered the Brisket Quesadillas, a delicious combination of tender beef, Chihuahua/cotija cheese, onions, peppers and mushrooms. To top off our meal, we ordered the most unique dessert on the menu: Cinnamon Corn Ice Cream topped with candied pecans and chocolate sauce.

While in Jupiter this trip, we enjoyed a performance of Westside Story at the award-winning Maltz Jupiter Theatre, just a stone’s throw from our hotel. We have always found the productions at this venue to be particularly fascinating, and upcoming shows include Steel Magnolias (Oct. 28-Nov. 11) and Beauty and the Beast (Nov. 27-Dec. 16).

Before heading home that evening, we drove just south of the Jupiter Beach Resort along A1A until we passed Carlin Park, a huge facility that offers everything from volleyball and tennis courts, a baseball field and even bocce ball. Guests can reserve a number of beachside pavilions, as well as enjoy live music and other events at the Seabreeze Amphitheater. Just beyond the park, the roadway winds along a ridge overlooking the Atlantic and offers views so riveting that we had to get out and take pictures. There’s free on-street parking and a broad sidewalk here perfect for strolling or bicycling.

Jupiter lies about 40 minutes south of the heart of the Treasure Coast via I-95 or the Florida Turnpike.

If You Go:

• Busch Wildlife Sanctuary, 2500 Jupiter Park Drive, (561) 575-3399,

• Calavera’s Cantina, 125 Dockside Circle, (561) 320-9661,

• Jupiter Beach Resort & Spa, 5 North A1A, (561) 746-2511,

• Jupiter Inlet Lighthouse and Museum, 500 Captain Armour's Way, (561) 747-8380,

• Jupiter Maltz Theatre, 1001 East Indiantown Road, (561) 575-2223,

• Loggerhead Marinelife Center, 14200 U.S. Hwy 1, Juno Beach, (561) 627-8280,

• PonTiki Boat Cruises, 960 N Hwy A1A, (561) 818-9099,

• Royal Café, 75 E. Indiantown Road, (561) 747-7426,

Weekend Wanderer is written by award-winning travel and feature writer Donald Rodrigue. Prior to moving to the Treasure Coast in 2007, Mr. Rodrigue worked for a custom-publishing division of the Miami Herald and wrote travel articles on destinations up and down the western hemisphere, ranging from San Francisco to Cusco, Peru and almost everywhere in-between.

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