You may have heard of Fort Pierce, Florida. But what exactly is it? Is Fort Pierce, Florida a fort?
Fort Pierce is a modern-day city located on Florida’s Treasure Coast, just south of Vero Beach. Fort Pierce is named after an actual fort that was constructed in the area during the Second Seminole War. While the fort itself is gone, the city that bears its name is a great place to visit or live.
So is Fort Pierce a rural place, or is it a city? Is the water clear, or is it muddy? Is Fort Pierce part of South Florida? Learn the answers to these questions and more about Fort Pierce in the following sections.
A Fort Pierce Primer
Fort Pierce is located in the heart of Florida’s Treasure Coast, about an hour and a half south of Cape Canaveral. Fort Pierce sits at the junction of the St. Lucie River, the Atlantic Ocean, and the St. Lucie Inlet, which is the southern end of the Indian River.
While the actual fort at Fort Pierce is long gone, it is an excellent destination if you want to experience Old Florida charm and all of the amazing freshwater and saltwater experiences you can have in the Sunshine State, Fort Pierce is the place for you.
Fort Pierce is located in St. Lucie County, the 20th–most-populated county in Florida. As of 2020, about 321,000 people lived in St. Lucie County. About 48,000 of those people live in Fort Pierce. This modest population means that the town has retained its sense of charm and hospitality, so you can enjoy city-style amenities in a more relaxed country-style ambiance.
Speaking of amenities, Fort Pierce is located on the Atlantic Ocean. Downtown is just minutes away from several beaches, including South Beach Park, Blue Heron Beach, the Fort Pierce Inlet State Park, and the Fort Pierce Jetty. If you’re willing to drive just a few minutes more, you’ll find countless beautiful beaches on Route A1A, whether you go north or south.
Fort Pierce is a great place to sunbathe or swim at the beach, but it also offers plenty of freshwater fun. Local businesses like Salty’s Water Sports and Lisa’s Kayaks offer watercraft of all varieties for rent, so you can play on the water to your heart’s content. If you have your own boat (or canoe or kayak), you can launch it at any of the city’s eight boat ramps.
Pro Tip: If you were born after Jan. 1, 1988, you must have a Boating Safety Education Identification Card to operate a boat with more than 10 horsepower in Florida. You can complete a free Boating Safety Course to obtain this card.
In the unlikely possibility, you need a break from the water, Fort Pierce has plenty of interesting things to do. The St. Lucie County Aquarium is a partnership between the County and the Smithsonian Marine Station.
This facility features six habitat exhibits where visitors can observe sea creatures and learn about the many ecosystems that make the ocean work. After you’re done at the aquarium, head to the National Navy SEAL Museum, which showcases the local and global history of America’s fiercest warriors.
Downtown Fort Pierce is a fun place to explore. Every Saturday morning from 8 to 12, the Fort Pierce Farmers Market opens for business. Local bakers, beekeepers, farmers, cheesemongers, craftsmen, and other producers gather to sell their wares at Gazebo Park. In addition, you can grab some local coffee and snacks and wander down to enjoy the scenic view of the St. Lucie inlet.
After the Farmer’s Market, visit the Heathcote Botanical Gardens, home to more than 100 tropical Bonsai trees.
Why is it Called Fort Pierce?
The city of Fort Pierce is named after a fort constructed in the area during the Second Seminole War. The Second Seminole War is the name given to the period of time when settlers were trying to relocate Florida’s native peoples to locations west of the Mississippi. Some went peacefully, but others put up heavy resistance, not wanting to leave their homes.
The history of Fort Pierce began in 1838 when the US Army needed a strategic position for its war against the Indians. The fort was constructed on a high bluff along the Indian River, allowing access to food and water and strategic control of the waterway and surrounding lands.
It was constructed from palmetto logs and commanded by Lt. Col. Benjamin K. Pierce, for whom it was named. The fort never saw direct action but was a staging and recovery point for some battles.
The fort was abandoned at the war’s end in 1842 and subsequently torched. Today, Old Fort Pierce Park sits on the site of the original Fort Pierce.
Phenomenal Florida Fun Fact: Fort Pierce is rapidly becoming a hub for the custom retrofitting of both airplanes and yachts. Aviators and mariners around the world bring their craft to Fort Pierce to have them upgraded and updated.
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Is the Water Clear at Fort Pierce, Florida?
Fort Pierce is renowned for having clear water, especially near the Fort Pierce Inlet. One of the best ways to appreciate this beautiful, crystalline water is to rent a see-through kayak. The beautiful Atlantic waters are also great for swimming, snorkeling, boating, and scuba diving. It’s also a great place to fly a drone and get some fantastic ocean photos!
Be aware that while the water is usually very clear, weather conditions can sometimes cause the water to become brown or murky, especially if there’s been heavy wave activity or big storms.
Is Fort Pierce Considered South Florida?
Fort Pierce is not considered South Florida. The city is located in St. Lucie County, which is considered part of the Treasure Coast. In fact, Fort Pierce is the County Seat of St. Lucie County, meaning that it is the location of important St. Lucie County government buildings like the courthouse. And, as part of Florida’s Treasure Coast, it is very close to some of Florida’s grand Atlantic beaches and treasure-hunting spots.
Is Fort Pierce Rural?
Fort Pierce is not a rural city per se. However, it is home to about 50,000 residents and has a full host of amenities that one would expect to find in any city or town of that size.
You can quickly get to I-95 and Florida’s Turnpike from Fort Pierce, so it’s easy to travel if you wish. However, despite having many convenient amenities and a healthy population, many say Fort Pierce still maintains a rural, small-town atmosphere.
That said, if you like rural, you’ll be happy to know that rural Florida is within striking distance of Fort Pierce. Head west on Route 70 or Route 68, and you’ll be out in the boonies before you know it.
What Major City is Near Fort Pierce?
The nearest major cities to Fort Pierce are Miami and Orlando. To get to either of these cities from Fort Pierce, hop on the interstate. Miami is about 135 miles south of Fort Pierce, which will take about two hours (maybe more, depending on traffic). Orlando is about 119 miles northwest of Fort Pierce, which will take you just under two hours.
Fort Pierce is the perfect place to live if you like to take cruises. The city is within driving distance of three cruise ports servicing dozens of amazing destinations.
Port Miami, Florida’s best cruise port, is only about two hours south. Port Canaveral, also a fabulous port, is about an hour and twenty minutes north. However, if you prefer to cruise out of Tampa, you can be at the port in just about two and a half hours from Fort Pierce.
What Airport do you Fly into for Fort Pierce, Florida?
You have several options if you want to visit Fort Pierce by air. If you have your own aircraft (lucky you!), you can fly directly into KFPR, Treasure Coast Airport. However, if you’re like the rest of us and reliant on the airlines for air travel, the closest airport is Melbourne, Florida, or KMLB in airline speak. It takes about an hour to drive from Melbourne to Fort Pierce.
If Melbourne isn’t for you, you can also fly into Palm Beach International, which is about an hour south of Fort Pierce. Visitors from afar can fly into Miami International Airport, which is about an hour and a half away from Fort Pierce and connects to any part of the globe.
Fort Pierce: A True Hidden Gem
Fort Pierce, Florida, is one of the Sunshine State’s hidden treasures. With beautiful Atlantic beaches and plenty of fun attractions, there’s no shortage of entertainment in Fort Pierce.
In addition, its convenient location is far enough from the cities to feel homey but close enough that you can easily enjoy the amenities of places like Orlando and Miami. So whether you’re looking for a perfect weekend getaway or a new place to call home, Fort Pierce is a true gem.