Turtle Walks

Turtle Walks in Florida

Turtle watch programs have become very popular during recent years with the focus on protecting the numerous threatened species of sea turtles.  With the nesting season starting in May and extending through October, many opportunities to participate in one of these nighttime excursions are available to the public.  Understandably,  the number of people which are allowed to participate in a turtle watch walk is limited to avoid disruption of the nesting activities.

While sea turtles come ashore to nest throughout the Florida coastline, the greatest concentration of nesting occurs along Florida's Central East Coast area.   Throughout the Space Coast and Treasure Coast, individuals walking along the shoreline from May until August will notice evidence of sea turtles who have come in during the previous evening to nest.  Often, these turtle tracks will be only a few yards from one another.

All of the turtle walk programs listed in this article are on the Florida east-central  or southern shoreline from Canaveral National Seashore in the North, to John U. Lloyd State Recreation Area in the South.   Those individuals who are unable to travel to one of these eastern beaches are encouraged to contact these organizations for additional resources which may be close at hand.

Advance reservations are required to participate in these events.  Sea turtle nesting is closely monitored, and these organizations record the date, location and species of individual nests to accurately predict the night of expected hatching,  The efforts and experience of these groups helps to ensure that participants will generally be rewarded for their lack of sleep.  As with any act of nature, there are no guarantees, but with the abundance of sea turtles nesting along this stretch of shoreline, some patience and perseverance generally wins out.  

Some traveling by foot along the soft sand is required.  Many walks may be as much as a mile from any parking or facilities, so be prepared to travel on foot.   After all; they are called turtle "walks" and not turtle "watches."

Long pants, long sleeve shirts and insect repellent are highly recommended along with water and any other items you may need for a shoreline hike.  You are not allowed to use a flashlight or take flash photography since the lights will distract and confuse the turtles coming in to nest, or the hatchlings as they try to make their way to the sea.  Generally, additional light emitting devices such as backlit displays on cell phones, etc. are also not allowed, so be sure to check with your guide before packing any of these items.

Canaveral National Seashore

This area, which adjoins the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge  has two entrances which are readily accessed by visitors from either Orlando, or Daytona Beach. Turtle walks are conducted from both the northern and southern entrances to the Canaveral National Seashore. 

In the northern section, participants assemble at the Canaveral National Seashore Information Center, 7611 South Atlantic Avenue, New Smyrna Beach.  Reservations for the northern section are made by calling the Canaveral Information Center (321) 428-3384. Calls are taken May 15 for the June walks; on June 15 for the July turtle watches.

Reservations for the southern district are made by calling  (321) 267-1110.  Calls are taken on the Saturday closest to May 15 for both the June and July programs.

Both the northern and southern districts are accessed by approximately five miles of roadway; providing numerous parking locations with boardwalks at various intervals.  Turtle walks are conducted from these parking lots allowing turtles to be observed within one-quarter of a mile of a boardwalk.  Groups are limited to 25, and the age limit is 8-years old.

Melbourne Beach

Headquartered in the heart of turtle nesting area, the Sea Turtle Preservation Society conducts walks during June and July, and is a great source of information for additional questions or concerns.  Their contact number is (321) 676-1701.

Archie Carr National Wildlife Refuge

With 25% of the Loggerhead and 35% of the green sea turtles nesting along the  20 mile section of coastline from Melbourne Beach to Wabasso Beach, Archie Carr NWR may be the best place in all of Florida to view a nesting loggerhead sea turtle.   With as many as 1,000 nests recorded per mile, this coastline is considered the most important nesting area for loggerhead turtles in the western hemisphere and the second most important nesting beach in the world.

For  guided turtle walk reservations, call Sebastian Inlet State Park at (321) 984-4852. Reservations for June are taken on May 15 only, starting at 8AM.  Reservations for July are taken on June 15 only, starting at 8AM.  Sea turtle walks are conducted in June and July only. 

Be prepared to walk up to a mile on the beach and expect the entire program to last for an average of 3 hours.  Because of the potentially long walk, very young children, the elderly or disabled are discouraged from participating.

For additional information, contact the Archie Carr NWR at (772) 562-3909.

Sebastian Inlet State Park

Public turtle walks are conducted several times a week during June and July.  Reservations are taken two weeks ahead of a scheduled walk.  Reservations can be made by calling (321) 589-2147 (the first call of the day is taken at 9 AM).   Normally, you can make reservations for up to six people, and groups are limited to 20 people. 

The beach walk could be up to three miles in length due to the lack of access points.  This area adjoins the calmer waters of the Indian River and can be frequented by numerous nighttime biting insects, so dress appropriately.  Some of these bugs do not respect the power of DEET, so loose fitting clothing is highly recommended.  The turtle walk program ends at midnight.

Hutchinson Island

Florida Power & Light is a nationally recognized leader in helping protect the state's plant and wildlife (particularly manatees & sea turtles) and conducts turtle walk activities near their Hutchinson Island location.  Walks are conducted Friday and Saturday evenings at the FPL St. Lucie Nuclear Power Plant Energy Encounter Center on Hutchinson Island during June and July. 

Walks begin at 9PM with an orientation and education program until a turtle is spotted, and the activity is moved to the beach.  Activities are usually ended by midnight but may last longer if the turtle under observation hasn't completed her nesting.

Reservations are made by calling  (800) 334-5483 after May 1.

Loggerhead Park, Juno Beach

Loggerhead Marinelife Center of Juno Beach conducts turtle walks on Wednesday through Sunday evenings in June and July. Reservations are made online through their Marinelife Reservation Center  beginning May 1 on a first-come basis.    Current advance reservation rates are $17 for non-members, and $12 for members.   The minimum age is 8 years old and participants should be prepared to walk for 1/2 mile along sandy shoreline.

Hobe Sound

Hobe Sound Nature Center conducts turtle walks on Tuesday and Thursday evenings in June and July. Reservations should be made by calling the Nature Center at  (772) 546-2067 starting in April.  Thirty people are allowed to sign up for each walk, with no minimum age restrictions.  Waiting lists are also taken in case of last minute cancellations.  Donations are requested in the amount of $5 to support the program and nature center.

The activities start at the Nature Center at 8:30 PM with exhibits and a short video while turtle scouts keep an eye out for nesting turtles.  Once a turtle is spotted, the activities move to the Hobe Sound Public Beach.

John U. Lloyd State Recreation Area

Walks are held Wednesday and Friday evenings in June and July.   Reservations are taken beginning May 1 by calling the park at (954) 923-2833. Each group is limited a maximum of 25 people with a minimum age limit of six years old.  Normal state park admission fees apply.

 

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