Exploring Nature in West Palm Beach, Florida

During our week-ish in West Palm Beach, we stayed at Jonathan Dickinson State Park, which was a very nature-centric experience (as most state parks are…part of the reason we love them!). However, I have to entertain a toddler all day, and after awhile, we ran out of things to do within the state park itself. I want to share some of the other ways we kept busy in the West Palm area, specifically with a focus on nature.

Blowing Rocks Preserve Beach

Blowing Rocks was one of the first places we went when we got to West Palm. It’s actually on Jupiter Island, which is about 30 minutes north of West Palm Beach. There is an entry fee, which you pay at an unmanned fee collection box, and then the exploring begins! You have to walk through some dense mangroves to get to the beach, but there is a nice path. The beach is made of rocky limestone, and the water has worn big holes in the rocks, so the waves splash up through. It was unlike anything we had seen in Florida so far, and was beautiful. Not exactly a place you’d want to swim, but we did enjoy watching and listening to the waves crash into the rocks.

Of note – a teenager was flying his very loud drone here, very low to the ground (it came whizzing by my head a few times). There were signs that said no drones. The more scenic places we go, the more drones we see. I’m thankful for every place that has drone bans – if only people would obey them. It’s not my idea of fun to have a drone whizzing by my head every few minutes at the beach, nor am I a fan of being on someone’s drone footage, especially close up. I’m sure he got some nice footage of my stank face.

In the mangroves on the path to Blowing Rocks beach
In the mangroves on the path to Blowing Rocks beach
Blowing Rocks Preserve Beach
Blowing Rocks Preserve Beach
Water at Blowing Rocks Beach - Jupiter FL
Water crashing up through the limestone

 

The Loxahatchee River Center

We went to the Loxahatchee River Center on Friday morning and had the place to ourselves.

The Loxahatchee River Center
The Loxahatchee River Center

This was a nice little interactive museum for us to explore in Jupiter. There wasn’t all that much to it. A few aquariums, a touch tank, a small walkway that had different flowers and trees marked. I think we got through the whole thing in about an hour. They did have lots of activities planned, and on the way in, we saw a classroom full of frogs to be dissected! I think this is just the sort of place I would have loved as a kid. The Loxahatchee River was right in Jonathan Dickinson State Park where we were staying. It’s always more interesting to learn about something you’re already familiar with. The River Center was right next to a park, so between our visit to the center and the park, it was a nice morning.

Hobe Sound National Wildlife Refuge

The Hobe Sound National Wildlife Refuge was more than I expected. Calla and I went on a weekday and we were the only ones there! We got special attention from the staff (they let Calla touch a baby alligator and a gopher tortoise). They had a skunk that ran around the building in a hamster ball. I feel so fortunate that we are able to explore places during the week. Of course, I wish Tim could come with us too, but being able to go during the day usually means a lot less crowds, and as a result of that, we have had some really cool experiences. We also got to see the two huge birds (an owl and a hawk) being taken out of their cages and put on their perches. One of the things I liked the most about the wildlife refuge is the mission. All of the animals at the refuge cannot be returned to the wild for various reasons, so instead, they are used to educate the public. The hawk and the owl are taken home with the director every night and they sleep in her house!

Hawk + Barred Owl at Hobe Sound National Wildlife Refuge
Hawk + Barred Owl at Hobe Sound National Wildlife Refuge. No cages – they sit on their perches all day. Neither can fly due to injuries.
Wildlife Sightings Board
Wildlife Sightings Board

I’m finding that some places, although educational, just don’t have a lot for the toddler age group. To my surprise, the Hobe Sound Wildlife Refuge actually had a lot for her to do! They had a lot of “touch and feel” stations, and a large number of stools for younger kids to use so they could see the action. I really appreciate when a place makes the effort to accommodate children under 3.

One of the touch tables - starfish!
One of the touch tables – starfish!

 

Another one. Coral, snakeskins and fossils, oh my!

 

Baby alligator. The drawers underneath each exhibit provide even more touch/feel artifacts.
Baby alligator. The drawers underneath each exhibit provide even more touch/feel artifacts.

There is a beautiful beach at the refuge, but we didn’t visit it. I started walking down there with Calla and promptly got attacked by mosquitoes so I decided not to make the trip! Across the entrance to the room that houses the animals, they had a large quote from Tom Brokaw:

“Our Generation’s legacy should be leaving the planet in such a state that our grandchildren will know the wonders we’ve been privileged to know.”

This quote really summed up the mission of the Hobe Sound National Wildlife refuge and I wholeheartedly agree.

Beach

How can you be in West Palm/Jupiter and not go to the beach?! We really enjoyed our beach time in West Palm. There are lots of different public beach access points with free parking. We parked at one that even had a playground and restrooms.

Jupiter - Beachfront
Who can argue with this?

I hope this post gives you some ideas for nature-centric things to do in the West Palm/Jupiter/Hobe Sound area. We spent almost 3 months in Florida, and we walked away feeling like Florida is very proud of it’s ecosystems and wildlife. These activities are just a few ways that beauty is showcased!

 

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