Stretching more than a mile along Jupiter Island, a tall limestone terrace dominates the meeting of sand and sea, the longest and most dramatic stretch of rocky shoreline in Florida. Preserved by local residents in 1969 and turned over to The Nature Conservancy, the Blowing Rocks Preserve protects 73 acres of Jupiter Island, from the namesake rocks to sensitive estuarine habitats, mangroves, tropical and oak hammocks, and the beach dunes.
Location: Jupiter Island
Length: 2.5 miles in two loops
Lat-Long: 26.978967, -80.084017
Fees / Permits: per-person entrance fee
Difficulty: easy to moderate
Bug factor: moderate
Restroom: Yes, at the nature center
Land Manager: The Nature Conservancy
Blowing Rocks Preserve is open 9 AM to 4:30 PM daily, except major holidays. Admission is $2 per person ($1 for Nature Conservancy members), $1 for children 12 and under, for the beach side of the trail. Guided nature walks are offered Sundays at 11 AM.
From I-95 or the Florida Turnpike, exit at Jupiter (Indiantown Rd). Follow Indiantown Rd. east to US 1. Turn north on US 1 to Jupiter Inlet. After crossing the bridge, turn right on South Beach Road (CR 707). Two miles later, watch for the Blowing Rocks Preserve sign on the right. The parking lot is ½ mile further ahead on the right.
A tangled bower of sea grapes shades the sandy interpretive trail that leads away from the ticket kiosk and towards the sea. Volunteers have fought the invasion of non-native species such as Australian pine and Brazilian pepper, replanting these dunes with native plants grown in an on-site nursery. Pause to examine the odd peeling bark of a towering gumbo limbo tree, its reddish-brown exterior reminiscent of a tourist with a bad sunburn. Sea grapes form a long green tunnel, surprising visitors with their ivory blooms in summer and edible grapes that turn to red in autumn. There are a few places where you can peer out from the shade of the sea grapes and look out over the dramatic coastline.
As you emerge onto the beach, the aquamarine waters of the Atlantic Ocean beckon, edged with the eroded rocks of the Anastasia limestone formation. For maximum enjoyment, time your visit to be during low tide, so you can take the time to explore the many sea caves carved out of the shore. If the tide is low, clamber down the rocks and head south, ducking in and out of caves, as waves strike stone. It’s a natural labyrinth with a stunning view of the sea.
Many of the caves are tall enough to stand in, and most have natural benches formed by the erosive power of the tides. Virtually all of the caves have natural chimneys exposing the sky above. Peer into the tidal pools to see the keyhole limpet moving slowly across the bottom; watch for sea urchins tucked into nooks and crannies. Scurrying like a cockroach, the armored rough-girdled chiton climbs the walls of the caves.
When you reach the end of the caves, you’ve reached the southern end of the preserve. Climb up and around to the beach, taking care as you walk across jagged limestone emerging from the sand. Continue north along the beach to return to the dune crossover. As you walk, notice the unusual erosion of the surface rock—twisted stalactites, stalagmites, and columns in the weathered rock, looking like a miniature version of an underground cave turned inside out. The reddish-black hue to the rock comes from iron deposits in the limestone. On rough and stormy days, particularly in winter, waves burst through the caves and explode as high as fifty feet in the air. Notice the small roped-off areas—turtle nests. More than 600 sea turtles nest along this shoreline in summer, clambering over the rocks at high tide to lay their eggs in the soft sand above.
To continue your walk, exit the jungle of sea grapes and cross the road to the Hawley Environmental Center. Here, you’ll find interpretive exhibits regarding the habitats protected by the preserve, as well as restrooms and a small gift shop. When you exit the center, follow the porch around to the south side of the building. A set of stairs leads down to the Restoration Trail along the Indian River Lagoon.
Walking past identified plantings of Jamaican caper, pigeon-plum, and indigoberry, and other tropical hammock plants, you smell the distinctive skunk odor of white stopper on the salt breeze. A set of benches sits in the shade of a gumbo limbo tree. Passing a gnarled strangler fig, you emerge at the edge of the Indian River Lagoon. Across the lagoon, virtually every parcel of land is developed. But on this side, Blowing Rocks Preserve protects a mile of coastline, sheltering pristine beaches lined with mangroves and buttonwood, a monumental effort of removing exotic species and replacing them with natives. Keep to the right at the junctions to walk along the mangrove fringe.
Reaching a mangrove-lined beach, the trail turns sharply left. At the T intersection, turn left again to return through the regenerating coastal scrub. Wild balsam apple cascades over pigeon plum, its orange seed pods dangling like Christmas ornaments. Fragrant wildflower aromas fill the air as you approach a trail junction. Turn right. Mounds of moonflower and wild balsam apple vines cover the sea grapes and saw palmetto. Passing a bench after half a mile, the trail completes its loop, reaching the incoming trail at a junction. Turn left and go straight across to walk along the lagoon back to the environmental center.