An oasis of tropical hammock in a sea of suburbia, Rocky Point Hammock is perched along the Atlantic Coastal Ridge in Port Salerno. It offers a mix of scrub and tropical habitats, with a mile-long loop circling the 22-acre preserve. A wheelchair-accessible linear trail connects the two trailheads, slicing the loop in two to access a picnic area and playground in the middle of this Martin County park. It’s an excellent place to take a nature walk with your kids.
Location: Port Salerno
Length: 1 mile
Lat-Long: 27.157579, -80.183076
Type: loop with options
Fees / Permits: none
Difficulty: easy to moderate
Bug factor: moderate to annoying
Restroom: at the picnic area
Be cautious of poison ivy along the trail. Sandals are not suggested.
From the intersection of US 1 and Cove Rd in Port Salerno, drive east on Cove Rd for 1.1 miles to the traffic circle with A1A. Take the third exit onto North A1A and make an immediate right onto SE Anchor Avenue. Make the second right onto SE Horseshoe Point Rd. After 1.1 miles, turn left on SE Kubin Avenue. Continue a half-mile to the trailhead parking area on the left at 854 SE Kubin Avenue.
From the moment you step onto the trail, you know you’re in a tropical hammock. The peeling bark of gumbo-limbo, the skunk smell of white stopper, the thorny limbs of acacia, a dense understory of wild coffee, the fern-like fronds of the paradise tree, and the white blooms of marlberry—it’s all here.
The loop begins at a large kiosk and a “Nature Trail” sign. Turn left to follow it clockwise, keeping an eye out for interpretive signs pointing out interesting (and common) flora along the way.
The trail is a narrow tunnel through tropical forest. Jamaican satinleaf arcs overhead, and vegetation crowds in closely. A scrub hickory soon signals that you’re transitioning to the ridge. Hop over a few gatorbacks as the trail jogs to the left. A stand of oaks growing where the trail descends a little. Scrub hickory and wild coffee co-exist in this melding of coastal habitats. Although the preserve doesn’t touch on it, St. Lucie Inlet is less than a mile away.
Passing a “Native vs. Exotic Species” marker, you’ll find yourself firmly into the scrub atop the ridge. Note how the sand live oaks are covered in ball moss, and the scrub hickories have shield lichen firmly attached to their trunks. Patches of wild coffee grow in the scrub—an anomaly. The trail passes under a power line. In this more open scrub, you’ll see sand pines, pennyroyal, and sprays of Feay’s palafox.
Back in the heart of the scrub, notice the difference between the tropical forest’s coolness and the open, sandy landscape’s heat. Dead snags of taller trees stand above prickly pear cactus, young Chapman oaks, and myrtle oaks of ideal size for Florida scrub-jays.
Emerging into a clearing, continue ahead towards a line of sand pines. You’ll see houses off to the left, since there is no protective buffer of tropical hammock on this side of the preserve. Florida rosemary (tall shrubs) and scrub rosemary (short shrubs) grow in this area, and slash pines tower overhead.
At 0.4 mile is the paved trail again. Turn right to continue along the nature trail. Look for deer moss and reindeer lichen growing under small oaks and scrub plum. At the T intersection, turn right. This area of the preserve is full of twisting trails with many intersections, and you may choose to go off in a different direction than we did—there’s little fear of getting lost in a 22-acre preserve surrounded by suburbia.
This part of the trail has toppled sand pines from a hurricane damage years ago. Vegetation crowds in from both sides in a transition from open scrub to scrubby coastal flatwoods. At the next T intersection, turn left (the right goes to the picnic area and restrooms), and then turn left again at the next trail junction.
You can smell the white stopper ahead; the tropical hammock is near. Make the next right to enter it. Pushing vegetation aside, ascend through a tropical-hammock tunnel. At the next junction (at the back side of an interpretive sign), turn left. At the “Life in the Treetops” sign, turn right. Marlberry towers overhead along a tangle of tropical vegetation just before you reach the base of an immense live oak framed by resurrection fern.
Make a left at the junction past the ancient oak. The footpath here is rimmed by sword fern, Southern woods fern, and acacia. Curve around past an interpretive sign and note the variety of vegetation: paradise trees, wild coffee, cabbage palm, gumbo-limbo, beautyberry, marlberry, and more. The footpath ends at the kiosk. Turn left to exit to the trailhead.