Many years ago, I was fortunate to be in the right place at the right time. It was a weekend with friends in Melbourne, and they had plans to watch for sea turtles coming up on the beach in the moonlight to build their nests. It wasn’t an official guided walk, just an opportunity to borrow a beach house and walk down to the water in hopes of seeing a turtle.
There weren’t as many turtles laying eggs on Florida’s beaches in those days. But the stars and moon aligned. We came across turtle tracks in several places. Eventually, other people doing the same thing called us over, and we watched in awe. No lights. No cameras. Just the playing out of the call of nature to bring a turtle back to where it hatched to start the next generation.
I’ve seen many sea turtles since, in aquariums and rehab centers throughout the state. But nothing came close to that feeling that night of waiting in anticipation, and watching in awe.
The Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission keeps up a list of where you can see sea turtles in person – primarily at marine facilities and attractions – as well as of public lands and nonprofit organizations that hold public sea turtle watches, where you can walk on the beach to watch for sea turtle nesting.
All of the following activities are along the Atlantic Coast between Melbourne and Boca Raton.
- The Melbourne-based Sea Turtle Conservancy, which tracks sea turtle migrations by satellite and shares that information, leads guided sea turtle walks at Archie Carr National Wildlife Refuge.
- The Sea Turtle Preservation Society, in south Brevard County, leads walks by reservation.
- Coastal Biology leads turtle walks in Indian River Shores and The Moorings Yacht Club in Brevard County.
- Florida Power & Light leads turtle walks on South Hutchinson Island / Jensen Beach through their Energy Encounter Center.
- Hobe Sound Nature Center leads turtle walks but is already fully booked for the season. You can join their waiting list. They lead walks two nights a week.
- Loggerhead Marinelife Center in Juno Beach leads guided walks in June and July.
- Gumbo Limbo Nature Center in Boca Raton leads turtle walks and is one of only three Florida facilities allowed to manage turtle hatchling releases.
For more places where you can see sea turtles, follow the links below.