With South Florida’s heat and all the tourists it attracts, also comes a natural phenomenon that requires beach visitors to be responsible stewards of the environment: Sea turtle nesting and hatching.
Seventy percent of the United States’ sea turtle nesting occurs in Florida and the reptiles’ prevalence on South Florida beaches presents a critical responsibility.
But, don’t stress out! Sea turtle season, which begins as early as March and ends in October, is also ripe with opportunity to witness the brave little hatchlings make their late-night trek to the Atlantic.
Want to participate in the magical moment? Check out this list of places to see sea turtles in the wild or in captivity.
But first, here are some ground rules for baby sea turtle viewings, courtesy of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.
- Watch from a distance.
- Allow them to crawl to the water on their own.
- Leave them in their nest.
- Keep all lights off.
1. Dr. Von D. Mizell-Eula Johnson State Park
This is one of the few sites where you can view baby sea turtles in their natural habitat, but its located in Dania Beach, so it will require a little drive. Still, Dr. Von D. Mizell-Eula Johnson State Park is worth the mileage because more than 10,000 hatchlings nest on its beaches before making their trek to the ocean.
In addition, the park hosts many native plant and animal species and has a waterway for canoeing and boat ramps for passionate anglers. It gained its designation as a state park in 1973 after being restricted to people of color during the Jim Crow era.
While there, be sure to try sea grapes from trees at the picnic pavilion or visit Whiskey Creek Hideout for dinner before your late-night sea turtle adventure.
Hours: 8 a.m. until sundown year round
Cost: $6 per vehicle, $4 for motorcycles or single-occupant vehicles, $2 for pedestrians, bicyclists or additional passengers beyond 8 people per vehicle
Whiskey Creek Hideout
Hours: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday and Sunday
Where: 6503 N Ocean Dr
Dania Beach, FL 33004
2. Museum of Discovery and Science
Spend a night on Fort Lauderdale Beach with sea turtles and the Museum of Discovery and Science.
The museum has 12 days slotted for visitors to witness a loggerhead sea turtle lay her eggs then bid adieu to hatchlings as they make their way to the ocean.
Guests will listen to a lecture at the museum before being escorted around the beach in search of turtle nests. This is a late-night adventure! Children must be 9 or older. Leave any white lights or gadgets with flashes at home.White lights and flashes are not permitted on the beach.
Summer Time Moonlight Sea Turtle Walks
- June 13
- June 14
- June 15
- June 20
- June 21
- June 22
- June 27
- June 28
- June 29
- July 11
- July 12
- July 13
Times: 9 p.m. to 1 a.m. on given dates
Tickets: $19 for members, $21 for non-members; Reservations required. Call 954-713-0930
Where: 401 SW 2nd St, Fort Lauderdale 33312
3. Anne Kolb Nature Center
Here’s your chance to see as many as three species of sea turtles with the help of seasoned guides.
Watch a video about ways to identify nests and become educated on how you can help save the sea turtles. Then search for baby sea turtles under the cloak of darkness.
Sea Turtles and Their Babies
When: Wednesdays and Fridays beginning July 5 through Friday, Sept. 1
Time: 8 p.m.
Where: Mangrove Hall at the Anne Kolb Nature Center 751 Sheridan St, Hollywood 33019
Tickets: $10, registration and payment are required in advance at webtrac.broward.org starting Monday, May 16; Parking at the beach is not included in ticket prices
More: Call the park office at 954-357-5161 between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m.
4. Theater of the Sea
This is a guaranteed sea turtle sighting, even if it misses the magic of seeing the reptiles in their natural habitat.
You can feed and pet an endangered sea turtle and interact with other marine animals at Theater of the Sea.
The facility’s sea turtle program includes a 10-minute orientation and 20 minutes to encounter a sea turtle.
Children must be at least 5 years old.
5. The Turtle Hospital
You can get a glimpse into the rehabilitation of injured sea turtles with a visit to the Turtle Hospital.
The hospital hosts daily educational programs that include a presentation about sea turtles, a tour of the facility and the opportunity to feed the turtles that found a permanent home at the Turtle Hospital.
Another guaranteed turtle sighting.
Time: Every hour starting at 9 a.m. through 4 p.m.
Where: 2396 Overseas Hwy, Marathon 33050
Tickets: $22 for adults, $11 for children ages 4 through 12; Make reservations by calling 305-743-2552
6. Key West Aquarium
Learn about the efforts of the Sea Turtle Conservation during a 20-minute tour.
They facility is home to a hawksbill, loggerhead, Kemp Ridley and a green sea turtle. The largest of its four sea turtles is a 275-pound 15-year-old named Spike.