Florida sea turtles nesting: 12 places for a thrilling walk (2024)

I live in urban Fort Lauderdale and am always amazed and thrilled that thousands of huge Florida sea turtles still lumber onto Broward County beaches at night to lay eggs.

It seems so primordial for a place better known for Spring Break.

And yet, every summer our beach is decorated with neon-colored tape and signs to show where these ancient creatures have buried their eggs.

Florida beaches are the No. 1 place for sea turtle nests inNorth America from May toOctober.

Florida sea turtles nesting: 12 places for a thrilling walk (1)

Up and down the Atlantic coast (where sea turtle nests are most common), parks and environmental groups organize night-time sea-turtle walks in June and July to observe the natural wonder.

Getting a chance to see a sea turtle in action takes some doing, but it’s a memorable experience. Visitors are led to a spot on the beach where a sea turtle is digging a hole a foot or two deep with her flippers. The turtle then starts filling the nest with soft-shelled eggs the size of ping-pong balls.After laying, she re-fills the nest with sand and heads back into the ocean. The whole process takes 30 to 60 minutes.

The most common variety of sea turtle here is the loggerhead, with leatherbacks and green turtles being much rarer. Loggerheads average 200 to 250 pounds. Greens can way up to 500 pounds. Leatherbacks can get up to 1500 pounds. Wildlife-protection regulations limit turtle walks to observing only loggerheads.

How to reserve a walk to see Florida sea turtles

Nearly all sea-turtle walksrequire reservations. Some get booked for the season on the day they take reservations, and some don’t take reservations until specific dates.

Several of the best sea-turtle walk locations are away from urban centers, so a turtle walk might make a good anchor to a weekend getaway or vacation trip.

To see a nesting turtle, you need to go with a group:Guides for sea-turtle walks know the federal and state laws about what you can and cannot do regarding these threatened or endangered species. (For example: No flashlights except for guides, who need permits, and no flash photography.)

In most cases, you’ll be with a group of 10 or 30 people. All sea-turtle walk programs are required to begin with an information session or talk. During that time, most programs send out “scouts” to find nesting sea turtles for the group to observe.

In most places, participants have to be able to walk a mile or two on sand, and most sea-turtle walks discourage children under 8 or anyone with limited mobility. Wear dark clothing, bring insect repellent and a water bottle. And bring patience: Onenight I went on a sea-turtle walk, we waited several hours before a turtle was spotted, and for awhile, it looked like we weren’t going to get lucky. No matter where you go, there’s no guarantee you’ll see a sea turtle.

There are some beaches where the odds are better than others. Based on the past seasons, good places to see sea turtles nesting include:

  • Palm Beach County beaches. In 2023, Palm Beach County’s 73 kilometers of monitored beach had 54,000 nests!
  • Martin County had 24,000 turtle nests in 2023 in 35 kilometers of shoreline.
  • Brevard County is home to the Archie Carr National Wildlife Refuge, which was specifically created to protect sea turtle nests, and it had more than 70,000 nests in 115 monitored kilometers.

Other Atlantic counties have a substantial number of nests. Even urban Broward County had about 4,800 nests on 39 monitored kilomoters of beach. (Miami-Dade had less than a thousand.) See statewide nesting data here.

Naturalists tell us there’s no way to predict which night will be good for turtle nests — there is no relationship between sea turtle nesting activity and the phase of the moon, the weather, or the tides.

All of these walksfill up quickly and some cost as much as $40 per person. There are two programs that are free — FPL in Jensen Beach and Coastal Connections in Vero Beach.

Here’s a report on my experiences at aturtle walk at Loggerhead Marinelife Center. (We went on a night when there were so many turtles nesting we couldn’t leave the beach until a few cleared the area.)

There are sea turtle walks up and down the Florida Atlantic coast. Information, where available, has been updated for the 2024 season. If you see 2023 dates, that’s because the 2024 dates have not been announced.

Dr. Von D. Mizell-Eula Johnson State Park in Dania Beach

  • 6503 N. Ocean Drive, Dania Beach, 33304
  • Reserve by calling 954-924-3859, Monday to Friday 8 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.
  • For the 2024 season: Select evenings in May, June and July: May 21, 24, 28 and 31; June 4, 11, 18, 21, 25, 28; July 9, 12, 16, 19, 23. (These dates do not include three that were sold out at this writing.) Park entrance is at 8:30 p.m.; the program begins at 9 and concludes at 11:30 p.m.

The state park charges no additional fee beyond park entrance, which is $4 for a single car occupant and $6 for two to eight in a car. Reservations are required. Participants meet at a pavilion for a 20-minute ranger talk and Q&A. During the program, a scout looks for a nesting sea turtle to be observed. In recent years, about half the programs saw sea turtles. Reservations started in early May.

Gumbo Limbo Nature Center in Boca Raton

  • 1801 N. Ocean Blvd., Boca Raton, 33432
  • 561-544-8605
  • For the 2024 season, Gumbo Limbo will offer nighttime walks on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday nights, May 28- July 3, from 8:45 p.m. to midnight (or after a nesting turtle is seen, whichever happens first)
  • The fee is $20. (For Gumbo Limbo Coastal Stewards Member or City of Boca Raton/Beach and Park District Resident, it is $15 each.)
  • Gumbo Limbo also offers day-time sea turtle hatchling releases. For the day-time program, visitors were guaranteed to see sea turtles as they watch tiny sea turtle hatchlings scramble into the surf as they are released to make it on their own in the ocean. The 90-minute program was open to even the youngest kids.
  • See more information on the Gumbo Limbo website

John D. MacArthur Beach State Parkin North Palm Beach

  • 10900 State Road 703 (A1A), North Palm Beach, 33408
  • 561-624-6952
  • The 2024 Turtle Walks start at 8:15 p.m. and run to 11:30 p.m. or later; you must be in the park by 8 p.m. Turtle Walks are offered Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays June 2 to July 15.

Traditionally, MacArthur has one of the highest concentrations of turtle nests in the area, and only a handful of walks go without seeing a turtle most years.Each year, about 3,000 turtles nest on this 1.6 mile beach. Some nights, dozens of turtles nest here.

Registration is online through www.macarthurbeach.org. It starts at 9 a.m. on May 6. Price is $25 per ticket. Attendees should be 10 or older and be able to walk two miles on the beach. The Turtle Walks start at 8:15 p.m. and run to 11:30 p.m. or later; no one may leave early as the park gates are locked.

More about visiting MacArthur Beach State Park from Florida Rambler.

Barrier Island Sanctuaryin Melbourne Beach

  • 8385 S Hwy A1A, Melbourne Beach, 32951
  • 321-723-3556
  • 2024: 9 p.m., Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday nights in June and July.
  • $20 per person.
  • Reservations are made starting May 1. See their website.

These walks are through the Archie Carr National Wildlife Refuge, the largest nesting habitat for loggerhead sea turtles in the Western Hemisphere. It has more endangered green sea turtles nests than any other place in North America, plus the world’s largest sea turtle, the endangered leatherback, nests here too. Regulations, however, limit turtle walks to observing only the nesting of the more common loggerhead turtle.

Sea Turtle Preservation Societyin Melbourne Beach and Satellite Beach

  • Sea-turtle walks are offered in both Melbourne Beach and Satellite Beach.
  • 2024 dates include nights in June and July.
  • Reservations are made online. Information: 321-676-1701.
  • $18 minimum donationper person.

Stella Maris Environmental Research in Melbourne Beach

  • Sea-turtle walks are offered in Melbourne Beach, leaving from Coconut Point Park. 3535 S. HWY A1A, Melbourne Beach.
  • 2024 walks will be held Saturday, Sunday and Wednesday in June and July
  • Reservations are made online starting May 1.
  • Tickets are $20.
  • Walks are held at Coconut Point Park, inside the Archie Carr National Wildlife Refuge, the most important loggerhead nesting beach in the world. One quarter of all loggerhead nests occur inside the refuge, which ranges annually between 8,000 to 20,000 nests.
  • The organization won a grant to buy night-vision technology to “provide you with an upgraded picture taken while on your walk.”

Florida Power & Lightin Jensen Beach

  • These sea-turtle walks are among very few free ones offered and thus fill up quickly. Registration opens at 8 a.m. on May 1.
  • There is a $10 ticketing charge, which can be refunded upon your arrival to the event or donated to Inwater Research Group’s (501c3 non profit) sea turtle conservation programs.
  • 2024 turtle walks will be held Friday and Saturday nights in June and July.
  • 6501 South Ocean Drive, Highway A1A, Gate B, Jensen Beach, 34957
  • St. Lucie nuclear power plant at the Energy Encounter,Hutchinson Island, 1-888-646-6396.
  • Information and registration at the Marine Education Center.

Hobe Sound Nature Center

  • 13640 S.E. Federal Highway (U.S. 1),Hobe Sound, 33455
  • 2024 walks are offered Thursday and Friday evenings at 8 p.m. in June and July.
  • Call(727) 546-2067 or make a reservation here.
  • A donation of $20 per person is requested when you make your reservation online.
  • Groups will meet at the Hobe Sound Public Beach at Jupiter Island Beach Road and Hwy. A1A.
  • Reservations started being taken in early April. Sea-turtle walks go rain or shine.

Sebastian Inlet State Park, Fishing Museum

  • 9700 South A1A, Melbourne Beach, 32951
  • 772-388-2750
  • 2024 schedule: walks are conducted on Thursday and Friday nights between June 1 and July 31.
  • $15 donation paid in advance.
  • In recent years, more than three-quarters of the sea-turtle walks saw a loggerhead turtle.
  • Reservations start May 1 or soon thereafter. Reserve online at friendsofsebastianinletstatepark.org. Programs are conducted by state park rangers.
  • You are responsible for your own transportation to the Sebastian Fishing Museum.

Coastal Connections in Vero Beach

This Vero Beach-based group offers these tours free, although they require a $20 refundable deposit to ensure those who register show up.

  • Riomar Beach Club 2426 Ocean Drive, Vero Beach, FL 32963
  • 2024 schedule: Monday, Wednesdays and Thursdays in June and July, starting at 9 p.m.
  • Free.A $20 refundable reservation deposit is required to register.
  • Register online starting May 1.

Loggerhead Marinelife Center in Juno Beach

  • 14200 U.S. Hwy. 1, Loggerhead Park, Juno Beach, 33408
  • 561-627-8280
  • 2024 walks are Tuesdays to Saturdays in June and July.
  • Tickets are $40 each.
  • Registration began May 1. Schedule and registration is here.
  • Walks begin at the Loggerhead Marinelife Center and can last until midnight.
  • In 2014, I joined a walk at Loggerhead Marine Center; here’s my report.Loggerhead is a good place to take a turtle walk becausebefore it starts you get to view the many tanks of turtles in rehabilitation.

Canaveral National Seashore, both in Titusville and New Smyrna Beach

  • In summer 2024, sea-turtle walks are being offered on Friday and Saturday in both districts of the national seashore. Reservations are made through Recreation.gov.
  • Playalinda Beach tours: Friday and Saturday beginning July 5 and ending July 27. Visitors meet at Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge Visitor Center, 1987 Scrub Jay Way, Titusville, FL 32782.
  • New Smyrna Beach tours: Tours will be offered on Friday and Saturday beginning June 1 and ending July 27. Vistitors will meet at Apollo Beach Visitor Center, 7611 South Atlantic Ave., New Smyrna Beach FL 32169
  • $21 per person; children 15 and under are $1. No children under age 8.
  • The park is the longest undeveloped stretch of beach on Florida’s east coast.Canaveral National Seashore website.

Museum of Discovery and Science in Fort Lauderdale

  • Turtle walks are not being offered in the 2024 season. A representative said they would be back in 2025.

Florida sea turtles along Florida’s Gulf Coast

Florida sea turtles do nest along the Gulf Coast, but not as densely. As a result, turtle walks are rarealong the Gulf Coast. The area with the greatest density of sea turtle nesting is Sarasota County. (If you know of a turtle walk, please add it to comments below.)

See Florida sea turtles every day

Several of the groups offering sea turtle walks have turtles in their care on exhibit — Gumbo Limbo in Boca Raton, Loggerhead Marinelife Center in Juno Beach and John D. MacArthur Beach State Park. Here’s a list of places where you can see captive sea turtles.

You can get close to an endangered species any day of the year with a tour of a non-profit turtle rehabilitation center in the Florida Keys. Read more from Florida Rambler about theSea Turtle Hospital in Marathon.

Florida sea turtles nesting: 12 places for a thrilling walk (5)

Bonnie Gross

The author, Bonnie Gross, travels with her husband David Blasco, discovering off-the-beaten path places to hike, kayak, bike, swim and explore. Florida Rambler was founded in 2010 by Bonnie and fellow journalist Bob Rountree, two long-time Florida residents who have spent decades exploring the Florida outdoors. Their articles have been published in the Sun Sentinel, the Miami Herald, the Orlando Sentinel, The Guardian and Visit Florida.

Florida sea turtles nesting: 12 places for a thrilling walk (2024)


Where are the sea turtle nesting sites in Florida? ›

At major nesting sites like John D. MacArthur Beach State Park and Cayo Costa State Park, park staff and volunteers locate turtle crawls on park property. These crawls, or signs of turtle movement in the sand, help gauge nesting activity in certain areas.

What time of day is best to see sea turtles hatch in Florida? ›

Sea turtle hatchlings usually emerge from their eggs at the coolest point in the evening. This is usually after midnight into the early morning hours, depending on the forecast.

How to read sea turtle nest markers? ›

The paddle marks in the sand indicate that a sea turtle likely nested in the area. When new nests are discovered, the surveyors block off the area and mark it with stakes and brightly colored tape to clearly identify them.

What to wear on a turtle walk? ›

It is suggested you wear dark breathable clothing, bug spray, and comfortable walking shoes. Do not bring flashlights or phone camera lights as artificial light has a negative impact on the nesting sea turtles and emerging hatchlings. Cell phones and digital cameras utilizing a lighted LCD screen are also prohibited.

How rare is it to see a sea turtle in Florida? ›

It is very rare to see turtles on our beaches. They are mainly seen at night and many locals have not seen them, so it is unlikely you will see a nesting turtle or hatchlings. If you do happen to see turtles on the beach: Keep a distance, remain quiet.

What do I do if I find a sea turtle nest? ›

If you see an unmarked mound that you suspect might be a nest, do not approach it. Call the FWC and they will instruct you how to proceed. If you see a marked nest, again, do not approach it.

What is the best time of day to see sea turtles? ›

Kū'au Bay Beach Park (North Maui):

This unsung gem of a beach is a more exclusive spot to see turtles. You'll find sea turtles napping just about anywhere on this sandy beach. The best time to see them is during sunset when they come to rest on the shore and the sky changes color.

Can you touch sea turtles in Florida? ›

Though turtle nesting and hatching usually happens in the middle of the night, it is very possible for humans to cross paths with nesting females or hatchlings on their way to the sea. Should this happen to you, it is important to stay out of the sea turtle's way. Don't put your hands on or near the turtle.

What month do sea turtles lay their eggs? ›

Every year, from about May to September, nesting female sea turtles emerge from the Gulf of Mexico to use the beaches of the Gulf Islands to lay their eggs. Once a site is chosen, the turtle uses her hind flippers to dig a vase-shaped hole about two feet deep, and then lays her eggs.

What happens if you disturb a sea turtle nest? ›

It's Illegal

Sea turtles are protected by federal law, which means, heavy fines and jail time can be imposed on those caught disturbing the animals. Officials ask people on the beach to not shine a light on the sea turtles or otherwise disturb it.

What do turtle eggs look like on the beach? ›

Sea turtle eggs are spherical, like a ping pong ball, rather than an oval, like a chicken egg. They also have soft shells, rather than a hard exterior.

How do you tell a boy sea turtle from a girl sea turtle? ›

How can we tell if a sea turtle is female or male? In adults, it's relatively easy—a male has a long tail that extends well beyond the carapace, with a cloacal opening near the tip. In comparison, a female has a short tail with a cloacal opening near the base.

Why do turtles tackle black shoes? ›

Some theories suggest that turtles see black shoes not as predators but as competition, and attack them as a means to assert dominance. Whatever the reason may happen to be, it is something to be mindful of for contractors who happen to be working in animal enclosures or close to wild turtle sites.

Do turtles like waterfalls? ›

Turtles don't need or like big waterfalls or fast-moving water.

Can you release baby sea turtles in Florida? ›

​​The BCSTCP and Anne Kolb Nature Center offer public hatchling release programs throughout the summer (July-August). ​ Please note that participants are NOT PERMITTED to touch the hatchlings during these programs. Tickets for the programs are usually available starting in May or June.

Where can you swim with sea turtles in Florida? ›

Another popular location is the Gulf of Mexico, particularly in the area surrounding Sanibel Island. Here, you can explore the underwater world and have the chance to swim alongside not only sea turtles but also dolphins, manatees, and a variety of colorful fish.

Where is Turtle Beach Florida located? ›

Turtle Beach is a public beach located on South Siesta Key in Sarasota, Florida. Turtle Beach is known for the large number of sea turtles that nest on the shore. It has roughly 2,600 feet of beach front that is accessible to the public as well as camping, picnic areas, and a children play area.

Where is the sea turtle nesting habitat? ›

Sea turtles use beaches and the lower dunes to nest and lay their eggs. Sea turtles deposit an average of about 100 eggs in each nest and lay between 3 and 7 nests during the nesting season.

Do sea turtles nest on the Gulf Side of Florida? ›

The sea turtle nesting season in Florida runs from March through October on the Atlantic coast, and from May through October on the Gulf coast.


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