Even legendary animal expert Jack Hanna chooses North Palm Beach, Florida, for its longtime commitment to animal and nature preservation. Learn why.
“What has attracted people here – even before I was around – was the natural beauty, the abundance of wildlife, and the meshing of the ecosystems,” says Busch Wildlife Sanctuary Executive Director David Hitzig, who, for the last 30 years, has watched the town balance both its urban expansion with wildlife preservation.
When he opened the doors to his animal rehabilitation center three decades ago, Hitzig was looking for a laid-back community that both valued its preservation efforts, as well as offered a location close enough to urban amenities. And while he had the first large-scale undertaking in Jupiter, the efforts to save both flora and fauna have drawn in other advocates, like the Loggerhead Marinelife Center. Nearby Jonathan Dickinson State Park protects 13 natural habitats and opens its gates to daily bikers, hikers, and horseback riders. Even famed animal expert Jack Hanna has found sanctuary in Jupiter, living just minutes from the Loxahatchee River that feeds the area.
“For me, Jupiter truly is one of the best-kept secrets of Florida,” adds Hitzig. “Newcomers who move here are always surprised when they find we have foxes, bobcats, and deer running through their yards.”
For a taste of Jupiter’s most preserved spots, these five stops are a must:
The Animal Kingdom
Hitzig’s Busch Wildlife Sanctuary not only opens its doors for free to curious nature enthusiasts; it helps rehabilitate more than 5,000 sick, injured, and abandoned animals each year. Picnic under the trees or walk along its wooded nature trails to discover how 90 percent of the on-site animals came here due to human-related injuries. Don’t miss the afternoon programs with recovering bald eagles, panthers, crocodiles, and the endangered crested caracara.
The peaceful barrier island of Blowing Rocks has long become a home for rare loggerhead and leatherback sea turtles. Not only will visitors find abundant and protected wildlife, they’ll also stumble upon the largest limestone shoreline on the US Atlantic Coast. See how it gets its name when visiting after a winter storm or during extreme high tide. That’s when the sea breaks against the rocks, forcing saltwater 50 feet into the air and letting out a thunderous roar to which it gets its namesake.
In 2012, more than 13,000 loggerhead turtles nested in this area. Guided paddleboard tours of Jupiter’s mangrove channels and seagrass beds with Jupiter Pointe Paddling unveil local wildlife and area loggerhead nesting grounds. After, join Juno Beach’s Loggerhead Marinelife Center to learn more about how this area has become a hot spot for these animals and visit turtles recovering in tanks.
Art in the Park
The Ann Norton Sculpture Gardens offers a rare look into this American artist’s works. Raised in Alabama, Norton found solitude in West Palm Beach at what is now her historic homestead, former studio, and sculpture garden. Not only are the two acres of gardens dotted with monumental works – some more than 12 feet tall – it’s also a sanctuary for 300 species of rare palm trees.
Walk in the Park
Just 25 minutes south of North Palm Beach, Boynton Beach’s Arthur R. Marshall Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge to find 221 square miles of Everglades. This huge preserve houses more alligators than the southern Everglades, as well as endangered species, such as wood storks and snail kites. Stand atop one of the 20-foot-tall observation towers or wander the half-mile boardwalk to get a better view of birds, deer, and even a bobcat or two.
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