It’s spring and summer in South Florida again – a.k.a. “turtle time,” the time of year when thousands of turtles arrive to the beaches to nest and lay their clutches. One of the best places for you to take in this fascinating feat? Juno Beach, one of the most densely nested loggerhead beaches, and its world-class Loggerhead Marinelife Center.
When it comes to things to do in Juno Beach, Florida, there’s nothing quite like what goes on between the months of May to October. That’s because its white sand beaches boast the most active turtle-nesting season in the US. It’s quite a sight: Thousands of Florida sea turtles come to lay their eggs in the shaded dunes along the coast throughout the spring and summer, and, by the end of summer, baby hatchlings emerge from the sand and crawl to the water – all by the cover of night. To make sure all goes well, the Loggerhead Marinelife Center serves as a sea turtle conservation, rescue, rehab, and education center located right on the beach, where visitors can learn about the turtles, safely witness the nesting and hatching, and even interact with patients who are healing at the on-site hospital.
Founded 35 years ago by Eleanor Fischer, a local resident and turtle researcher from Juno Beach, the center has become a leading facility in sea turtle rescue and conservation efforts and is located just under 10 minutes south of Jupiter Beach Resort & Spa. Despite the facility undergoing an expansion that is scheduled to be completed in fall of 2021, the center is still free and open to the public year-round. Here’s what you need to know if looking to take in a little “turtle time,” from classes, tours, and excursions on the beach, plus Jupiter’s own homage to the shelled animals that are so indicative of South Florida.
Guided Turtle Walks & Nest Excavations
While you can visit the center any time of the year and see turtles up close in the outdoor hospital, the months during nesting and hatchling season are arguably some of the most special. That’s because it’s when you get the opportunity to potentially witness turtles in their natural element right on the beach. How? With two specially guided tours offered by the center. Running throughout the entire nesting season, the evening Guided Turtle Walks are led by certified loggerhead scouts, who locate nesting turtles on the beach and show visitors the miracle of egg-laying by the light of the moon. Then, starting August and September, Nest Excavations tours allow visitors to tag along with researchers to gather data by locating and excavating abandoned nests on the beach.
Never seen a baby turtle? Cue the cuteness alert. Hatchlings are the itty bitty turtle newborns who dig out from their underground nests to find their homes in the sea, and, starting in late summer, the center offers two ways to get you up close with these cuties: Hatchling Releases and Hatchling Feedings. The releases take you down to the beach under the stars while researchers release rehabbed hatchlings back into the ocean, whereas the feedings let you get your hands dirty as you help to prepare hatchling food and observe their eating habits as they dine. A perfect treat if you have little hatchlings of your own!
Visit Turtles in the Hospital
Turtles get sick just like everyone else, and the center’s hospital is ready to help. Meet the current patients in person in the outdoor water tanks where they recuperate and rest. You can even watch their doctors at work. Luckily, the new construction will double the hospital’s size, which means twice as many turtles can be helped. It will also allow for an additional eight tanks, specifically for the new ICU where turtles with contagious diseases can be rehabbed. Additional tanks will feature sharks, rays, and jellyfish – the latter being a tasty treat for turtles.
Other Year-Round Programs
If you are not here during turtle season, there is still plenty to do. Take a local eco-excursion by way of the center’s Eco Adventure Series and paddle into the sunset with a guide, or snorkel with an array of coral-loving fish. More of a doer than a watcher? There’s a Clean the Waterway excursion where you can be part of the solution and help clean up debris in the sea. You can also trade in a day at the beach for a day at Juno Beach Pier, a 990-foot-long family-friendly fishing pier, your one-stop shop for bait, tackle, poles, fishing lessons, and turtle-rescue programs. The center also hosts a calendar of special events. Sign up for an overnight hiking trip or dance the night away at the Beach Bash Palm Beach party in December.
Your Own Nesting Spot
In conjunction with the center, Jupiter Beach Resort & Spa offers its own “Stay & Save The Turtles” package to raise awareness among visitors around these local endangered animals. Not only does the offer include 20% off accommodations and lunch for two people daily, but a souvenir “Loggy the Turtle” plush toy, which arrives on your bed. Stay three nights or more and the resort will even adopt one of the center’s turtle patients in your name.
Where to Stay Jupiter Beach Resort & Spa