The Nature Conservancy protects lands worldwide. But in South Florida, the only protected space managed by TNC is Blowing Rocks Preserve in Jupiter Island.
I had been thinking of visiting this area for quite some time; I used January 1 (New Year's Day) as my motivation to get out there and finally "just do it"!
If you decide to visit Blowing Rocks Preserve (and I think you should!), please note that parking is very limited (even with the addition of a second parking lot on the west side of the road adjoining the education center. Typically, they discourage standing/waiting for cars to leave and security encourages cars to keep moving. There is NO street parking available.
As of January 1, 2022, the education center was closed, as well as the donation post when you enter the beach side (due to COVID restrictions).
I started from the west side parking lot next to the education center. [Also note that since the education center is closed, so are the restrooms; there are 2 portable bathrooms for use plus hand sanitizer stations, but no running water.]
The highlight here is definitely on the beach side of the preserve. Cross South Beach Road (unless you are lucky enough to find parking on the beach side!), and take the short path to the beach. At this point, you can enter the beach, or continue north along another path. I continued north for a bit, and then walked along the beach to end up at the actual "Blowing Rocks"!
On the southern part of the preserve, the sandy beach changes to a landscape of rocky formations that reminded me a bit of Hawaii. According to The Nature Conservancy, this is the largest Anastasia limestone shoreline on the Atlantic coast!
If you visit during high tide, you'll be able to see the water blowing up through the rock formations. I visited at lower tide, and was able to walk along the water line and explore some of the cave-like features of the rocks next to the ocean. I didn't get to see the water shooting up through the rocks, but it was still a cool experience.
If you plan to just walk the trails and explore the beach without swimming, you can easily spend an hour or two here. The beach is also good for swimming and snorkeling. But since it is a nature preserve, don't bring picnics, alcohol, or your pets. And you are asked not to collect any shells, plants, or rock. (I found a few nice seashells and then tossed them back into the water.)
Current park hours are 9am - 4:30pm 7 days a week (except Easter, Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve, and Christmas Day). If you go on a holiday (like New Years Day), be prepared with patience in the parking lot. Around 4pm they will come over to the beach and let everyone know that the parking lot will close.
This was a great way to kick off 2022, and I look forward to doing some more local South Florida exploring this year!
Although Sunshine Travel is a travel agency dedicated primarily to cruise planning, I can't always be on a cruise or traveling somewhere "new and exciting". I've lived in Florida since I was 2 years old, thanks to New Jersey snow that my parents didn't want to deal with anymore. As pretty as snow Is (to look at), I'm happy to be a year-round flip-flop wearer, and be able to sink my toes in the sand whenever I want!
I plan to use this blog in 2022, along with my new Instagram, as a little digression from major vacation planning. 2020 turned the travel world upside down; 2021 was supposed to get better (and it did...a little bit). Now 2022 is starting out with uncertainty again. I decided to share some travel photos and experiences here, just for fun. Some are throwbacks to previous times; some will be current from local explorations.
One of my resolutions (not just for the New Year, but for life) is to do the things I've been talking about for a long time. I don't necessarily mean big bucket-list items (one trip to New Zealand, thank you), but smaller things that are easy to accomplish but that I somehow never get around to.
Here's an example: in 2012, Sunshine Travel did a spotlight on a different part of Florida each month. One month, I picked Clearwater Beach. As a travel consultant, I've also planned numerous trips for clients to the Clearwater Beach area. It's a great destination here in Florida! But somehow, I never managed to squeeze it in for a personal visit.
In 2019, I finally decided that enough time had passed us by, and I took my kids to Clearwater Beach for a few days! We enjoyed not only Clearwater Beach, but Caladesi Island State Park, Honeymoon Island, Indian Rocks Beach, a sunset dolphin watching boat tour (with ice cream!), and the Clearwater Marine Aquarium. It didn't actually take a lot of effort, and it was more than worth it. A few months ago when Winter the Dolphin (from Clearwater Marine Aquarium) passed away, we were even more glad that we made that trip and had the chance to see Winter in real life!
The big bucket list trips may be on hold for a little while longer, but in the meantime, enjoy your local area (safely!) and do what you can now, instead of saving it for some other time (which often never manages to present itself).