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!