Florida Oceanographic Coastal Ctr, Stuart
Print Leave a comment
Florida Oceanographic Coastal Center is a beautiful nature center on Hutchinson Island, with one-mile nature trail on boardwalks, lagoon filled with sharks and game fish, and stingrays you can feed by hand! It takes about two to three hours to see everything and it makes for a wonderful morning or afternoon!
You can't beat the location as you drive to the center. You cross over two bridges with expansive views over the water and then reach tropical Hutchinson Island. Once inside the center, you can enjoy some indoor tanks with seahorses, coral, mermaid's purses, sea stars, and fish. There is a touch tank where a volunteer explains about sea cucumbers, sea urchins, starfish, conches, and crabs.
Most of the center is outdoors with shaded covers. The reef ray pavilion is a shallow pool with wooden bleachers around it. A volunteer tells you the correct way to feed the stingrays so you don't get bit! The stingrays have their barbs removed each time they grow, so you can touch them without being stung. After the presentation, kids and adults can feed shrimp and squid to the stingrays! It is spooky but fun! Make sure you come down to see when the volunteer calls you to come to the glass to watch him feed the sting ray. It is so cute to see the rays move their mouths to get the food! They look so funny!
At the game fish lagoon, you can stand on a wooden bridge over the clear, clean water while a volunteer tells you about each fish, shark, or turtle and tosses food in. The animals go wild over the food. The nurse sharks look so plump and foreboding as they swim slowly around in the water. There are striped fish and scaley fish, and large turtles. There is a separate feeding time for the turtles.
The nature trail is a lovely part of the center. There are eleven boardwalks interspersed with dry land. It feels perfectly safe to walk here because of the boardwalks that keep you away from the swamps! Even my four-year-old was able to do this walk because of the plaques. Colorful plaques are dotted throughout the hike and you can pretend they are "clues" in your journey. The boardwalks are numbered and you can make this part of the spy hunt too. Grab one of the trail maps so you can pretend to be Dora and Boots with "the map." Usually young kids whine on a long walk, but not this one!
Halfway into the walk you come to the Indian River where you can walk out on a pier and look at the arched modern bridge you drove over on your way here. Rugged beaches of fine, white sand hug the shore. There is an unusual oyster area where oyster shells and equipment are piled up. Here, the oceanographic center is researching oyster gardening in order to restore the oyster population in the estuary. Oysters are important because they filter the water to make it clean.
Along the hike there is also a well-made Indian chickee hut that is fun to walk through, plus a real Indian canoe.
There is some odd vegetation that you pass through. One area has headless cabbage palms creating an end-of-the-world landscape. Plenty of stinky, sulphur areas and green-slime swamps add to the comic moments. And one of the boardwalks has crooked parts. Kids love all this! Unless it's a very cold day, bring mosquito repellent or you'll be sorry!
Back at the center, there are outdoor activity stations for kids to enjoy. Cardboard turtles can be spun around and show kids how large the different types of turtles are. There is a sand play table that describes animal tracks. And there is a small wooden boat with captain's wheel.
A large starfish-shaped touch tank also delights kids. These are the only animals I felt sorry for at the center.
This center was a pure delight, and definitely worth a visit!
Make sure while you're on Hutchinson Island to drive south on SE MacArthur Blvd. Enjoy the tropical foliage, the pretty Caribbean-colored homes, and best of all, have a swim at Chastain Beach, next to Bathtub Beach (which is closed for repair). It is covered in shells and feels like a small cove rather than a wide-open beach.
After your swim, head over to downtown Stuart or Jensen Beach Blvd for a bite to eat.
Photo GalleryClick on photo to see large version
Florida Oceanographic Coastal Center is located at 890 Northeast Ocean Boulevard, Stuart FL 34996, call (772) 225-0505.
Exit Highway 95 northbound at Kanner Hwy and turn right on Kanner Hwy. After 6 miles, turn right on Ocean Blvd at the roundabout. (This is the downtown Stuart area, if you need a meal). After five miles (you cross two bridges) the Florida Oceanographic Coastal Center is on your left. There is a left turn lane to get into the driveway and there is a parking lot.
Exit Highway 95 southbound at Highway 714 and follow it for about 13 miles (it changes street names here and there). Turn right on SE Ocean Blvd. After 3.5 miles (you cross two bridges) the Florida Oceanographic Coastal Center is on your left. There is a left turn lane to get into the driveway and there is a parking lot.
Admission is $10 for adults, and $5 for children aged 3-12.
Open Mon-Sat 10-5, and Sun 12-4. Closed Jan 1, Easter Sunday, Thanksgiving, and Dec 25. Check the times of the stingray feeding here so you don't miss it.
This is an interactive map, you can zoom and move it.
Overall Visitor Rating: Unrated.