If you have a passion for Florida’s incredible waterways, you may want to visit the Florida Oceanographic Coastal Center. Located on the state’s Treasure Coast, it’s a worthy stop close to two major highways. With a quick detour onto a barrier island, you can learn more about this scenic but sensitive shoreline. You can also find out how to help others enjoy it for years to come.
Keep reading to learn more about Florida’s Ocean EcoCenter and the many programs offered there.
Table of Contents
- What Is the Florida Oceanographic Coastal Center?
- Where Is the Florida Oceanographic Coastal Center?
- What Can You Do at the Florida Oceanographic Coastal Center?
- Why Do Florida’s Waterways Need Saving?
- How Can You Help Save Florida’s Waterways?
- Is the Florida Oceanographic Coastal Center Worth Visiting?
What Is the Florida Oceanographic Coastal Center?
The Ocean EcoCenter, or Florida Oceanographic Coastal Center, is a marine life nature center on 57 acres in southeastern Florida. The non-profit group that runs it is the Florida Oceanographic Society, which dates to 1964. Its mission is to educate the public on marine preservation issues in fun and memorable ways.
Educational programs are a significant part of what the center does, but so are research and restoration programs. Their goal is to preserve these unique and vital ecosystems for future generations.
Because of constant threats like pollution and development, it’s a continuous, ongoing struggle. They welcome more people to become advocates to help spread the message and find long-term solutions.
Where Is the Florida Oceanographic Coastal Center?
Appropriately, the Florida Oceanographic Coastal Center is near several magnificent bodies of water. It’s near Stuart, Fla., on South Hutchinson Island, with the Atlantic Ocean on the east and the Indian River on the west.
This area is east of Lake Okeechobee and about 100 miles north of Fort Lauderdale. Two other communities nearby are Fort Pierce and Port St. Lucie. Looking at a map of Florida, it’s directly across the state from Sarasota, a distance of about 160 miles.
Pro Tip: Make sure to check out these 6 Most Beautiful Waterfalls in Florida You Should Visit.
What Can You Do at the Florida Oceanographic Coastal Center?
The Ocean EcoCenter isn’t some boring visitor center where you watch a 15-minute film on how nature is in peril. Instead, you can get your hands or feet wet, if you like, and immerse yourself in nature. Various activities and educational programs give you a real feel for how unique the area’s natural attributes are.
Start your visit by getting to know the lay of the land. Take a mile-long loop over and through the mangrove swamp to the Indian River Lagoon and back. Interpretive signs help tell the story of this one-of-kind wetlands habitat. The trail is open Wednesday through Sunday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. The center also offers occasional tours led by knowledgeable volunteers.
Have you ever fed a stingray by hand? Here’s your chance. In this half-hour program at the Florida Oceanographic Coastal Center, you’ll learn about the different kinds of rays that inhabit the waters. You’ll also find out what they like to eat. But aren’t they dangerous? Yes and no. In the wild, rays have barbs to protect themselves from predators, but these are safer because they are clipped.
Gamefish Feeding Program
What other creatures live in local waters? Many of the more common ones are in the center’s lagoon. This artificial (and eco-friendly) waterway holds 750,000 gallons of saltwater. It’s home to many popular gamefish, including sharks, snook, and tarpon, that attract anglers worldwide. You’ll get to see them up close at feeding time when they interact with trained personnel.
Sea Turtle Program
Florida is also home to five different sea turtle types, three of which nest in this particular area. In this program, you can learn how to differentiate them and why they need protection. You can discover the biggest threats to their existence and what you can do to help them survive. This is a terrific way to personalize the issue. You may even wind up being on a first-name basis with these fantastic sea creatures.
The public programs at the Florida Oceanographic Coastal Center are fantastic, but private educational tours provide a more in-depth experience. You can schedule guided tours for small or large groups, which take place outside regular business hours. They’re led by the center’s passionate, trained staff members. In some cases, taking part in private tours qualifies you for a free annual membership, which allows for many more visits.
Guided Beach Walks
Guided tours aren’t only in the EcoCenter’s lagoon and wetlands areas. They also extend to some of the sandy beach areas of South Hutchinson Island. The public and private beach walks illuminate the diversity of the plant and animal life along South Florida’s shores. These educational strolls also help you understand the geological processes that formed the beaches and dunes.
The Florida Oceanographic Coastal Center offers week-long Summer Camp programs for those ages 5-16. They are broken up into smaller age groups and are available as half-day or full-day environmental programs. For example, the “Sea-sational Science” session offers “daily experiments to understand marine life and how the ocean works.”
Why Do Florida’s Waterways Need Saving?
Florida is beautiful and has such a desirable climate that many people, unfortunately often too many people, want to live and do business there. Decades of overdevelopment have led to severe problems with waterway pollution. A significant factor is the degradation of natural filters like oyster reefs and seagrass beds.
Plants and marine animals need clean, healthy water to thrive, and so do humans. We depend on waterways for food sources, but we also need clean drinking water. The health of Florida’s waterways is vital to replenish underground springs safely. It’s a balancing act because much of Florida’s economy relies on tourism. Still, there would be far fewer visitors to Florida without healthy, vibrant waterways.
Pro Tip: Need somewhere to stay after visiting the Florida Oceanographic Coastal Center? Check out these 9 Best Campgrounds With Cabins in Sunny Florida.
How Can You Help Save Florida’s Waterways?
The Florida Oceanographic Society couldn’t do what it does without help from volunteers. Even small actions can make a difference. They appreciate monetary contributions, but they also appreciate people joining them in person as advocates.
For example, it’s nice to have many warm bodies join in support when they make presentations to governmental bodies. Even if you’re in the area only briefly, you could participate in an organized event. These include cleanups along highways, beaches, and waterways and helping to call attention to turtle nesting areas. The society also has internships available and opportunities for corporate involvement through its Business Partners program.
If you want to get involved, you could start by reading up on Florida waterways’ various issues. There are specific plans for reversing many problems. These include restoring the Florida Everglades and stopping the flow of polluted discharges from Lake Okeechobee.
Is the Florida Oceanographic Coastal Center Worth Visiting?
There’s so much to do in southeastern Florida that places like this often get lost in the shuffle. That’s why we want to call attention to the Florida Oceanographic Coastal Center. You could easily keep rolling down I-95 or Highway A1A, so why make a stop? It’s a gorgeous place, and it’s also a fun way to learn more about the world around us.
You’re likely to leave with the feeling that these beautiful, sensitive areas need protection for generations to come. The region depends on tourism, but it’s the delicate ecological foundation that makes it all possible. The Florida Oceanographic Coastal Center puts it into focus enjoyably and educationally.
Which program at Florida’s Ocean EcoCenter most interests you? Tell us in the comments!
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