Sea turtle nesting season is here!

Florida Panhandle beaches are seeing dozens of nighttime visitors crawling onto the beach to dig their nests, leaving behind hundreds of round eggs with baby sea turtles inside, before disappearing back into the deep. This is the only time of year that sea turtles come ashore.

While it’s not new to have turtles burying their eggs in Navarre’s pure white sands between the months of May and October, the first nest of this nesting season was historic.

On Mother’s Day weekend Navarre Beach received its first ever leatherback sea turtle nest!

Leatherback sea turtles are special. These sea turtles are the biggest in the world. The largest ever recorded was 10 feet long and weighed more than 2,000 pounds.

Our local mama left tracks that were more than 7 feet wide! That means she probably weighed 800 pounds and measured 7 feet long from nose to tail. By comparison, the loggerhead sea turtles that frequent Navarre Beach average 3 feet long. Loggerhead eggs are usually the size of a ping pong ball, but leatherbacks lay eggs the size of billiard balls, roughly 80 per nest.

While most sea turtle species return to the beach where they were born to lay their eggs, leatherback females will migrate to new beaches for laying their eggs, traveling up to 3,000 miles from where they hatched which is likely how this mama landed at Navarre Beach.

She has been joined by three other nesting mamas on our shoreline including loggerhead sea turtles.

In about 65 days, these eggs will hatch, and the tiny turtles inside will dig for the surface and waddle their way to the water before swimming away to freedom.

While this is a time for celebration, it is also a time to be careful. That sprint to the Gulf of Mexico is fraught with danger. One scary statistic: It is estimated that only one in every thousand sea turtle hatchlings survive to adulthood. Many sea turtle species are vulnerable, threatened or endangered.

But you can help.

Visitors to the panhandle’s beautiful beaches can make their vacation #cleandarkflat to protect sea turtles. Here’s the breakdown:

  • Clean up the beach. Take your beach chairs, blankets, garbage and other items off the beach at night fall. These items can trip up or trap turtles.
  • Dark is good for turtles. Turn off unnecessary lights at night and pull curtains closed. Artificial light can disorient the nesting mamas as well as hatchlings.
  • Flat sand is best. Sand castles and holes can be death traps for sea turtle hatchlings.

If you are lucky you may even spot a nesting turtle or a hatching nest of baby turtles. If you do, keep your distance, don’t use flash photography and enjoy a once in a lifetime experience here on Navarre Beach.

To learn more, visit the Navarre Beach Sea Turtle Conservation Center and meet their resident loggerhead sea turtle Gigi. This team of dedicated volunteers really knows their stuff.

Book your vacation today.

Bouncing Butterflies! Navarre butterfly house open for business

Flowers are in bloom, there’s not a cloud in the sky and the warm months are finally in full swing here on Navarre Beach which means it’s that time year.

The Panhandle Butterfly House has turned the key on their 20th season!

Located at the foot of the bridge leading out to Navarre Beach, this beautifully gardened public facility offers a unique, up close encounter with dozens of brightly colored butterflies.

If you have ever been inside an aviary, it is kind of like that, but instead of squawking, flighty birds that are pecking at you trying to steal the treat stick you paid $10 for, this atrium is filled with graceful butterflies quietly showing off their wing art. From iconic monarchs to wispy swallowtails, this facility houses a wide array of the flutter friends that call the Navarre area home.

I could spend hours sitting on the little wooden bench inside that enclosed garden as delicate wings fluttered back and forth from the surrounding blooms. On a quiet day, the fountains gentle trickle is the only sound. On a busy day children gasp in delight as they spot the flittering creatures all around them.

One girl even squealed with excitement when a monarch landed on her arm for a few seconds before fluttering on to a new roust.

The butterfly house also houses eggs, caterpillars and chrysalises that will eventually join the other butterflies.

This place loves public education. Imagine teaching little ones the butterfly life cycle with the real thing just inches from their nose. The docents at the butterfly house really love what they do, and they can provide amazing lessons into native species even for the adults. These passionate volunteers know their stuff.

Did you know that monarch butterflies will only lay their eggs on milkweed plants? Did you know that it takes about a month for a butterfly to mature from egg to adult during the summer months?

Well now you do, but that is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to all these gals have to teach visitors.

They even offer tips for making home gardens butterfly friendly with butterfly host plants. They are open Thursday, Friday and Saturday 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Outside the butterfly house is Navarre Park. This clean, quiet park features two playgrounds, open grass areas, picnic tables, a basketball quart and swings.

If you want to dip a toe after visiting the PBH, let the little ones run wild on the splash pad or walk down to the water’s edge. Santa Rosa Sound and the splash pad are just feet from the PBH.

The transformative power of butterflies have always fascinated us. Come play among the winged wonders on Navarre Beach before they close-up shop again Aug. 26. Monarch Madness is a special treat Oct. 20 -21. Book your family vacation today.

Dive into Summer Camp on Navarre Beach

The weather is heating up down here on Navarre Beach, and I find myself more and more busting out the sandals and shorts.

Finally!

The warm up can only mean one thing, summer is almost upon us. And that means parents are searching out summer camps for their children. While you could stick with the same old cabin in the woods (and don’t get me wrong that is a lot of fun), there is a new kind of summer camp here on Navarre Beach.

Paddle boarding along the beach, touching some of the Gulf of Mexico’s unique wildlife and even getting up close with dolphins could make for some magical summer memories at the Navarre Beach Marine Science Station.

Charlene, Heather and the crew of volunteers at the Navarre Beach Marine Science Station really care about sharing marine science and beach life with children of all ages. As licensed educators they know the tricks to not only teach the kids all the amazing science but to make it fun.

Their yearly summer camps are no exception.

The season kicks off with the fifth annual Autism OdysSea May 6.

This special event spun out of Charlene’s experience vacationing with a neighbor. Her neighbor’s son had autism and while they were visiting Disney World, Charlene was surprised to see the challenges and sideways glances her friend received.

Inspired she and the science station team banded together to create an event specifically catered to these families with sensory stations and wildlife encounters.

As for day camps the station offers a variety of camps that will engage children of all ages in hands on activities and animal encounters during the day and have them back home by night fall.

For younger kids, 4 to 5 years old, the station has added a new camp called Turtle Tots. This camp allows little ones to experience and explore the lives of sea turtles through games, playing “turtle veterinarian” and beach visits.

Possibly the coolest of the camps for the older kids is the Guy Harvey Fishing Camp. For five days your child will learn all there is to know about fishing the Gulf of Mexico’s diverse selection of sporting fish.

Children 9 to 14 will learn best tackling methods and techniques to catch the big one. In addition to learning fishing 101, the kids will get a lesson in respecting the ocean and all that she has to offer and come up close with fish and more.

The highlight of the camp is a deep sea fishing experience aboard the Entertainer charter boat where they get to apply what they learn.

These kids walk away with more than just the knowledge. They receive the gear to get fishing with a custom Guy Harvey tee, tackle box and a fishing pole to apply what they learned.

Because of the Science Station’s unique commitment to ocean conservation and public education they have been selected as the only location in Northwest Florida to partner with the Guy Harvey Foundation for this one of a kind experience.

Here is a schedule of all the camps the station has in store this summer:

Autism OdysSea

May 6, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Families with children on the spectrum

$10

 

Dolphin Discovery

June 12-16, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Students entering third through eighth grade

$275 (private dolphin cruise included)

 

Turtle Tots

June 19-23

Ages 4-5

$150

 

Jellyfish Jam

June 19-23

Students entering first and second grade

$150

 

Guy Harvey Fishing Camp

June 23-30

Ages 9-14

$350 (includes deep sea fishing, fishing gear and custom tee)

 

Paddlepalooza

July 24-28 or July 31- Aug. 4

Students entering third through fifth grade

$300 (include water sports lessons and activities)

 

Visit www.navarresciencestation.org for more information.

 

Mom and Dad

Most of the station’s camps will keep the kids occupied for the day, so what are you going to do? Might I recommend toes in the sand, drink in hand and not a care in the world? Walk down to the water from your condominium rental then grab lunch at the water front at Juana’s Pagodas and Sailors Grill at the foot of the beach bridge.

Or for the more adventuresome rent a Jet Ski, go snorkeling on the Navarre Beach near shore reef or even charter your own deep sea fishing trip. Don’t forget the sunscreen!

Slots and accommodations fill up fast. Register your child for camp at navarresciencestation.org, and find yourself a home away from home today. We offer a variety of options to make your trip relaxing and memorable.

Fish the Gulf of Mexico from Florida’s best pier

The longest pier in the Gulf of Mexico just happens to also be located on the best beach on the Gulf of Mexico in my humble opinion.

Navarre Beach offers one of the best fishing spots in Florida at the Navarre Fishing Pier. This 32,000 square foot pier is suspended 30 feet above sea level on concrete piles.

Located at the end of the bridge onto Navarre Beach, fishermen and women have been pulling up behemoth fish since the pier was built in 2014.

Gulf coast fishing is a treat. From 5 a.m. to 11 p.m. fishermen can cast their lines for a variety of sport fish.

Some of the best catches off the pier are Cobia, King Mackerel, Mahi Mahi and Red Drum. Other common catches include:

  •  African Pompano
  • Atlantic Spadefish
  • Atlantic Thread Herring
  • Blue Runner
  • Crevalle Jack
  • Florida Pompano
  • Gray Snapper
  • Gulf Flounder
  • Round Scad
  • Scaled Sardine
  • Speckled trout
  • Sheepshead
  • Blue Fish
  • Striped Mullet
  • Spanish Mackerel
  • Tarpon
  • Bonnethead
  • Redfish

Mako sharks and Sail Fish have even been hooked off the end of the pier in recent years. The pier lends itself to the amateur and the aficionado.

Wet your line for $7 a day or if you stay the week in one of our condominiums you can get a cheaper rate of $45 for the week. Military receive a discount for daily, weekly and annual entry.

Not everyone is into fishing, but that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy the pier. Grab a bite to eat at Loggerheads at the foot of the pier and play a round of beach volleyball on the sand courts.

Then walk off your meal down the longest pier in the Gulf for just $1.

During the day you will be able to see some of the amazing wildlife Navarre Beach is known for.

Loggerhead and green sea turtles often breach near the end of the pier chasing their favorite snack, jellyfish. Shore birds such as pelicans fly past and the variety of fish are endless.

A daytime stroll is great, but there is nothing quite like finishing out a day on the beach with a walk on Navarre pier at sunset. The sky comes to life like fire with streaks of blue, purple, orange, red and gold over the condominiums and stretches of undisturbed pristine white sand.

As you stroll families are still casting their lines and couples lean quietly against the rail taking it all in.

No sunset is ever the same twice, so bring your camera. Trust me when I say, you will want to remember that view.

After the sunset catch some live music at Loggerheads to round out the evening.

Don’t miss your sunset, or the perfect catch. Make a reservation at one of our beach front condominiums and get fishing.

Get up close with Navarre Beach sea turtle

Gigi the loggerhead sea turtle had a rough life.

In 1998, Gigi washed ashore in central Florida after a storm. Covered in barnacles and badly emaciated, she would not have survived very long. Despite being an otherwise healthy turtle, she had not been eating for some time, and the stress had taken its toll.

The problem lay in her eyes. Either through illness or injury, Gigi had become completely blind.

Fortunately, Sea World rescuers found Gigi and brought her to their rehabilitation center. Through antibiotics and months of care, they got her back to a healthy weight.

But her vision never returned.

Without her sight, she could not be released into the wild because she would be unable to locate food or avoid predators.

For 17 years, Gigi remained in the rehabilitation center, receiving upstanding care, but awaiting a forever home. With her disability, Gigi would need a special setup and a special team of people to care for her.

That is where the Navarre Beach Sea Turtle Conservation Center comes in.

The center welcomed Gigi to her new home in August 2016. Now she spends her days educating thousands of yearly visitors about sea turtle conservation. She swims around her state of the art, saltwater pool greeting visitors with a friendly breech when she hears them approach.

To say the sea turtle center is my favorite place on Navarre Beach is an understatement. This beachfront center is just inside the Navarre Beach Marine Park one left turn away from the Navarre Beach Bridge.

Once an abandoned state park information center, the building now displays brightly painted sea turtles. The center is the only one of its kind in the Florida Panhandle.

Along with Gigi, the center is home to a variety of other species. Pumpkin the diamondback terrapin sometimes greets visitors in her out door abode or splashes a hello from her indoor tank.

Native species of fish swim around a mock-up of the Navarre Beach reef, and another tank houses invasive lionfish to illustrate to visitors why invasive species threaten our ecosystem. Interactive displays teach visitors young and old about the life cycle of sea turtles from eggs buried in the sand to hatchlings scurrying to sea to adults swimming the deep for 100 years.

There are also lessons on how humans can limit their impacts to threatened and endangered sea turtle species.

The gift shop offers unique and handcrafted souvenirs themed around the Gulf of Mexico and its creatures that cannot be found anywhere else.

But Gigi is the star of the center. She loves to devour her favorite foods of mackerel and squid and swim close to children pressing close to her pool’s glass. She has stolen the hearts of her caregivers as well as the locals.

Come fall in love with her, too.

Visit the sea turtle center and all the great ecotourism stops on Navarre Beach while staying beachfront at one of our great accommodations.

Science station delights on Navarre Beach

It’s no secret that Navarre Beach is a hub of ecotourism. From our man-made near shore snorkel reef to our unique-to-the-area Sea Turtle Conservation Center, we have more than a few opportunities to get up close with the Florida’s beach wildlife.

But the Navarre Beach Marine Science Station takes it to another level.

The station offer events throughout the year that get families engaged in activities focused on beach fun and conservation.

Do you want to touch one of the oceans prehistoric inhabitants? Meet the stations resident horseshoe crab, a family of animals that have existed for nearly 445 million years.

Love water sports? Try the glass bottom kayaks and get an amazing view of the underwater ecosystem or stand up paddle board in the Santa Rosa Sound.

Want to pilot an underwater remote operated vehicle or ROV? The station has students build these and lets visitors test drive them. Your child could learn to build one over the summer.

The station students also love to hold dissection demonstrations with species such as squid and starfish.

In the summer, day camps range in themes from Guy Harvey Fishing to underwater remotely operated vehicles to mermaids and pirates.

The center also offers an array of homeschool student activity days, and a Spooktacular in October with creepy science that is can’t miss. Children can make their own slime, learn about bioluminescent species and create smoke bubbles. For children on the autism spectrum, the science station holds an annual Autism Odyssey.

And the station is expanding their reach. A recent IMPACT 100 grant will allow the station to take their activities on the road with a new traveling interpretive center, complete with touch tanks and more. The station offers a variety of classes to local students researching the wide array of marine wildlife found off Navarre’s white sand coast.

Visit navarresciencestation.org for a schedule of upcoming events. Rentals fill up fast. Don’t miss your chance to explore all the science station has to offer this summer and all year-round.

Man-made reefs growing on Navarre Beach

If snorkel, kayak or scuba is your thing, Navarre Beach is your destination.

Navarre Beach boasts man-made reefs just off shore in the Gulf of Mexico that are teaming with life. The Navarre Beach Marine Park is just a short drive west of the Navarre Beach Bridge.

Once on the reef sea turtles abound and a variety of fish school around the “modules” or structures that build up the reef where coral can grow.

If you are lucky you may even see a dolphin or two.

It’s never been easier to get your kayak in the water thanks to the new kayak and scuba friendly walk over in Navarre Beach Marine Park.

This walk over has no rails meaning it’s easier to carry kayaks and equipment down to the water’s edge. A wash down station has also been added to the path for convenience. The path leads directly to Navarre’s near shore artificial reef, one of two man-made reefs in the area.

Glass bottom kayak tours along the reef are a must do, and snorkelers of any skill level can enjoy this reef.

The new walkover allows visitors to keep off the dunes protecting the wildlife that call Navarre Beach home. Shorebirds such as sandpipers often nest in the grasses of the dunes. In late spring and early summer, keep an eye out for the fluffy white chicks along the dunes edge.

After a morning snorkel, there are several large public pavilions that serve as a perfect spot to chow down on a picnic.

Deeper in the Gulf, just off the end of the Navarre Beach Fishing Pier there is a second man-made reef for scuba diving. These reefs are known for their amazing array of wildlife and require a bit more skill to appreciate.

Whether you are a near shore novice or a deep reef pro, there is good news on the horizon. Navarre Beach’s pristine man-made reefs are about to get a whole lot bigger.

Hundreds of new modules will be added to Navarre’s near shore snorkel reef and off shore scuba reefs in the coming year meaning more to love and more for the local wildlife to call home.

Want to preview the dozens of species that call the reef home? Video of the sea turtles and unique schools of fish are available online thanks to the Gulf of Mexico’s first ever underwater live feed camera. Test video is available at navarresciencestation.org. Keep an eye out for a rare loggerhead sea turtle swimming on by.

Or better yet come to see it for yourself while staying in one of our beach front condominiums.