Anyone who’s spent a day at the beach in the summer on Florida’s Space Coast has seen the yellow signs alerting them to watch out for turtle nests from May to October. Seeing an actual sea turtle in person, however, can be more challenging. These wild animals are on their own schedule, and your best chance of seeing them is on a guided turtle walk. Several Space Coast organizations offer these walks from June through August. From the Canaveral National Seashore to the Archie Carr National Wildlife Refuge, you can join knowledgeable scientists and experts under the stars to see female turtles make their way to the dunes to nest. Check these organizations’ websites to see check the calendar and schedule your nighttime turtle walk.
• Friends of Sebastian Inlet State Park: Reservations required
• Friends of the Carr Refuge: Reservations required
• Sea Turtle Preservation Society: Reservations required
• Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge – Reservations required
• Stella Maris Environmental Research – Reservations required
Important things to note:
• These spots are limited and do sell out
• You may be walking more than one mile
• Witnessing a sea turtle nesting is not guaranteed
• Children must be older than 7 years old
• Mosquito repellant is highly recommended
What to Expect on a Space Coast Sea Turtle Walk
Your tour will always start with a presentation about sea turtles that nest in the area, the threats they encounter, and what you can do to help, from a sea turtle expert. They will also explain how you need to behave while on this tour to ensure no turtles are disturbed. This all happens while scouts are out on the beach looking for emerging sea turtles.
After a scout spots a turtle coming to shore, they will radio your guide their location. Your group will follow your guide to the turtle’s location on the beach and stand behind the turtle where she cannot see you. The turtle will dig a hole with her hind flippers and begin laying her clutch.
Once the mother turtle fills the nest, the sea turtle will cover it with sand and head back to the ocean. With a little luck, you may see more than one nesting!
It takes between 60-80 days for sea turtle eggs to hatch depending on the species. Some of the organizations listed above offer tours of hatchling surveys and nest digs during this incredible season. Ask your tour organization if this is something they offer, so that you may return to experience that incredible phenomenon.
Seeing a sea turtle nesting is a great experience while you’re on the Space Coast, certainly one you will remember forever. Book your turtle walk today!
Important Turtle Tips for Beachgoers from STPS
• Do not touch or disturb nesting sea turtles, hatchlings, or their nests.
• If you dig or see a hole in the sand, refill them before you leave the beach.
• Tear down sandcastles when you’re done with them. They become huge obstacles to both nesting and hatching sea turtles.
• Do not walk on the sand dunes. Use designated crossovers and walkways and mind the signs.
• Don’t litter!!! Dispose of ALL trash properly including cigarette butts.
• Lights Out! Lights disorient sea turtles and can cause harm to both nesting turtles and hatchlings. This means no flashlights or phone lights too!
• If you see a sea turtle, whether injured or dead, contact the Sea Turtle Preservation Society at (321) 206-0646, a 24/7 hotline, or the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) – 1-888-404-FWCC.