Does the title sound like some type of extraterrestrial space travel? Sorry to disappoint but it’s merely about our more earthly activities, namely those activities outside Jonathan Dickinson State Park during our two week stay. Read on.
Yes, we did go to Jupiter….Jupiter Island that is!
On several different days, we expanded our explorations outside the state park, traveling a short distance to Jupiter Island. Jupiter Island is a barrier island bounded on the east by the Atlantic Ocean, on the north by the St. Lucie Inlet, on the west by the Indian River, and on the south by the Jupiter Inlet. Although it is well known for the homes of celebrities such as Tiger Woods, Celine Dion and Burt Reynolds to name a few, it’s beautiful tropical palm lined beaches, the Jupiter Inlet Lighthouse and Museum and Blowing Rocks Nature Preserve and several parks are what makes this island so special.
Darn we didn’t get to see any famous celebrities (not that we were looking for any) but we did get to see one of the most well known and historic symbols of Jupiter Island – the Jupiter Inlet Lighthouse. How stately this red brick structure looks, silhouetted against the bright blue sky! Built in 1860 with brick and double masonry walls and constructed on top of a 48 foot natural parabolic dune, the lighthouse is 105′ tall and is 146′ above sea level. It stands near the Lighthouse Museum which is located in what used to be WWII Military Housing. For $9 per person, you can take a tour of the lighthouse and visit the museum.
After our brief stop (we didn’t do the tour) at the lighthouse we continued on, turning back onto A1A (Ocean Boulevard) heading south toward Carlin Park. What a pretty drive! Lots of parking along the street with numerous public beach access boardwalks so we stopped several times to take a peak at the ocean. After enjoying the nice public access to the shoreline on Ocean Boulevard we headed back north where our drive eventually took us to what was on our list as a must see attraction.
And we did see Blowing Rocks…
Well not really but we did go to the Blowing Rocks Preserve. Located on Jupiter Island at the southernmost tip of the Indian River Lagoon, if you go, be alert – we initially missed the Blowing Rocks Preserve sign at the entrance to the parking lot at the Hawley Education Center and had to turn around. Once we parked we went inside the Center which was built in 1996. It’s primary goal is “to provide tourists and the local community an opportunity to learn about The Nature Conservancy’s efforts to protect native habitats, plants and animals in Florida and around the world.” Note there is a second parking lot across the street from the Education Center but when we were there it was closed for repairs.
After we looked at the displays inside the center, we walked through the parking lot, crossing the street and following the short path, bordered with palmettos, sea grape bushes, and palm trees towards the ocean. Running approximately one mile north to south and sitting between the Atlantic Ocean on the east and Indian River Lagoon on the west, the Blowing Rocks Preserve shoreline is a substrate of Anastasia limestone (otherwise known as coquina) which is the largest on the U.S. Atlantic coast. During extreme high tides and after winter storms, seas break against the rocks and force plumes of saltwater up to 50 feet skyward. At least that’s what we have read – we never got to see it. Unfortunately the tides weren’t high enough or rough enough to give us a demonstration of this natural phenomenon.
So did it look any different than any other beach on this first visit? Not really except for a rather sharp drop between the sandy beach and the water, otherwise it looked like every other lovely beach we have seen over the past few months. Several signs showed diagrams of the limestone substrate and what the beach would look like at low tide.
Disappointed we left but returned a few days later when it was low tide (around 3:30 p.m.). As we pulled into the same parking lot near the Hawley Center, we noticed a sign that said the lot closes at 4:00 p.m. Oh, oh, that doesn’t give us much time. But when we entered the path to the beach across the street, a sign said it closed at 4:30 p.m. Which is it? Perhaps the two parking lots closed at different times? Certainly wasn’t very clear.
Wow, the beach looked totally different this time. Are we on another planet? Or perhaps the moon? Sure looked like it! As we walked along, skirting the formations, yours truly didn’t react quickly enough to the incoming waves, managing to get my sneaker clad feet soaked. Knowing that the parking lot would be closing soon, we didn’t want to dilly dally so we started to walk back towards the path to the parking lot. But despite being in a bit of a hurry, we were side tracked after reading a sign for the Dune Trail. It was only 1/3 of a mile so what the heck, we had time to walk part of it at least.
Not your typical sandy beach trail bathed in the bright sun bordered by sea oats and other sand loving flowering plants. Instead dense sea grape bushes with their huge dark green leaves created shady canopies over the trail and even forming long tunnels. Very cool! The path weaved (or is it wove?) in and out of the tunnels frequently offering beautiful vistas of the sparkling aquamarine water. Then as we walked a little further we would be plunged in darkness again as we entered another sea grape tunnel and so on it would go. I wondered if the sea grapes in the tunnels had to be maintained in any way.
If you are ever in the Hobe Sound or Jupiter area, Blowing Rocks Preserve is a must see!
And then there was a Sandsprit….
This is another been there, done that place – Sandsprit Park in Stuart. I couldn’t find any reason as to why the park is named what it is, perhaps because it is surrounded by water on two sides. But then it would seem that it should be named “sandspit”. Anyway, enough with the name….each time we have visited this area, we always make it a point to stop here. Not that there’s anything super special about the park but it’s just a nice place to hang out watching the pelicans, the fishermen and the boats making their way into St. Lucie Inlet and Manatee Pocket. Lots of green parrots flying about – tried to take some pictures of them but they wouldn’t sit (or should I say perch) still long enough so that didn’t work out too well. Spent several hours here on the afternoon of the 16th after our first visit to Blowing Rocks Preserve.
And last but not least, a visit to Hobe Sound Nature Center
Located in the Hobe Sound Wildlife Refuge just a short distance from the campground, the Hobe Sound Nature Center is dedicated to educating people of all ages about the fragile Florida environment through displays, seasonal lectures, a summer nature camp, the annual night time sea turtle walk program and other informative weekend events.
Unfortunately we arrived here about 3:30 p.m. and were disappointed to find out that the center closes at 3:00 p.m. (poor planning on our part). But that’s okay, we were able to take a hike down the nearby steep stairs to the lagoon passing by a sign for the Gumbo Lindo, one of the trees that lined the trail. This tree is “nicknamed the tourist tree because the tree’s bark is red and peeling, like the skin of sunburnt tourists, who are a common sight in the plant’s range“.
What a pleasant surprise we had once we reached the bottom of the steps. A beautiful lagoon on the Indian River! It was like a tropical paradise! Even though it was getting late, we lingered for awhile on one of the park benches soaking in the beauty and the peacefulness of the scene in front of us and then walked along the beach. There was a sign for the Hammock Trail but we’ll have to save that for another time. Reluctantly we finally had to leave, climbing the steep, somewhat uneven steps to the parking lot. Until the next time….
That pretty much covers our sightseeing while we were at Jonathan Dickinson State Park but we have one more post about the area. Stay tuned.