Palm Beach County’s Environmental Resource Management protects more than 31,000 acres of South Florida’s natural heritage in the form of ‘Natural Areas,’ and over 17,000 acres are in or adjacent to Palm Beach Gardens.
These natural areas aren’t exactly parks with facilities like bathrooms and playgrounds for the kids, instead these natural areas represent Florida’s natural wilderness and diversity of plants and animals, with paved paths, boardwalks, and natural trails. Natural areas are great places to get away from the hustle-and-grind typical of South Florida to hike, watch birds and other animals, and simply enjoy being outside.
While being outside in Florida (especially in the summer) may seem like a sweaty affair, these natural areas tend to be well shaded by trees or covered observation platforms. Natural areas are also free of buildings to block the breeze or asphalt to observe and radiate the sun. Keep in mind that the middle of the day is the hottest so if you can make it to one Palm Beach County’s natural areas before 11am or after 4pm, you can enjoy some very nice times outside.
Below are four Natural Areas near Palm Beach Gardens that you should check out this weekend:
Frenchman’s Forest is two miles from the Gardens Mall on Prosperity Farms Rd, just north of PBA Blvd. This 172-acre natural area features .4 miles of paved trail, over 2 miles of unpaved trails, and a Boardwalk through a cypress swamp. Check out the Slide show above for some pictures I took while hiking!
Sweetbay is a 1094-acre natural area just north of the North Palm Beach County Airport on Bee Line Hwy at the western end of PBA Blvd. This natural area contains mesic and hydric flatwoods, wet prairie and dome swamp ecosystems. There’s 0.35 miles of paved trail, as well as an observation platform that overlooks the wetlands.
Hungryland Slough has over 10 miles of unpaved trails, including a 4.3 miles of the Ocean to the Lake Hiking trail. There are eight native South Florida ecosystems at this 3004-acre site, including mesic flatwoods, hydric flatwoods, strand swamp, dome swamp, hydric hammock, xeric hammock, wet prairie, and depression marsh.
Loxahatchee Slough is the largest, furthest and possibly wildest natural area near Palm Beach Gardens. This 12,841-acre site is a prime habitat for snail kite and migrating swallow-tailed kite. Unlike the other natural areas, the Loxahatchee Slough bathrooms, a boat launch, and a fishing pier.
Make the most of these peaceful and natural South Florida places, start near home in Palm Beach Gardens and when you’re hooked, keep in mind that there’s 5 more great Natural Areas just north, in Jupiter and over 20 county-wide.
For more information, check out Palm Beach County’s Environmental Resource Management site.