By Heidi Hess, Photos thanks to The Nature Conservancy
The shoreline was dotted with rocks just ahead that ended with a cliff and a jump that quite possibly could be dangerous… but what choice did I have? This was my only way out, I closed my eyes, jumped, and landed in the soft sand below. The Atlantic Ocean lapped at my heels and as pleasant and beautiful as it was, I had to find somewhere to hide.
My hair was damp and thick with salt water. It stuck to my face as the unrelenting wind came in from the east. A band of rogue pirates was hot on my trail. I had to escape. If I was captured surely I would be tortured.
I ran along the beach until I found an alcove within the rocks that I could hide away in. Surely the bandits would not find me here. I kept quiet as I gazed out at the cerulean blue. The spot that I had found was a tropical paradise, hidden in plain sight, and yet the noise of my pursuers grew louder.
I huddled closer, tighter to the craggy rocks, making friends with the limestone walls. It scraped my skin but I pulled myself against it, closed my eyes, and wished these rogues away. They were getting closer… even closer now. There was nothing I could do. The voices became loud. They found me. The booming voice of the one in charge said “Mom, when are we eating lunch?”
O.k. so I’m not a pirate but I sure did feel like one while we were visiting Blowing Rocks Preserve on Jupiter Island. The Nature Conservancy has worked hard on protecting the Anastasia Limestone shoreline (the largest on the east coast). What exactly does that mean? Listen, I’m not here to give you a science lesson, the Vistors Center does it better. I’m here to tell you about the cool things you need to do with your kids and you need to do this!
After you park your car, follow the path to the stairs. Even when you are standing on the shore, it doesn’t look like much but follow the shoreline south. It’s not a long walk and you’ll be glad you did.
During low tide, gentle-sloping rocks start things off. Make sure you have on water shoes because the gentle rocks turn into rough limestone caves and alcoves full of hidden spots. Some are completely secluded and have natural benches to sit on and watch the ocean. Others have “skylights”- openings in the top that you can look through and see the sky.
You thought you were in Florida. Not here. This place with have you and your kids mesmerized. Your kids will have a field day. And because of this special place’s ability to have us lose track of time, I can’t stress enough the importance of sunscreen, water shoes, water to drink (maybe bring lunch), and timing your visit when it’s low tide.
Exploring is lots of fun but this is still the ocean, so keep an eye on little ones. If by chance you visit when it isn’t low tide, no worries. If it’s a rough or windy day stay on the beach and walk south. Remember those skylights I told you about? Yeah, the water can shoot up to fifty feet coming out of them. It’s a spectacular sight.
Also, make sure you take a hike through the Sea Grape tunnel, visit the Visitors Center and check out the Indian River Lagoon. They are open seven days a week from 9:00 am to 4:30 pm. They are closed Easter Sunday, Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and New Year’s Day. Parking is limited but free. Admission is $2.00/per person and kids under 12 are free.
And most of all, have fun. Our time with our kids is precious and fleeting. Play out the pirate thing, hide treasure, chase your kids around… what’s the worst that can happen? A skinned need and sore muscles? I’ll take that. Just so long as they call me Pirate Mom.