Family Fun at the OxbowLocals Know Best
We are the Cook family. We spend our free time looking for family-friendly adventures we can all do together. We are going to share some of our finds from our beautiful St Lucie so check back and see what we are up to!
St Lucie is full of many natural areas. There are quite a few my family & I return to again and again like the Oxbow Eco-Center. The Oxbow has over 225 acres of wilderness trails and is also a beautiful nature center that hosts camps, animal feedings and other events. The nature center is open Tuesdays-Fridays 12:00pm-5:00pm and Saturdays 10:00am-5:00pm. It’s full of activities that are open to the public year round with seasonal guided hikes (check calendar for availability). We love coming in to explore and cool off after a morning hike to see Jackie O, a bearded dragon from Australia, Godzilla, a native snapping turtle, and various creatures such as snakes, tarantulas, etc.! The trails in the area are varied so you can find a walk for even your youngest hikers. Morning is our favorite time for hiking as it’s still cool and very peaceful. A quick application of sunscreen, a little insect repellent to keep the mosquitoes away, a few water bottles and we are ready to go!
Our favorite trail starts through the courtyard butterfly garden and over a bridge into a Savannah scrub (it can accommodate strollers up to the bridge). It’s shaded all the way to the bridge and is a perfect place for toddlers to get some energy out. Ian can handle any trail in the park but Cillian, at almost 2, does best when he has a framed path to sprint around. The sound of gently running water and beauty of the overhanging pond apple trees make it really relaxing. With the boardwalk, I can enjoy my iced coffee while still keeping an eye on the little ones. Continuing past the bridge, the path becomes sandy and leads into a scrub. Tall pines and low lying palms frame a multiway trail that runs through the grounds of the preserve. We also love the wilder walks to the right of the center that lead to waterways but chose to stick to a smaller hike so that the kids could get some energy out before cooling down in the nature center.
The Oxbow’s butterfly garden wraps around the nature center and has native passion vines in bloom everywhere during summer that grow both on the ground and climb the pines covering them with bright purple flowers. They are the host plant to both the gulf frittilary and Florida’s state butterfly the zebra longwing. They share the space with other butterflies attracting plants like beauty berry and mimosas, which are pink poofy flowers that retract when you touch them (The kids love touching them and watching them move). We even managed to catch a peek at a swamp hare hanging out in the garden which made the boys squeal with excitement. Often, we see tortoises or box turtles on this same path which makes each trip special wondering what you will run into. With all the host plants and nectar plants, dozens of butterflies flutter throughout the gardens and make this peaceful place absolutely lovely.
Saturdays at 3:00pm are a great time to spend at Oxbow when the center hosts the Critter Crunch and Munch. This is feeding time for the animals in the nature center and you get to both learn about each of the center’s inhabitants and also interact with them. The center was filled with families with children of all ages, from tiny toddlers to teens and we sat around while each animal was brought out and fed by the center’s volunteers. Both aquatic and terrestrial animals were included in the fun. We learned that turtles can live up to 100 years old. Godzilla, the center’s snapping turtle is around 30 already! Jackie O, the bearded dragon was the most docile of the animals and even the youngest guests were able to come over and gently pet her after her meal of crickets and veggies. There were puppets and crayons for the littles and large displays of various animals and moltings (including a tarantula’s) for the teens.
Tips & Tricks:
- Water, sunscreen, insect repellent, and hats are great for any Florida hike
- Strollers are usable on many of the paths but feel free to grab a map or ask a Oxbow Guide
- Cooling off in the nature center is a great way to re-energize between activities or trails
- Check the calendar for activities and seasonal fun
- There is a hike ready wheelchair available so everyone can participate!
- See the Natural Wonders page for more outdoor ideas for the whole family!
Whether you’re visiting or a local, this is a great spot for the whole family to spend a morning, or afternoon!
Christine Hannon Cook is a work at home mother of 3 adventurous children, (two boys and a girl) and one travel happy husband. She moved from Broward to Port St Lucie in 2013 and hasn’t looked back. When not working or child wrangling she can be found gardening, cooking, or taking pictures of her gardening, cooking, and or children. Traveling and reading take up any time leftover and coffee is always welcomed.