St. Lucie, Florida is home to a diverse animal population – so diverse that it’s proud to be home to the Indian River Lagoon, famous for being the most biodiverse estuary in the Northern Hemisphere with over 4,000 species of plants and animals. This natural habitat and others throughout the area make St. Lucie a haven for families that love animals. From aquatic animals such as dolphins and manatees, to alligators, sea turtles, and crabs to amazing birds such as turkeys, bald eagles, herons, pelicans and land dwellers like the bobcat, white-tailed deer or wild boars, let the kids come hang out with their favorite creatures at some of most popular places in St. Lucie. Learning, conservation, and interactive activities are all here!
Manatee Observation & Education Center
This waterfront environmental education and wildlife viewing center is located on Florida’s east coast in the beautiful downtown Fort Pierce. The site is a historical congregating place for Florida manatees as a result of the warm water effluence from the long retired Henry B. King Power Plant. While the plant is no longer there, it continues to be a congregating place for manatees and visitors alike. Inside the Center visitors will learn about other wild animals as well as Florida’s diverse habitats. Enjoy hands on exhibits and informational displays that are both fun and educational!
The Oxbow Eco-Center is a 225-acre preserve on the North Fork of the St. Lucie River. Enjoy nearly four miles of hiking trails where you are sure to see native wildlife such as the Oxbow’s very own mascot, the gopher tortoise! For those looking for a short walk and a little history along the way, the Heritage Trail is an opportunity to explore Florida’s rich historical heritage. The Eco-Center houses the Exhibit Hall and Discovery Room, which invite you to use all your senses. Touch various artifacts of nature, listen to bird songs and see some of Florida’s native reptiles. The centerpiece exhibit, a life-size diorama of the St. Lucie River, takes you on a journey from its lush freshwater beginnings to the rich biodiversity of the Indian River Lagoon and Atlantic Ocean.
St. Lucie County Aquarium
The aquarium features more than 8,000 gallons of marine life. It is also now the home to the Smithsonian Marine Ecosystems Exhibit after being retired from the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C. Visitor’s will get an up-close look at live models of different Florida marine and estuarine eco-systems. Be sure to schedule your visit during feeding or snack time and learn about the daily menu for the aquarium’s residents!
Tours on Horseback
There is no better way to see the beaches of St. Lucie – than on the back of a horse. Experience a slow-paced, gentle ride down the sandy shoreline. Horseback riding is the perfect way to relax and take your mind off the stress and tension of everyday life. This will surely be an unforgettable experience. Be sure to bring your sunscreen!
River Lilly Cruises are the perfect way to get a glimpse of “old Florida” on the St. Lucie River. This 34-passenger pontoon boat is perfect for nature lovers, photographers, bird watchers or even just a family outing. Guests are likely to see an alligator, turtle and a variety of native birds during this outing.
Hiking at Bluefield Preserve
An early morning hike on what was once a part of one of the largest cattle ranch in South Florida, will likely afford you the opportunity to see the most popular game valued by hikers, photographers and other outdoor enthusiasts, the white-tailed deer. This 3,285-acre site has more than 20 miles of trail that meander through of variety of habitats including pasture land, pine flatwoods, bay gall swamp, and scrub. The multi-use trails are open to hikers, cyclists and equestrian riders. In addition to trails, this site offers an elevated wildlife observation tower, wildlife blind, primitive hike-in camping and primitive horseback camping.
Port St. Lucie Botanical Gardens
The Gardens sit on approximately 20 acres of land with over 13 different gardens such as the Butterfly Garden, Bamboo Garden, Rose Garden and Orchid Room, just to name a few. The Butterfly Garden is filled with beautiful and colorful ever changing plants and flowers and has become a haven for over a dozen different species of butterflies. Other wildlife can be seen while strolling through the gardens include great blue herons, eagle owls, blue jays, gopher tortoises, wild rabbits, mallard ducks and more!
Walton Rocks Beach
Walton Rocks Beach is a dog-friendly beach where the entire family can enjoy some fun in the sun with their furry family member. Located on South Hutchinson Island, this hidden gem is also known for shelling. Walk along the shoreline and discover nature’s beautiful treasures. (Please remember not to disturb living creatures.) Pack a picnic, lots of water and treats for your family dog, and bring the whole crew for a fun day at this famous beach. Make sure you check out the nearby dog-friendly accommodations.
Indian River Lagoon Boat Tours
Join Captain Barry “Chop” Legè onboard the 37-foot passenger pontoon boat, “Gator”, and enjoy a guided educational and entertaining scenic boat tour of the Indian River Lagoon. During this 90-minute boat cruise, guests will learn about many of the animals that live in and around the lagoon such as the bottlenose dolphin and a variety of wading birds such as the spoonbill and heron.
Harbor Branch Ocean Discovery Center
Families will be thoroughly impressed with what Florida Atlantic University’s Harbor Branch has to offer. With a variety of activities and tours, this is a popular spot for those underwater enthusiasts. Be sure to join in for a fun and educational pontoon boat ride. You almost guaranteed spot the bottlenose dolphin along with various bird species. During this adventure a FAU Harbor Branch Scientist will discuss the wildlife encountered on the excursion as well as the research that the institute conducts to better understand and protect the Indian River Lagoon ecosystem.