Gumbo Limbo Nature Center

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1801 North Ocean Boulevard, Boca Raton, FL, USA - (561) 338-1473

Gumbo Limbo Nature Center Boca Raton Reviews

jdsgos jdsgos
24 reviews
A pleasant surprise located in Boca. Mar 23, 2009
Okay since I can't hit the road anytime soon, I figured I'd stay out of the house as much as possible on my days off. And since I like being outside so much, why not do some of the local trails located in South Florida. If you didn't know it, there are tons of trails or hikes located in this area (from Lake Okeechobee all the way down to the Florida Keys). Some are short day hikes and some can be spread out over two or three days. I'll start with the shorts one first.

If you ever visit South Florida and get tired of all the usual tourist traps, grab your camera and hit some of the trails. The first one I decided to try was the Gumbo Limbo Nature Center, located along the coast in Boca Raton. I was pleasantly surprised by this place. As I was taking the scenic route to get here (north along A-1-A), I was glad to see that Boca actually has some nice parks along the beaches. I usually don't hang out anywhere north of Pompano Beach/Fort Lauderdale. Gumbo Limbo is part of Boca's Red Reef Park system.

Even though the place only covers about 20 acres, it gives you a sense of what old Florida might have been like. But sadly, it also shows you how much developement has taken place down here. By the way Gumbo Limbo is a tree called the "tourist tree" because of its red, peeling bark :-) For being such a small place, there is a whole lot going on here. Some of the animals that have been seen here are spotted skunks, grey fox, screech owl, manatees and sea turtles. With my luck, I happen to be here the same day as a school field trip was taking place. Three school buses full of loud kids...equals seeing no wildlife at all. Also on the Atlantic side of the park, cannons and anchors have been found.

The place also has research labs from Florida Atlantic University, a Seminole Chiki hut, an amphitheater, butterfly garden, A Gopher tortoise exhibit, a boardwalk through a tropical hardwood hammock, and an observation tower. They even have salt water tanks with rays and sharks. And of course they have a gift shop.

As I first got there, I had to figure out which way all those kids were going. As can be expected, where they were headed I was going in the opposite direction. Lucky for me, they skipped the boardwalk. So off I went. The entire walk was raised, so you didn't have to walk in the waters at all. The whole of the boardwalk is under shade, and you get the benefit of an ocean breeze the majority of the time. Thankfully there were no bugs out. You're pretty walking in a hammock, which is a dense vine tangled mangrove forest. I tried to take some pics showing how a mangrove starts. I hit the tower and went all the way up. To the east you get a view of the Atlantic Ocean, the west the intracoast, south Fort Lauderdale, and north a big frigging condo. The walk also branches off towards the shore line, where you get a better idea of how a mangrove forms. I love this kind of area, its so cool how they form. And in some spots, if you know what to look for, you'll see a strangler fig tree. The fig tree forms from seeds dropped by birds into the tops of other trees. As it grows downward, it will wrap itself around the host tree. As the host tree grows and is choked by the fig, it will eventually die off. If you ever see a mature fig, it looks hollow because the host tree has died and rotted away.

The butterfly garden was a let down. Mainly because it was not blooming season for any of the flowers. Hence, no flowers...not much butterflies. The chiki hut would be nice for a family picnic. I don't think the park would let you light up a grill, but I might be wrong. The gift shop I avoided. The saltwater tanks I also avoided, since the three bus load of kids were now swarming around these tanks.

All in all, it was a nice way spend the day. Hope you like the pics, I know I'm no shutterbug.
Air plants that cling to trees in …
Facing east, the Atlantic Ocean.
Facing west, the Intracoastal wate…
The boardwalk through the hammock.
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photo by: wforrester