There is so much amazing marine life to see in Florida, but in my opinion, sea turtles are the coolest. Sea turtles are found all along Florida’s coast, both swimming in the water and nesting on the shores. Though they are common, I wanted to share the best places to see sea turtles in Florida.
I have seen sea turtles in the wild many times and it never gets old! The best way to see them is to visit during nesting season (May through October) and go on a turtle walk. However, you can also see them hatching on the beach, while scuba diving, while snorkeling, or at rescue centers. I will share all my favorite places to see sea turtles in Florida so you can experience it for yourself!
1. Melbourne Beach – The Best Place to See Sea Turtles in Florida
There is no better place for finding sea turtles in Florida than Melbourne Beach and I would know. I have lived here for over ten years! Every summer, we head out to the beach at night and find them crawling up the shores to lay eggs. It is a miraculous sight that is actually very common here!
Though leatherback and green sea turtles nest here, the most common sea turtles to see are loggerhead turtles. Usually, June and July are when you will find the highest concentration of sea turtles nesting on the Space Coast. In 2021, over 50,000 female sea turtles nested here, which is the highest amount of turtle nests for a county in the entire state!
Take a Guided Sea Turtle Walk
Multiple organizations like the Sea Turtle Conservancy and the Sea Turtle Preservation Society host turtle walks at night. This way a nature guide can help you find the turtles in the dark and make sure they are not disturbed. Guided walks fill up fast, so make sure to book early!
If you can’t find a guided walk, you can walk along beaches like the Archie Carr National Wildlife Refuge and look for them yourself. When doing this, you must take great care to avoid disturbing the turtles. if you see a sea turtle in the wild, stay far away, make no noises, don’t shine any lights or flash cameras at them, and of course, do not touch them under any circumstances.
Spotting Hatchlings in Melbourne Beach
Hatchlings (aka baby sea turtles) will emerge from sea turtle nests about 50-60 days after the sea turtle lays her eggs. They can emerge from their shell at any time. I have only ever seen a few hatchlings emerge and it is usually in August. It is pretty unlikely to ever see a whole nest of baby turtles hatching in Melbourne Beach, but you might get lucky! There is no timing for this and it is totally random.
Other Ways to See Sea Turtles in Melbourne Beach, Florida
If you want other opportunities to see sea turtles in Florida, another favorite way of mine is to attend the Turtle Krawl 5k. This is one of the most fun running races around and there is usually a turtle release at the end! This is when a rehabilitated sea turtle gets released into the ocean. These happen regularly around Melbourne Beach, Florida so keep an eye on the Sea Turtle Preservation Society Facebook page to find out when these events take place.
2. Vero Beach Sea Turtle Walks
Just south of Melbourne Beach, Vero Beach is also a great place to see sea turtles in Florida. You can often find sea turtles nesting on the beach at night on your own here. However, to get the full experience, I recommend booking a turtle walk with Coastal Connections.
This is a nonprofit that works to help sea turtles recover and protect their coastal habitats. The walks are free but require a deposit, and you get a picture from a night vision camera of the turtle you see! Keep in mind that seeing a nesting loggerhead sea turtle is not a guarantee and will only occur if one can be viewed following FWC permit guidelines.
If you are staying at Disney’s Vero Beach Resort, you can take a turtle walk right at the hotel! This costs $35 per person but includes night vision goggles to borrow for better viewing. With so many turtles flocking to the east coast of Florida, Vero Beach offers plenty of excellent opportunities to see them.
3. Canaveral National Sea Shore
In addition to Melbourne Beach, another Space Coast place to see sea turtles is the Canaveral National Seashore. Located in Titusville right by the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge, this is one of the most pristine stretches of beach in Florida. It is protected by the National Park Service and they take great care in conserving its natural beauty.
The National Park services offer turtle walks every June and July for $14 per person, in both the Playalinda and Apollo Districts. Though seeing a turtle is not guaranteed, the success rate of groups seeing them is over 90%. Considering over 8,000 sea turtles nested at this beach in 2021, I think your odds are pretty good. If you are extremely lucky, you might even get to see a rocket launch view from here on the same night.
4. The Sea with Nemo and Friends at Epcot
Surprisingly, you can find and even swim with sea turtles in Florida nowhere near the coast! Future World at Epcot has a huge aquarium with both green sea turtles and loggerhead sea turtles. I love watching them swim around with other fish in the big tank, but if you are scuba certified you can swim with them too!
We did Epcot DiveQuest where you get to scuba dive in the aquarium with turtles, sharks, rays, and more. It’s one of the best scuba dives I have ever done and a sea turtle even swam right into me! My family could watch us from behind the glass so it was an awesome experience overall.
This is the best way for young kids to see sea turtles in Florida because you do not have to worry about them disturbing the turtles in their natural habitat. They can also enjoy the Finding Nemo ride here and learn more about sea turtles at Turtle Talk with Crush.
5. Loggerhead Marine Life Center in Juno Beach
Further down to the Palm Beaches, you can occasionally see sea turtles at the Loggerhead Marine Life Center. This Juno Beach facility rehabilitates injured sea turtles and hatchlings at their turtle hospital. You can even “adopt” one of the patients, visit them and get updates on their progress!
When visiting, you can see any turtle patients they have and learn about how the veterinarians are treating them. Tours of the facility are offered daily, as well as lectures, labs, and marine feedings. Kids can especially learn a lot here with the Jr. Vet Lab, Storytime, and art classes.
6. Scuba Diving in Jupiter
Though nesting turtles are amazing, there is nothing like seeing a sea turtle swim in the ocean! I saw many turtles in Maui right off the beach. However, in Florida, I have managed to see some too, and though you have to be scuba certified, it is worth it!
Diving in Palm Beach is by far one of the best places to see sea turtles in Florida while scuba diving. If you are going between May through August, you have an excellent chance of seeing them here. Though many reside off the coast in Melbourne, I recommend coming down here to see them swim through the coral reefs with the better water clarity. You can go on your own, but I prefer to take a charter with Jupiter Scuba Diving.
On my first scuba dive, I actually saw one right when I descended! This was at the Corridor Wreck Trek which is a reef ledge home to many sea creatures. We proceeded to see so many more on this dive. Luckily Andrew took videos with his GoPro, so you can see them for yourself here.
7. Gumbo Limbo Nature Center in Boca Raton
For a chance to see sea turtles in Florida, as well as other sea life here, the Gumb Limbo Nature Center is the best place to go in Boca Raton. This center is home to a turtle rehabilitation facility, as well as an exhibit hall, an aquarium, nature trails, and a butterfly garden. Admission is free (although a $5 donation per person is appreciated) and you can see the turtle patients up close!
This facility treats between 50-100 sea turtles per year and 200-300 hatchlings, so there are usually sea turtles to see and learn about the health issues they are having. There is also a mile of coastal trails to peruse with all sorts of flowers, trees, and turtle statues. The outdoor aquarium even has a variety of tropical fish to see. It’s an educational and fun place for visitors of all ages.
8. Museum of Discovery and Science in Fort Lauderdale
One of the best South Florida places for sea turtles is the Museum of Discovery and Science. This museum is located in Fort Lauderdale and often has rehabilitated turtles in its aquarium. I have seen hatchlings that were found stuck on the beach and it was so cute to see them swim!
This is another place that offers turtle walks. For $19 you get briefed on some interesting facts about sea turtles and then head to the beach to look for turtle tracks. Though Melbourne and Vero Beach are better known for turtle sightings, this is an awesome opportunity if you are in South Florida.
9. Mote Marine Laboratory & Aquarium
Over on the gulf coast, chances of seeing a nesting sea turtle are much slimmer. Last year, only 12% of total sea turtle nests were on the gulf coast and panhandle. If are on that side, by far one of the best places to see sea turtles on the Florida gulf coast is Sarasota County.
Not only were 6% of total sea turtle nests in the state found in Sarasota and Siesta Key (the most of any gulf county), but you can also visit the Mote Marine Laboratory & Aquarium. Here, there is an aquarium that currently houses four sea turtles, as well as any rescued baby turtles. The four sea turtles here are unable to live in the wild, but are happily swimming around for people to observe and learn about!
This aquarium has a turtle hospital where any turtles found in the area are treated and all sorts of exhibits to learn more about sea turtles. While you are here, be sure to see the manatees, sharks, otters, birds, jellyfish, fish, and more at this engaging aquarium. And if you want to see animals in the wild, there is a boat cruise where you can see dolphins and manatees!
10. Dry Tortugas National Park in Key West
The one place I have not visited on this list is Dry Tortugas National Park because it is a bit of a challenge to get to. It is located off the coast of Key West and you have to take a ferry or seaplane to get there. However, the secluded nature of this national park makes it one of the best places to see sea turtles in Florida!
Snorkeling is one of the most popular things to do here and it is not uncommon to see sea turtles swimming right near you. You can also see them from the seaplane on the ride to the island. There are only slots for ten campsites per night, but if you get to be one of them, it is a very cool experience to stay the night on this island. You may even see sea turtles nesting on the beach here! Considering Tortugas is literally turtle in Spanish, it is no surprise that this is a must-visit for sea turtle enthusiasts!
11. Sea Turtle Hospital in Marathon Key
I saved the best for last with one of the most surefire places to see sea turtles in Florida. If you are taking a trip to the Florida Keys, I highly recommend a visit to The Turtle Hospital in Marathon. This is similar to the other rehabilitation sites mentioned above, but they have an amazing, informative tour that really makes the visit worth it.
This is a ninety-minute tour that goes in-depth into the threats to turtles, and how they are treated for different injuries or ailments. Then at the end, you get to see the sea turtle patients. There is often a huge variety of species of sea turtles here including Kemp’s Ridley and Hawksbill Turtles. This includes permeant residents that are unable to return to the wild, often because of shell damage that results in the inability to dive.
Though it can be a little sad to hear about injured turtles, the staff here is so passionate and the research they are doing will help get sea turtles off the endangered species list and figure out the best way to treat them!
We came away with so much knowledge and loved getting to see all the different types of turtles in their large pools. There are always sea turtles here, so it is a wonderful place to see them and learn about them too!
Know Before You Go: The Best Places to See Sea Turtles in Florida
The majority of sea turtle nesting in the United States occurs on Florida’s beaches and you can see it happen for yourself! If you are visiting in the summer or a local, I highly recommend taking a sea turtle walk and experiencing this amazing sight. If you cannot make it to the Central East Coast, I hope this post introduced you to some of the other best places to see sea turtles in Florida that are not in the wild. Before you go on a turtle walk, please keep the following tips in mind to help protect the sea turtles:
- You can find sea turtles nesting all along the east coast of Florida. If you go out by yourself at night, you have a good chance of seeing them, but a professional turtle walk is a better bet.
- Make sure to never shine lights or take flash photography around the turtles because it scares as and disorientates them.
- If you see a sea turtle in the wild, never touch it, even if it is a baby hatchling. For injured turtles, look up the local sea turtle protection center and they will rescue it if needed.
- If you want to bring light to walk on the beach, make sure to use a red light. Many beachfront buildings use these to prevent the hatchlings from becoming disorientated when they hatch. You can get a red light flashlight here.
- Sea Turtles nest between April to October. However, the best time to see nesting sea turtles is June and July.
Have you ever seen sea turtles in the wild? Let me know where you think is the best place to see sea turtles in Florida! For more ways to experience the beauty of Florida nature, check out my guide to The Everglades and my post about the best Fresh Water Springs.