How to See Turtles Nesting on the Space Coast

It is sea turtle nesting season here on the Space Coast and this means you have a chance to spot one of these magnificent creatures on land! Typically Loggerheads nest on the beaches of Florida, although green turtles and occasionally leatherbacks are seen as well.

We have seen nesting turtles and turtle hatchlings on our beach every year, so I have some tips for how you can see them too, and how to be respectful while doing so.

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Time of Year

The official sea turtle nesting season is from May 1st to October 31st. For beachside residents, this means no lights or bonfires on the beach during that time as they can scare or disorientate sea turtles. You will be most likely to see the turtles from June through August, as that is when the majority of the turtles nest. We tend to see lots of turtles nesting at night in June and July and then in August and sometimes into September we have started to see hatchlings. Last year we did not see any hatchlings in September, because the hurricane washed so many of the eggs away, so hopefully that does not happen again this year!

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How to See Nesting Turtles

The Sea Turtle Preservation Society and a few other local organizations do nightly walks on Melbourne Beach to help you spot nesting turtles. If you just want to go on your own, head to Melbourne Beach or Spessard Holland around 9 PM. I would recommend a guided walk though, so check these links if you would like to book one.

space coast turtle walks

This is the best turtle photo I have, but it’s from Maui, an even better place to see turtles! You might be wondering how you are supposed to see them if they are out at night and you cannot bring a flashlight. However, if you go on a clear night with a bright moon, you will be able to see better than you expected. Avoid using your phone much because the bright screen makes it hard for your eyes to adjust to the dark. It usually only takes about ten minutes for my eyes to be adjusted to the point where I can see tracks in the sand.

turtle sighting walk in melbourne beach florida

The turtles come from the ocean and then crawl all the way up onto the dunes and begin nesting. They usually spend at least an hour laying their eggs and then head back to the water. The easiest way to spot them is when they are crawling on the sand. They are pretty large creatures (typically around 300 lbs and 35 inches long), so if you see some movement, you can tell it’s a turtle. The coolest thing is seeing them come in from the ocean. They are so slow climbing up though, that I usually stop watching before they even make it to the dunes!

Another way you can find turtles is to go down to the shore and then look for tracks. They leave large tracks as they crawl through the sand, so if you see some that are very distinguished, you can follow the track and see if there is a turtle at the end.

Respecting Nesting Turtles

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When I say “see the turtles”, keep in mind that you should be at least 15 feet away, if not more. I would say as soon as you can see them, do not go any further because they get scared very easily. If they get scared and swim into the water, they will have missed their shot at nesting for the season. Loggerhead sea turtles are under “threatened status” and so few eggs survive as it is, that you really do not want to disrupt this process. Do not take any flash pictures of the turtles and definitely do not touch them in any way. If you see one, you want to be as quiet as possible, so turtle watching is not recommended for children under 7.

If you are at the beach during the day, there are some things you need to do to protect the turtles as well. You should make sure to fill in any big holes made in the sand because turtles can get stuck in them. And of course you should never litter at the beach, but even make sure to pick up food scraps like banana and orange peels because this can attract animals like raccoons, which may attack the turtles.

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Turtle Hatchlings – AKA baby turtles

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It is my dream to see tons of hatchlings emerge from the eggs of a nest and pour onto the sand, but until then I am happy with the hatchling experiences I have had. Andrew will make me get out of bed for a few sunrise walks each August and we have found a turtle hatchling about half the time. If you see a hatchling crawling to the water, do not to interfere with it. However, you can stand pretty close and take non-flash pictures and make sure birds do not come by and grab it. These little guys also take forever to make it to the water, but I recommend watching because it is amazing to see when it finally makes it! If you find an injured hatchling or one that isn’t moving, call the Turtle Preservation Society at 321-206-0646 and they may come and rescue it.

space coast turtle watching

I can’t stress enough how important it is not to interfere with the turtles nesting or hatching process. I recommend most people do a guided walk so you can be sure not to bother the turtles, but I wanted to write this post for anyone who does happen to encounter a turtle at the beach or can’t make it to a scheduled walk. There is never a guarantee of seeing turtles if you go for a walk on the beach, but there are tons of ways to see them in Florida for sure.

Other Ways to See Sea Turtles

space coast turtle watching

One of my favorite local events is the Turtle Krawl 5K, an awesome race put on by the Turtle Preservation Society. Regardless if you participate in the race or not, you can see the release a rehabilitated sea turtle into the ocean after the race! This year the event is on September 14, so head over to Nance Park in Indialantic that morning if you want to participate in the festivities.

space coast turtle watching

There are also aquariums all over Florida with sea turtles. This includes Sea World, the Brevard Zoo, the Florida Aquarium and the Clearwater Marine Aquarium. There are also sea turtles in the aquarium at the Living Seas at Epcot. If you are scuba certified, you can even swim with them like we did!

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The cool thing about scuba diving and snorkeling with turtles is that you can see how they swim through the water up close! It is always advised not to touch them, but if they come up to you, you do not need to be scared. One swam right into me while I dove at the Living Seas and made me a very happy diver!

img 0137You can also see a lot of different types of sea turtles at the Marathon Key Turtle Hospital. This facility rehabilitates injured sea turtles from all over the world. This is one of my favorite things to do in the Florida Keys, as it is extremely fun and informative.

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Sea Turtles are one of Florida’s oldest residents, and we want it to stay that way! Thankfully the days of turtle soup are pretty much over, but pollution in the water and on the beaches is still a major threat to the species. Luckily Brevard County is doing a lot to protect the sea turtles and keep the beaches clean. If you haven’t seen a turtle before or are wondering what the big deal is, then sign up for a turtle walk so you can see for yourself how unique and wonderful these reptiles are!

Looking for more unique things to do in Florida in June? Click the link for my full guide!

space coast turtle watching

If you are visiting the Space Coast, be sure to check out my Travel Guide for more fun things to do in the area!