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Wondering where to see sea turtles in the wild? Consider planning a visit to the Archie Carr National Wildlife Refuge – the most critical nesting area for sea turtles.


Archie Carr National Wildlife Refuge

Archie Carr Wildlife | Photo Grabbed from VisitSpaceCoast


Stretching from the amazing Melbourne beach to Sebastian inlet, Archie Carr National Wildlife Refuge is the most prominent area for protecting and providing nesting grounds to sea turtles along the Atlantic Ocean.

Archie Carr comprises small tracts of land between Melbourne Beach and Sebastian inlet on Barrier Island. Government agencies manage these tiny public areas.

Congress created the Refuge in 1989 to safeguard endangered and threatened species of sea turtles.


According to biologists, Archie Carr is the most significant nesting area for sea turtles in the western hemisphere, especially for loggerheads, and the second most significant beach for sea turtle nesting worldwide.

The Refuge tied its name to the zoologist Dr. Archie Carr, Jr. as an honor for his exceptional contributions toward sea turtle conservation.

It is maintained by federal funds and designated to protect endangered sea turtles like green and loggerheads nesting in North America.


Archie Carr National Wildlife Refuge: Introduction and History


Undivided calm beaches with low artificial lighting are crucial for the success of reproduction and the survival of sea turtles.

This is why the United States Fish and Wildlife Service has created recovery plans to ensure the protection and purchase of the most important nesting beaches.

It is essential to note that, in North America, sea turtles generally have nests throughout North Carolina to Florida, with as much as 90% of their nesting taking place in Florida.


Archie Carr National Wildlife Refuge

Hatchling baby loggerhead sea turtles


You’ll find Archie Carr National Wildlife Refuge within this range comprising 20.5 miles of land from Melbourne Beach and Wabasso.

The Refuge is the most critical location for sea turtle nesting and nesting, including endangered loggerheads, more than anywhere else in the world.

Additionally, beaches like the Indian beaches and Brevard River County beaches are among the essential areas for endangered species, such as green turtles. It is also possible to see huge Loggerheads making their way up the beaches to deposit eggs.

As this critical nesting site is crucial to the survival of loggerheads and sea turtles of green in North America, the US Fish and Wildlife Service is currently working to gain a charge of the inaccessible area between Melbourne Beach and Wabasso.


How Was the Refuge Named?

The idea of establishing a national wildlife sanctuary for sea turtles was first proposed in the year 1980, thanks because of the work done by an ecologist who was well-known and who passed away, Dr. Archie Carr.

After receiving the approval of Congress to establish an island and a sanctuary, they decided to name the refuge in honor of the late Dr. Carr’s contribution to the protection of sea turtles.


Seasons of Wildlife


·        The Archie Carr National Wildlife Refuge is the perfect place to escape the winter blues.


Winter brings lower temperatures, winds as well as snow. The typical winter temp at Archie Carr National Wildlife Refuge is 52 degrees. Winter is the perfect time to travel to Florida and avoid heat-related ailments.

In addition, there will be fewer insects that will be a nuisance. Furthermore, the colder temperatures will bring the return of various species of shorebirds like gulls, plovers, and sandpipers. However, turtles are very rare in winter.


Archie Carr National Wildlife Refuge

Sand Fence and Sea Oats at Florida Beach


·        Archie Carr National Wildlife Refuge is known for its dramatic springs.


Spring is the time of migration. Visitors to the Archie Carr National Wildlife Refuge will have the chance to see an array of different migratory bird species. Temperatures will be rising, and wildflowers will be blooming.


Archie Carr National Wildlife Refuge

Wild turtle taking a sunbath in Florida in spring during daytime


Moreover, sea turtles will begin to arrive to nest on beaches in March and April.


·        Summer days in the Archie Carr National Wildlife Refuge are spent basking in the sun and enjoying the Florida coves.


Summer in Florida is unpredictable, so be prepared for an afternoon storm or temperatures up to 90 degrees. While planning a visit, keep hurricane season in mind, which runs from June through November.

Moreover, summer is also the busiest season for sea turtles at Archie Carr National Wildlife Refuge. Within its 20.5 miles of beach, loggerheads produce up to 20,000 nests annually, meaning it is common to find 500-900 nests per mile.

In addition, green sea turtles produce up to 15,000 nests annually, and the best season to see turtles nesting runs from May through August.


·        Archie Carr National Wildlife Refuge is renowned for its fall landscape.


While sea turtle nesting activity starts to decrease in the fall, it is the time when hatchlings are getting started. Since it takes up to sixty days for a nest to incubate, August nests may hatch in October.

However, fall in Florida also means the hurricane season, starting from June 1st and lasting for the next five months.

So, where to see sea turtles at Archie Carr National Wildlife Refuge?


Sea Turtle Nesting Walks at Archie Carr National Wildlife Refuge


The national Refuge is probably the best place in the western hemisphere to watch a nesting sea turtle. In fact, as many as 980 nests per mile have been recorded.

It means the 20.5-mile section of the refuge coastline hosts about 15,000 to 20,000 nests each season. So, if you plan to see a sea turtle nesting, Archie Carr National Wildlife Refuge in Florida is the best place to visit.

Moreover, joining a turtle watch program here is one of the most sought-after activities. However, keep in mind that guided turtle walks are offered from June to July.

It is also pertinent to mention that reservations for a turtle walk provided by the Barrier Island Management & Eco System start from May 1st and can be made from Tuesday through Sunday.

You will have to pay a $15 fee upon making a reservation.


Archie Carr National Wildlife Refuge

Turtle eggs in the hollowed-out nest


While turtles are expected at the National Refuge, it doesn’t mean they can be closer to your starting point. So, if you want to see a sea turtle nesting, you might have to walk a mile on the beach.

Turtle walks on the Refuge start from 9 pm and lasts till midnight.


Important Information about Sea Turtle Walks

Before you make a sea turtle walk reservation, make sure to keep these points in mind:

  • The minimum age to join a turtle walk is ten years old.
  • Turtle walks at the Refuge start at 9 pm and can last as late as 1 am.
  • You may walk about 30 minutes (1/2 miles) on the beach to see a sea turtle nesting.
  • Keep in mind that you can not make a single reservation. You must have at least one of your family members or friend who can assist you on the beach (if needed).
  • Since you will be walking in the dark, there will be mosquitos and sand fleas. So, be prepared.


·         Barrier Island Sanctuary

Location: Melbourne Beach


Wondering where to see sea turtles at Archie National Wildlife Refuge? Consider visiting Barrier Island Sanctuary for exciting, educational tours, allowing you to experience the astonishments of Brevard’s barrier island ecosystem.

You will have access to everything from the ocean to the lagoon and everything in between.


Archie Carr National Wildlife Refuge

Blowing Rocks Preserve


Featuring a one-mile hike through coastal habitats, Barrier Island Sanctuary provides a gateway to Archie Carr National Wildlife Refuge.

It is home to an informative oceanfront coastal biology center, the Barrier Island Center, open Tuesday through Sunday from 9 am to 5 pm.

Brevard Country Environmentally Endangered Lands partners with Sea Turtle Conservancy and offers guided sea turtle walks in June and July.

These guided tours are exciting and provide a way to inspire sea turtle advocates and future naturalists.


·         Coconut Point Sanctuary

Location: Melbourne Beach


Looking for an ocean-to-lagoon hike in Archie Carr National Wildlife Refuge? Plan a visit to coconut point sanctuary. The loop trail will lead you through one of Brevard County’s most diverse natural lands, connecting the Atlantic and the Indian River Lagoon.

It is situated within the Archie Carr National Wildlife Refuge complex with primary habitats of beach/dune and coastal strands. In addition to sea turtle nesting from spring to fall, Coconut Point Sanctuary is also home to shorebirds, including Ruddy Turnstone, Black-backed Gulls, Red Knots, and Sanderling.

It also features an array of habitats that will change as you go further from coastal dunes to the shores of the largest lagoon in Florida.

It is ablaze in wildflowers year-round and naturally air-conditioned due to the stiff breeze of the Atlantic.


·         Maritime Hammock Sanctuary

Brevard County


Archie Carr National Wildlife Refuge borders Maritime Hammock Sanctuary. The 150-acre sanctuary is also managed by Archie Carr National Refuge and features a beautiful hiking trail with two bridges, a boardwalk, and an observation deck.


Archie Carr National Wildlife Refuge

Boardwalk in the Woods


You will have the opportunity to see an array of protected barrier island habitats: maritime hammock, coastal strand, and mangrove forests.

While the trail is famous for walking, hiking, birdwatching, and wildlife viewing, you will still be able to enjoy some seclusion during quieter times of the day.


Fun Activities at Archie Carr National Wildlife Refuge


Apart from watching sea turtles, Archie Carr National Wildlife Refuge is an excellent place for enjoying other outdoor fun activities:


1.      Fishing


Fishing is one of the great activities you can enjoy at Archie Carr National Wildlife Refuge. Surf fishing is allowed through all designated dune crossovers, except those outside the life-guarded areas. However, keep in mind that you are not allowed to bring your pet, horses, bicycles, or vehicles on foot trails and public beaches.

Moreover, access after dark is also not allowed. Two ocean jetties and catwalks under the Sebastian Inlet offer an excellent fishing experience.

2.      Birdwatching


Except for some privately owned lands, the fantastic beaches of Archie Carr National Wildlife Refuge welcome birdwatchers. The National Refuge is home to an array of colorful bird species, including Blue-winged teal, Black scoter, Pied-billed grebe, Black-bellied whistling duck, Mottled duck, Mourning dove, and more.


3.      Ranger-Led Programs


The Barrier Island Center offers many opportunities for visitors to learn about wildlife and ecosystems in the Refuge. The center mainly focuses on educating the visitors about different species of sea turtles and endangered species and how we can help to protect them.

Friends of Archie Carr Refuge offers nighttime turtle walks at the Barrier Island Center during the sea turtle nesting season. These programs start with an informative presentation, allowing visitors to learn how to safely observe marine turtles nesting on the beaches.

Moreover, in August, you can also participate in sea turtle digs and have the opportunity to see volunteers excavating sea turtle nests.


4.      Photography


If you love taking photographs, Archie Carr National Wildlife Refuge provides a multitude of opportunities to take spectacular pictures and film. However, commercial photography, filming, and some turtle photography may be regulated.

Where to See Sea Turtles?


The Archie Carr National Wildlife Refuge is situated along a 20-mile coastline between Melbourne Beach and Wabasso. It is a part of the US National Wildlife Refuge System and encompasses about 900-acre of Refuge.

The Refuge is designated to protect endangered and threatened sea turtle species. It is also the most significant area for loggerhead nesting in Florida.

The Refuge is a relaxing retreat for those who love to observe wildlife, hike, and want to learn more about threatened wildlife.

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