Learn about the sea turtles native to the Emerald Coast (and in other corners of the World Ocean) at the Navarre Beach Sea Turtle Conservation Center, a pocket-size non-profit interpretive site that can broaden your awareness of the region’s marine ecology.
The start of the center is, without question, Sweet Pea, a green sea turtle who was discovered stranded and tangled in a fishing line on Alabama’s Ono Island in 2016. Injuries from the entanglement required amputation of her left front flipper and precluded her being released back into the wild, but she’s got a loving permanent home at the Navarre Beach Sea Turtle Conservation Center, which welcomed her in January 2018.
A tour of the center includes a look at Sweet Pea—maybe while she’s munching on her beloved lettuce, or interacting with her lattice hiding zone—as long as she’s not out receiving medical attention or otherwise being tended to away from view. She’s not the only live critter on display, though: You’ll also get a look at tortoises and terrapins, plus lionfish, jellyfish, and seahorses.
The meat of the Navarre Beach Sea Turtle Conservation Center is the exhibits, which are likely to absorb young and old alike. You’ll see the skulls and carapaces of sea turtles, get a look inside a sea-turtle nest such as sprinkle the beaches of the Emerald Coast, have a chance to compare your dimensions with life-size profiles of multiple sea-turtle species, interact with a map showing locally tracked turtles, and get a look at the makeup of artificial reefs, among other installations.
The Navarre Beach Sea Turtle Conservation Center also holds various events throughout the year, including multiple “Trash Bash” beach cleanups and a Shark School aimed at educating youngsters about those woefully misunderstood toothy fish. There’s a scavenger hunt offered for kids and a gift shop rounding out the tour as well, with some delightful locally made items for sale and proceeds going to support the center’s mission.
Definitely don’t come here expecting a large aquarium or views of many sea turtles: This is a little operation with a worthy mission and a knowledgeable staff, not to mention a charming tiny menagerie of marine ambassadors. The entry fee required is a pittance considering the environmental education on tap, but you’ll be disappointed if you’re expecting something grand-scale. For those interested in learning about regional marine life and conservation efforts, though, this is definitely a rewarding place to swing by—and to support!
– At the entrance to the center, there’s a box of beach toys available to use during your Pensacola Beach-area visit or take home.