Making good on a LivingSocial deal of the week, we took a trip up to Stuart to spend the day at the Florida Oceanographic Coastal Center. The center’s main mission is to help people understand just how important our coastal ecosystem is. With stingray, sea turtle, and game fish learning centers, there’s enough to keep you and the kids busy before venturing out to discover the center’s nature trails and boardwalks. And let me tell you, it’s quite interesting to pet the slippery stingrays and mollusks! Make sure you don’t miss that exhibit.

 

Tannin Water at the Florida Oceanographic Coastal Center

Tannins in the Water

 

While walking the nature trails, we discovered one very important fact: tiny microorganisms in the marshy waters can really let off a stank! From the overpowering sulfur scent of the sea water mixing with the marshy lands, to the dramatic coloration of the tannins in the water, it’s fascinating to see the processes that allow our marshlands to live, breathe, and thrive.

Even something as simple as knowing you may cross paths with one of the several snake species that call this place home is enough to keep you on your toes. A resident yellow rat snake must have been napping as we passed Snake Home, pictured below. See that snake hole? Rat snakes love trees. Hello.

 

Snake Hole at the Florida Oceanographic Coastal Center

Snake Home

 

As we made our way closer to the Indian River, we had to fight off bloodthirsty mosquitoes and watch for low-hanging cobwebs from golden silk (banana) spiders. Snapping off a few shots was too hard to pass up. Although these eight-leggers have a bite similar to a bee sting, I would suggest not getting too close. Bags of oyster shells also made for an interesting shot as we learned they were part of an ongoing artificial reef project. Pretty cool.

 

Banana Spider at the Florida Oceanographic Coastal Center

Golden Silk

 

Bagged Shells at the Florida Oceanographic Coastal Center

Artificial Reef

 

Lagoon at the Florida Oceanographic Coastal Center

The Indian River Lagoon

 

When it comes to marine life, the Florida Oceanographic Coastal Center is one of those special places that rarely sleeps—just check out their sea turtle hatchling drop-off. In more ways than one, the volunteers and staff are on a mission to save lost and injured sea creatures, as well as the battered waters of our coast. If they could only get the raccoons on the same page. Volunteers are always welcome…

 

Sea Turtle Hatchling Drop-Off at the Florida Oceanographic Coastal Center

Baby Drop

 

As we made our way back to the welcome center, a monstrous late afternoon Florida thunderstorm approached, so we decided our day of discovery had come to an end. But with our taste for local food, flavor, and atmosphere, we had one last thing to discover. With “some help from Yelp,” we found Kona Beach Cafe in nearby Jensen Beach.

 

Kona Beach Cafe in Jensen Beach, Florida

Kona Cool

 

Kona turned out to be a unique little place. We’re talking tiki-style outdoor seating and a creative menu with a Kona-twist. Our new friend Liz, at the bar, recommended the fish dip and fish fry. Both turned out to be excellent dishes that we can now recommend as well. Go for the one pound fish fry—you won’t be sorry!

Liz told us that their live music nights make this place a must-visit if you’re in the area. And if you live close by, well, I’m not quite sure how you wouldn’t call this place your home away from home? Thanks, Liz.

As always, if you have any recommendations for places to visit or things to see, we’re happy to make them a part of a future discovery. And let us know when you visit Kona.