I’ve written about my visits to Smyrna Dunes Park before and usually I head to the beach area at the Inlet to search for shells. This time my visit was to check out the newly finished boardwalk which makes a circle around the peninsula.
The Boardwalk is Finished!
Because I hadn’t visited this area for a few months, I asked the woman taking the money at the entrance how it was coming. The finished date was in mid-summer I believe, but said they got finished ahead of schedule.
This was exciting. I’d already seen part of the pathway and had been looking forward to walking all the way around the loop, which goes out by the ocean. It was Memorial Day, so I hoped people would be home having backyard cookouts. But many people were at the Park! I was lucky to find a parking space, but was pleasantly surprised that either they were walking a dog, or heading to the beach to swim. The boardwalk loop was mostly empty of people.
The boardwalk and pavilions along the walk are nicely done. Here’s hoping the damage will be minimal whenever another hurricane sweeps through – because it will. I’m betting that was at least part of the reason for the improvements. If you search online for Smyrna Dunes Park, you can see older images of the wooden walkways. This new design is very nice.
The walkways wide, and are wheelchair accessible, with ramps at the entrance to the walkways. You won’t be able to get down onto the beaches, except on the “river” side where there are ramps down off the boardwalk… but you will then be in sand. Some of the pathways on that side may be re-done, but I’m not sure. I didn’t pay much attention to that area. Next time I will get photos of the new offshoots leading to the fishing pier, Intlet and river access.
I entered the boardwalk next to the main entrance (which is to the left of the yellow building in my last photo on this page) and walked clockwise all the way around. The other end comes out near the condos and according to the website it’s 1.5 miles in length. It’s an easy walk in cool weather. The only shade is under one of these pavilions, and today is was hot. Because the area is surrounded by water, there is often some type of breeze, but it’s not a cooling breeze at this time of year!
It was a cloudy day, but the humidity was horrendous (not surprising) and I won’t be going back for a walk until October. I’ll drive onto the beach where I can cool off quickly without the long walk. I dislike Florida summers and don’t understand how anyone can enjoy doing anything strenuous in this heat.
Usually I head out to the Ponce Inlet and Jetty area so I can walk along the beach. Today my main goal was to walk the loop, so I didn’t check out the beach. If the weather had been cooler I would have.
The Ponce Lighthouse is located on the other side of the Inlet, so it is not accessible from this park. I could see waves in the inlet, so the sea was rough. Probably would have been a good time to do some beach-combing, but my son needed the car to get to work, so time was short. I trekked on toward the parking lot. I don’t call a walk like this “hiking”. Hiking is something I do in the mountains of New Hampshire. In Florida there is no such thing.
As I got closer to the ocean side of the peninsula the beach and waves came into view. All along the ocean side are separate walkways that lead down to the beach. This means that anyone driving onto the beach could park in this area and come up and use the pavilions. I’m wondering if they can be rented for special occasions, as they are each numbered. Or are they first come, first serve? I couldn’t find an answer online, so I’ll keep an eye out.
Now this was cool… the pavilion in the photo below was raised up, and quite large. A family was up there as I walked by, so I didn’t want to bother them, but it would give a good view of the ocean and dunes area. (Read my post about the Two-Story Pavilion here.) I was so hot at this point I just wanted to get back to my car and turn on the AC! Onward toward the condos.
One of the last pavilions on my trek around the peninsula contained seating only – no tables. All areas to rest are covered, which is nice, but cover doesn’t really help with this heat. I suppose if the sun was out, it would be a nice place to rest, but more importantly, if a rainstorm hit there would be a place to shelter. Today I was hoping for rain to cool me off! There are many new, blue trash cans too, so hopefully people will be respectful and use them.
When I stopped at the entrance to the park, the woman who scanned my pass told me to be sure and lock my car. I’m assuming there have been break ins. I always lock my car in Florida, so I didn’t need the reminder, but when living in New Hampshire people left their cars open and unlocked. Sometimes keys were also in the ignition! Visitors who come to Florida from such places may not realize it’s not all Disney World here. I certainly know enough to lock up, but the state is full of vacationers. Kudos to the woman at the entrance for the safety reminder.
I found this map of the peninsula, which shows picnic areas and walking trails. The restroom sign is where parking is located. At busy times, the lot fills up with additional parking along the road. Many visitors are locals who come here to walk their dogs. I’m not sure of the rules for that, except to pick up the poop, and keep them on a leash. The dog-walkers are allowed on the boardwalk early in the morning I believe, but after that they must stay in the sandy walkway. Dogs are not allowed on the ocean beach, but they can access the river beach and inlet (I think). I don’t have a dog.
The Gopher Tortoise is an amazing creature, and the center of this entire peninsula / boardwalk area is home to them. It’s an extensive area, but the gopher tortoise requires a lot of space to house it’s family. My daughter once did some volunteering at the Central Florida Zoo. One thing she learned about was the tortoise, and I was surprised at how it lives. At Wikipedia it says this: “Each gopher tortoise needs about 4 acres to live“.
This creature is now a threatened species and is protected. Can you guess why? Because development in Florida has been ongoing rapidly for many years and do you think anyone really cared if the hundreds of acres of land they developed meant destroying turtle houses underground? NO. Don’t get me started. I’m happy that this Park is a safe place for this wild animal, but so many others have been killed because of development. See the Minorca Condominiums in the background of my picture as well as the other condos around it? How many tortoises lost their homes to build those do you think? Not to mention other wildlife, trees, shrubs and more. Where are these animals supposed to go? There is no place safe. Certainly not on prime oceanside land!
The law now requires that the tortoise is moved to a new location before building ensues. So what happens then? Does someone dig up 4 acres per tortoise? Just where can they go that is not land which will eventually be built on? And how does the tortoise adjust to a new piece of land where he must start all over again to build his community?
Florida’s wildlife has been pushed aside as greed and tourism has taken over. Thankfully there are some people, and places, that look after wildlife. Honestly, I think it’s a losing battle in this state. I’m done ranting for now.
At last my car was in sight and that meant air-conditioning! I was glad I was able to walk the loop and see all the new pavilions and walkways. The Smyrna Dunes Park is a great place to visit if you love being outdoors and getting close to the best part of Florida – nature (what’s left of it). I suggest you visit between October and May. And one day it may be one of the only spots left to view the gopher tortoise in the wild. I’m serious.
It’s Memorial Day. Today and every day I say “thank-you” to all military members and families who serve, have served, or plan to serve. Thank you for all you sacrifice to give me this freedom.