Boca Raton, Florida Nature Photo Locations
My favorite places are Wakodahatchee Wetlands - Delray Beach, Green Cay Nature Center - Delray Beach, Arthur R. Marshall Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge - Delray Beach, Butterfly World - Coconut Creek, and South Inlet Park - Boca Raton. These are all park like settings that are clean and easy to visit. So feel free to bring a friend, even if they aren't into hiking or photography.
Sites listed in alphabetical order.
- American Orchid Society - 16700 AOS Lane, entrance on Jog Rd. approximately 3 miles north of Yamato Rd. (same location as Morikami Museum) • Delray Beach • (561) 404-2000 • Claims thousands of orchids complement a serene but exciting botanical paradise, beckoning visitors to explore paths meandering through 3.5 acres of themed gardens and a magnificent display greenhouse.
Actually a rather small location but VERY clean and professionally run. A nice place to take adult tag-alongs e.g. clean toilets, lot's of shade, snacks, etc. But wait, for photographers it gets even better as the greenhouse is fully enclosed and thus affords one of the few places to take nature pictures on a cold or rainy day. Admission is $8.00 and an annual pass is $30.00. Closed Mondays.
Best lens ... a good close-up lens (60-105mm). I use my Nikon 60mm with an off camera strobe for creative lighting .
- Arthur R. Marshall Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge - U.S. 441, north of Atlantic Ave. • Delray Beach • (561) 734-8303 • The marsh trail is a great place to shoot herons, egrets, ibises, alligators and bugs. Just park your car and walk the circular route along the levy. But bring sun protection as there is no shade to be had during the walk. As for fighting crowds, I have never seen many people here, even on holidays and weekends. A fee of $5.00 is charged to private vehicles entering the refuge.
In addition to the main location, there is an entrance to the refuge at the end of Loxahatchee Road which you can get to from U.S. 441, just north of Hillsboro Blvd. This section of the park is oriented toward boating and air boating. So for me, I prefer the main location. But if this entrance is closer to you, or you are into boating, fishing etc., check it out.
Best lens ... a long telephoto lens. I use my Nikon 70-200mm VR with a 1.7x teleconverter (120mm - 340mm with teleconverter) and I'd use a longer lens if I had one as 95% of my shots are at my max of 340mm ... 500mm is probably what I need. Tripods or monopods are allowed but it's a long walk so you might be happier hand holding a lens with less reach.
- Butterfly World - 3600 W. Sample Road, just west of FL Turnpike • Coconut Creek • (954) 977-4400 and (954) 977-4434 • A great place for shooting butterflies, flowers, and some small exotic birds. VERY clean and professionally run. A nice place to take tag-alongs e.g. music, clean toilets, lot's of shade, snacks, etc. but not much rain cover. So ok for windy days but not rainy days. It's my favorite place for days when rain is threatening because shelter from the rain is never far away. Admission is $18.00 but an annual pass is only $35.00.
Best lens ... a telephoto lens. My Nikon 70-200mm VR seems to be a good fit for this site. A Nikon 60mm or 105mm close-up lens would also work well. Either way, there is lot's of shade here, so a strobe is a must. But tripods or monopods are not allowed.
- Daggerwing Nature Center - 11200 Park Access Road • Boca Raton • (561) 488-9953 • Daggerwing Nature Center is a tranquil, 3,000-square-foot facility set within the beautiful confines of South County Regional Park. Features of the center include an exhibit area and a 2,000-foot elevated pine boardwalk which takes you on a relaxing journey through a wet forest. Admission is free.
Note: I first visited this site on 08/22/05 and was disappointed by the lack of wildlife. My guess is that this small spit of nature in an otherwise large regional recreational park is not big enough to attract permanent residents. Also, the wetlands were rather dry to the point that I didn't see any signs of turtles, fish, bugs, or even mosquitoes.
- Delray Oaks Natural Area - 2021 SW 29th Street, corner of Congress between Clint Moore Road and Linton Blvd, • Delray Beach • (561) 233-2400 • An island of woods in a heavily paved part of Palm Beach County that features a wheelchair-accessible trail leading to an observation platform. Claims resident gopher tortoises, gray foxes, black racer snakes and crab-like spiny orb weaver spiders. No facilities. Admission is free.
Best lens ... a telephoto lens. My Nikon 70-200mm VR with a 1.7x teleconverter seems to be a good fit for this site (120mm - 340mm with teleconverter). A Nikon 60mm or 105mm close-up lens would also work well, particularly on the spiders.. Either way, there is lot's of shade here, so a strobe is a must.
- Fern Forest Nature Center - 201 Lyons Road South, 1 block south of Atlantic • Coconut Creek • (954) 970-0150 • This 243-acre wilderness area is filled with diverse plant communities influenced by differences in elevation, bed rock exposure, soil types as well as man's impact. It is designated an Urban Wilderness Area and Gopher Tortoise Preserve. Admission is free.
Best lens ... a telephoto lens. My Nikon 70-200mm VR with a 1.7x teleconverter seems to be a good fit for this site (120mm - 340mm with teleconverter). A Nikon 60mm or 105mm close-up lens would also work well. Either way, there is lot's of shade here, so a strobe is a must.
Note: I first visited this site on 08/29/05. It's a nice nature setting, but not tranquil as the Turnpike traffic noise invades the park. That said, there were a lot of large spiders to shoot and I got some good shots of a Gopher Tortoise that came to me looking for a hand-out.
- Green Cay Nature Center - 12800 Hagen Ranch Road • Boynton Beach • (561) 966-7000 • Located in suburban Delray Beach on the east side of Hagen Ranch Road between Woolbright Road and Atlantic Avenue. 100+ acres of farm land have been transformed by Palm Beach County Water Utilities Department into a wetlands ecosystem. A railed boardwalk with frequent rest stops, some of them shaded, traverses this wildlife habitat. There is also a 9,000-square-foot nature center that includes a turtle pond, frog habitats, an alligator hole and murals depicting what the land, previously the Green Cay Farm, looked like decades ago. Admission is free.
Best lens ... a long telephoto lens. I use my Nikon 300mm VR with a 1.7x teleconverter and I'd user a longer lens if I had one. Tripods or monopods are allowed and the railing makes a great place to steady shots.
- Long Key Nature Center and Natural Area - I have never been here, but folks that have, say there is a lot to see and shoot at the Natural Area. So if you live in Broward County, you might want to check this place out.
- Morikami Museum and Japanese Gardens - 4000 Morikami Park Rd., entrance on Jog Rd. approximately 3 miles north of Yamato Rd. • Delray Beach • (561) 495-0233 • The Japanese gardens are a delight to walk through and there are many fine scenic photo ops which are best shot on a sunny day. Admission is $10.00. Closed Mondays and major national holidays.
You may take all the photographs you like in the Gardens. And tripods and/or monopods are allowed as long as they are not placed on the walking paths or become a distraction to others. However, no photography is allowed inside the museum or galleries.
Best lens ... a good close-up lens . I use my Nikon 60mm. And for fun I also like to use my 10.5mm fisheye. Either way, there is lot's of shade so consider taking a strobe for close-ups and preferably a strobe that can be hand held for creative lighting.
- Quiet Waters Park - 401 South Powerline Rd., south of Hillsboro Blvd. • Deerfield Beach • (954) 360-1315 • There are some birds and bugs here but what I really like is shooting people on the water ski tow line and trying for that great action shot where someone does something really great ... or really awful. So, for me the best time to go here is when school is out as the high school kids seem to be the most ardent and fearless water skiers. Park admission is free on weekdays and $1.00 per person on weekends.
Best lens ... a fast focusing telephoto lens. I use my Nikon 70-200mm VR which seems to be a good fit for this site.
- South Inlet Park - 1298 South Ocean Blvd., south of Camino Real • Boca Raton • (561) 966-6600 • It's a bird, it's a plane, no it's a wind surfer. Shoot Pelicans, Sea Gulls, Sand Pipers, helicopters, airplanes, boats, and people. They all seem to like this ocean setting. Best to shoot here in the afternoon to have the sun at your back. The best days are when there is not a lot of wind as the birds, planes, and boats are not as plentiful on really windy days. Also, low tide seems to be the best time to find crabs. And lastly, the bird population here is seasonal as many of the birds, Pelicans included, fly north in the Spring and return in the Fall. Admission is $4.00 per person on weekdays and $6.00 per person on weekends.
Best lens ... a fast focusing telephoto lens. I use my Nikon 70-200mm VR with a 1.7x teleconverter which seems to be a good fit for this site (120mm - 340mm with teleconverter). I also use a clear filter if the wind has an east component to keep salt spray off the lens.
- Wakodahatchee Wetlands - Located in suburban Delray Beach on the east side of Jog Road between Woolbright Road and Atlantic Avenue. Fifty acres of unused utilities land have been transformed by Palm Beach County Water Utilities Department into a wetlands ecosystem and over 140 species of birds have been spotted here. A railed boardwalk with frequent rest stops, some of them shaded, traverses this wildlife habitat. Admission is free.
While I have not seen over 140 species of birds here, there are a lot of Herons and other wading birds. And they are easy to photograph as you can get a lot closer to them than the birds at Loxahatchee. Yes I know, it's like shooting fish in a barrel. But it sure is a great place to try out a new lens or a new shooting technique or just fill a card with 100s of keepers because you can.
Best lens ... a telephoto zoom lens. I use either my Nikon 70-200mm VR with a 1.7x teleconverter or my Nikon 300mm VR with a 1.7x teleconverter. Tripods or monopods are allowed and the railing makes a great place to steady shots.
For more information on locations in Florida, see the web site Great Florida Birding Trail. Or click here for downloadable Great Florida Birding Trail PDF brochures.