Green Cay Nature Center

Boynton Beach, Palm Beach County

american alligator
12800 Hagen Ranch Road
Boynton Beach


Overview: This is the kind of place where you bring your visiting friends and relatives from up north to give them a taste of the real Florida, because you're all but guaranteed to seeing something interesting. Maybe a very large alligator; maybe a brood of newly hatched gators prowling the shallows with mom. Maybe a wood stork (taking a break from delivering babies), a moorhen with youngin's in tow. If you're lucky maybe a bobcat, a river otter, maybe a snake or two. Don't forget to point out that gators aren't crocs and those strange-looking pink birds are roseate spoonbills and not flamingos.

Add to it that Green Cay, with its mile-and-a-half of boardwalks and tons of parking, is accessible for just about everyone, from toddlers to the elderly and anyone who might need a little extra help getting around. Oh and don't forget the nature center itself. The best part: it's all free.

History: Green Cay in its not-too-distant past was a wetland that became a pepper farm that became a wetland again. Tom and Trudy Winsberg sold 100 acres of their farm to Palm Beach County in 1999 for $2.9 million, one-third of its market value. Under a joint effort by Palm Beach County parks and recreation and utilities departments, the Green Cay Nature Center and Wetlands opened in November 2004. There are plans to expand the wetlands and facilities over the next few years.

What You'll See: It's probably easier to list what you won't see. The boardwalk moves through a variety of Florida habitats, including cypress swamp, hardwood hammocks, marsh and open water, all without anyone getting their feet wet. Visitors almost certainly will see a variety of birds, possibly an alligator or two or three and, if they're extremely lucky, maybe one of the resident bobcats. Strange-looking Florida softshell turtles might pop their snorkle-like noses above the water; red-bellied sliders might congregate on exposed logs. There are, of course, seasonal variations. Even time of day can affect sightings. The cooler months bring migrating birds; hot weather can quiet things down, especially at mid-day. To get some idea of the variety here, check out the photo gallery near the bottom of this page.

Check out the wooded areas around the parking lot and the along the walk way leading to the nature center for birds and other animals. In the cooler months, feeders here attract painted buntings.

Amenities: Let's start with the 1.5 miles of boardwalk arranged in a figure eight. There are interpretive signs at strategic places, plus benches and shelters throughout boardwalk. There are restrooms and drinking water at the nature center, plus the nature center itself. There are tons of parking.

Nearby: Wakodahatchee Wetlands is about a five-minute drive to the east. West Delray Regional Park sits at the western end of Atlantic Avenue. The Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge is 10 to 15 minutes away to the west.

Links: The Great Florida Birding Trail's take on Green Cay is here. The Friends of Green Cay is here.

Of Note: The boardwalk is open every day of the year, sunrise to sunset. For hours of the nature center itself, check the website. Admission is free.

Cover Photo: This face is why boardwalks and very long camera lenses were invented. There are no guarantees in nature, but Green Cay Nature Center is one of the better places to bring your guests from up north to see this iconic animal known as the guardian of the Everglades. Even if you don't see one, you'll still have had a pleasant walk and almost certainly some interesting birds to see.
Virtual Tour

Getting There ...
DIRECTIONS: From the north, exit either the turnpike or I95 at Boynton Beach Blvd. Head to Hagen Ranch Road and turn South. Green Cay Nature Center is on the east side. From the south, exit either the turnpike or I95 at Atlantic Avenue and head to Hagen Ranch Road. Green Cay is about a mile north of Lake Ida Road.

Photo Gallery for Green Cay Nature Center

Click on the photograph to see an enlarged image. Click on the name to read more about the species.

Published by Wild South Florida, PO Box 7241, Delray Beach, FL 33482.
Photographs by David Sedore. Photographs are property of the publishers and may not be used without permission.