Gumbo Limbo Nature Center

Palm Beach County

eastern gray squirrel
1801 North Ocean Boulevard
Boca Raton


Gumbo Limbo Nature Center is a 20-acre remnant of the marine hardwood hammocks that were once common along South Florida's barrier islands. It's rare habitat; a mix of tropical trees, including the center's namesake gumbo limbos.

But wait! There's more! Gumbo Limbo also features aquariums filled with some of the many species of fish living off our shores. It's a sea turtle rehabilitation center where injured animals can be viewed as they recover and an oceanographic research center run by Floria Atlantic University. There's a lot of stuff paced into a relatively small piece of land.

Gumbo Limbo is managed through a partnership between the city of Boca Raton, the city's parks and beach district, FAU and the nonprofit Friends of Gumbo Limbo. There is no entrance fee, but donations are requested to help cover costs.

History: The germ of the idea for Gumbo Limbo came about in the early and mid-1970s when Boca Raton bought land on the barrier island to create Red Reef Park. A master plan for the park suggested creation of a preserve that would also serve as an environmental education center. Interested parties formed a nonprofit to raise private funds for the project and the city kicked in $750,000 for its construction. Gumbo Limbo opened in 1984.

What You'll See: The marine hardwood hammock and adjacent mangroves are the heart of Gumbo Limbo. A boardwalk meanders through the forest on the south end of the property and natural surface trails through the north end, including the butterfly garden. Species spotted include: lancewood, false mastic, paradise tree pigeon plum and sea grape abound, as does gumbo limbo, of course. There's wild lime and shiny-leafed wild coffee in the understory, mixed with muscadine and greenbriar. You might spot rouge plant and papaya in light gaps.

Amenities: Gumbo Limbo has small indoor nature center, the aforementioned aquariums, restrooms and drinking water. There is a one-third-mile boardwalk, with an extention that leads to Red Reef Park. There are interpretive signs along the way and cards offering a self-guided tour that visitors can pick up as they enter the boardwalk. The north side features a butterfly garden and walking trails to the Intracoastal Waterway. There is ample parking. Note: The boardwalk, butterfly garden and walking trails are open to sundown seven days a week. The nature center, aquariums and restrooms close at 4 p.m. daily. Opening time varies; check the website for details.

Nearby: Spanish River Park is several miles to the north along A1A; farther north are Atlantic Dunes Park and the Delray Municipal Beach. Red Reef Park, South Inlet Park and Deerfield Island Park in Deerfield Beach lie to the south.

Links: The Institute for Regional Conservation's inventory for Gumbo Limbo and Red Reef Park is here. The Great Florida Birding Trail link is here.
Cover Photo: Click on the photos below for full-sized images and detailed descriptions.

  • Strolling Through a Tropical Forest
  • A Butterfly Paradise
    butterfly garden
  • The Walking Trees
  • Shores of Lake Wyman
Getting There ...
Gumbo Limbo Nature Center sits along the west side A1A roughtly half way between Spanish River Boulevard to the north and Palmetto Park Road to the south. Both roads can be accessed from I95. Exit the Interstate and head east through Boca Raton to A1A. Head north or south, depending on which exit you've taken; The entrance to Gumbo Limbo is well marked and on the west side of the road.

Photo Gallery for Gumbo Limbo 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.