Nathaniel P. Reed

Hobe Sound National Wildlife Refuge — Jupiter Island Unit

Hobe Sound, Martin County

Ghost Crab
North Beach Road
Hobe Sound
Editor's Note: The Nathaniel P. Reed Hobe Sound National Wildlife Refuge is physically divided into two separate units, Jupiter Island and Mainland, by the Indian River Lagoon. The two are distant enough and different enough that we've created separate pages for each. The Mainland Unit is here.

Overview: The beach at Hobe Sound National Wildlife Refuge is about as close to pristine as beaches get in South Florida. At 3.5 miles long, it is by far the longest stretch of undeveloped beach in the region, probably the longest stretch south of Canaveral National Seashore in Volusia and Brevard counties. It's a refuge for the plants and animals that live thre, obviously, but also people. It's a place to fish, to swim, to sunbathe, to bird, to hike, to get away from it all, at least for a bit.

The Jupiter Island Tract is a crucial nesting area for seat turtles, as many as 3,000 nests in a year. The birding here is good enough to land a spot on the Great Florida Birding Trail as the refuge sits along a major migration route. In all, Hobe Sound National Wildlife Refuge is home to about 40 species federally or state-listed as endangered, threatened or of special concern.

History: Hobe Sound National Wildlife Refuge first opended in 1967 as the Joseph V. Reed Wildnerness Seashore Sanctuary, a national landmark. Reed, described by The New York Times as a Florida land developer and leading patron of the American stage, once owned Jupiter Island. With land he and other Jupiter Island residents provided, the sanctuary became the Hobe Sound National Wildlife Refuge in 1969. The Jupiter Island Tract originally totaled about 400 acres; it's since grown to 735 acres, plus the 300-acre Mainland Tract. In April 2019, Congress renamed the refuge as the Nathaniel P. Reed Hobe Sound National Wildlife Refuge, honoring the late son of Joseph Reed, a former secretary of the interior and one of Florida's great environmental champions.

birds on beach

What You'll See:The Jupiter Island Unit of Hobe Sound National Wildlife Refuge offers plenty of wide open space and probably fewer human beings than any other beach in South Florida, thanks to its relatively isolated location. It's off the proverbial beaten path, for sure. Look along the beach for ghost crabs and sea turtle nests (which should be left undisturbed) during the warmer months. The beach is a magnet for foraging shore birds like willets, sanderlings, ruddy turnstones, yellow-crowned night herons and others. Pelagic birds, including the magnificent frigatebird can be spotted offshore. The upper dunes are nesting grounds for plovers, least terns and others. In the trees and shrubs above the dunes, look for migrators during the fall and spring.

Amenities: There is plenty of parking and trails leading to the beach.

Nearby: Some of the best conservation areas in South Florida all but surround the Jupiter Island Unit of Hobe Sound National Wildlife Refuge. To the north, there is the St. Lucie Inlet Preserve State Park, accessible only by boat. Peck Lake Park is to the east, as is Seabranch Preserve State Park. The Mainland Unit is to the southwest, two miles south of Bridge Road along U.S. 1 in Hobe Sound. Jonathan Dickinson State Park is a few miles farther south along U.S. 1. Hobe Sound Scrub Natural Area sits to the southwest on Dixie Highway.

Links: The Great Florida Birding Trail's page for Hobe Sound National Wildlife Refuge. The Institute for Regional Conservation's plant inventory is here. Note: both pages cover the entire refuge.

Of Note: Hobe Sound National Wildlife Refuge is open sunrise to sunset everyday of the yar. There is a $5 per car entrance fee as of this writing (June 2024). Check the website for updates and a pay-online option. Also annual passes are available; national parks senior passes are honored.

Cover Photo: A ghost crab sticks his (or hers) head out from a burrow. The beach at Hobe Sound National Refuge is the only place in South Florida to date where we've found these creatures living. Second photo: A couple of sanderlings and a couple of willets forage along the beach.
Virtual Tour

Getting There ...
DIRECTIONS: The Jupiter Island Unit of Hobe Sound National Wildlife Refuge sits at the north end of North Beach Road. The parking lot is dead ahead. Beach Road can be accessed from U.S. 1 in Jupiter at the Jupiter Inlet Lighthouse Outstanding Natural Area. From the south, take either the Turnpike or I95 and exit at Indiantown Road and head east. As of this writing (June 2024) a drawbridge on U.S. 1 was closed for repairs and a detour was required to go north. The detour will take you directly to the intersection with Beach Road. Head east across the intersection and and just follow Beach Road to its end.

From I95 north, take the Hobe Sound exit (Bridge Road) and head east for about 11 miles to North Beach Road. Turn left (north) and follow to the end. From Jupiter, North Beach Road can also be accessed by heading north on U.S. past Jonathan Dickinson State Park. Look for Dixie Highway on the right and follow to Bridge Road. Make a right turn (east) and follow to N. Beach. Turn left and follow to the end.

Photo Gallery for Hobe Sound National Wildlife Refuge — Jupiter Island Unit

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.