John D. MacArthur Beach State Park

North Palm Beach, Palm Beach County

macarthur beach
10900 Jack Nicklaus Drive
North Palm Beach


Overview Beach might be in its name, but the John D. MacArthur Beach State Park has much more to offer. Fish Lake Worth Cove. Paddleboard or kayak it. Hike through the park's subtropical maritime hammocks, the biggest and best remaining tracts of this natural community remaining in Palm Beach County. It's an ideal spot for birders, offering habitat for shore birds, waders and woodland birds. All in all, its one of biologically important pieces of land in this part of Florida. The 1.6 miles of beach hosts literally thousands of sea turtle nests (nearly 5,000 in 2023); the 144 acres of mangrove swamp is critical habitat for young fish and other marine animals.

John D. MacArthur Beach State Park is the only state park in Palm Beach County. If the MacArthur name sounds familiar, it should. There's a fair chance that you live, work or shop on land that MacArthur once owned. The namesake John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation is the organization behind the so-called MacArthur genius grants.

History: There is evidence in the form of shell mounds, or middens, that humans were using the land that is now MacArthur Beach State Park in prehistoric times. On Munyon Island, there are remnants of the Hygeia Hotel, an early 20th century home and resort for health-conscious, well-to-do northerners. But the most significant piece of history, at least for our purposes, is the ownership of the land by John D. MacArthur, the real estate and insurance billionaire. MacArthur, who accumulated thousands of acres of land throughout South Florida, arranged to have the land transferred to the state after his death. He died in 1978; the John T. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation transferred the property to the state in 1981. Florida established the namesake state park in 1989.

One tidbit of history: in the late 1940s and the 1950s, the area was so popular with the airmen of Morrison Field/Palm Beach Air Force Base (now Palm Beach International Airport) that it was nicknamed Air Force Beach.

What You'll See: All things marine, from its subtropical hammocks to Lake Worth Cove to the namesake beach. The natural communities are as close to pristine as can be found in Palm Beach County.

Amenities: John D. MacArthur Beach State Park offers plenty of parking, restrooms both beach side and on the mainland, the 1.3-mile Richard Weinstein Satinleaf Trail, the one-third-mile Dune Hammock Trail, kayak launch and rentals, dive flag rentals for snorklers (flags are required), gift shop, showers and outdoor classroom. One unusual amenity: a shuttle crossing the boardwalk that connects the mainland to the beach area.

Nearby: Frenchman's Forest Natural Area is about a ten- or fifteen-minute drive to the northwest; Pawpaw Natural Area is to the west along Ellison Wilson Boulevard. Juno Dunes West Tract, Juno Dunes Oceanfront Tract and Jupiter Ridge Natural Area are to the north along U.S. 1. The Jupiter InletLighthouse Outstanding Natural Area and Blowing Rocks Preserve are north on Beach Road.

Links: Friends of MacArthur Beach State Park is here. The Institute for Regional Conservation's plant inventory is here. The Great Florida Birding Trail is here.

Of Note: John D. MacArthur Beach State Park is open 8 a.m. until sundown every day of the year. There is an admission fee. Check the website for details.

Cover Photo: Brown pelicans fly over John D. MacArthur Beach State Park on a blustery fall day in 2018. The beach is probably the park's main attraction for most people, but it has far more to offer.

Click on the photos below for full-sized images and detailed descriptions.

  • Air Force Beach
  • The Dune Hammock Trail
    dune hammock trail
  • Lake Worth Cove
    lake worth cove
  • Turtle Beach
    turtle nests
  • The Guardians
  • Satinleaf Trail
    satinleaf trail
Getting There ...
DIRECTIONS: The entrance to the park is on the east side of A1A. It maybe reached from Blue Herons Boulevard and crossing the Blue Heron Bridge, or by continuing east on PGA Boulevard as it intersects with U.S. 1.

Photo Gallery for John D. MacArthur Beach State Park

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.