Gaze at the horizon, and you're enveloped in the universe of blue – cerulean and turquoise and lapis. Gaze earthward, and in places it feels as though you’ve found the haven of Hades himself. Or perhaps Poseidon.
This is Florida’s Blowing Rocks Preserve. A lesser-known enclave in the coastal town of Hobe Sound, it falls inside the parameters of Martin County, though it's located literally minutes (as in two or three) from the famed lighthouse of Palm Beach County’s Jupiter Inlet.
Dramatic cliffs and outcroppings like these are uncommon in the "Sunshine State" — Photo courtesy of A.D. Thompson
Blowing Rocks’ strand is narrow compared to some of its beachy cousins along Florida’s 1,350 miles of coastline. But what it lacks in depth, it more than makes up for in uniqueness.
Designated a sanctuary in the late 1960s, it's managed by the Nature Conservancy, and it's thrived in the decades since as a safe haven for a host of protected plants and animals
The conservancy hosts a 40-minute guided walk of the preserve every Sunday at 11 a.m. But many visitors are quite content to drop the $1 to $2 per person beach fee into the honor box and enjoy the short enchanted trail through the arcing sea grapes before emerging onto the strand.
Low tide reveals Neptune's treasure box, a rainbow of beautiful shells for collecting — Photo courtesy of A.D. Thompson
The sand here is a bit darker than that of some of the popular Miami, Panhandle and Gulf Coast beaches, and therefore it gets hotter in the midday sun. Flip-flops will work, but hardier beach kicks will be of great use in navigating Blowing Rocks' craggy outcroppings, whether from above or below.
Try to time your visit just before peak low tide for the best of both worlds, hopping down to navigate the sea walls and caves worn smooth by eons of perpetual surf, picking from amid the treasure trove of shells that collect beneath the limestone formations and enjoying the unique photo opportunities that this otherworldly coastline presents.
The smooth, wet, colorfully lined strata below give way to a hellish landscape up top, where sunbaked rocks are craggy and beg careful navigation. Views up here are generally hotter (It depends on the month, time and weather, of course.) but no less impressive.
The coastline's caves are amazing places for photo ops and stolen kisses — Photo courtesy of A.D. Thompson
"Why the name Blowing Rocks?" you ask. At low tide, it’s less evident. But as the waves make their way in – and particularly on windy days when seas are rough – water forces its way through the tunnels and caves and makes for spectacular, explosive bursts.
Potential plant and animal sightings shift throughout the year, making Blowing Rocks well worth multiple visits.
Beach sunflowers and butterflies in spring give way to turtle nesting in summertime. (Interaction with either turtle or nest is strictly prohibited.). Meanwhile, fall and winter bring with them flocks of birds: warblers, osprey, hummingbirds and more. A small educational center offers more information about the preserve’s flora and fauna.
It's important to check the tide schedule before your visit to optimize your experience at this exceptionally beautiful beach.