One of the many stops we made this summer was a layover trip to Jensen Beach, located on Florida’s Hutchinson Island. Through my parents’ timeshare, we booked a two-night stay at Vistana’s Beach Club before heading over to Orlando for the Mouse.
The last time we stayed at Jensen Beach I was 16 years old and my sister and I made a ton of friends to pal around with for the week but what I remembered most about that trip were the sea turtles. This time, rolling down Ocean Drive with my mom chauffeuring our rented minivan and my dad sitting shotgun, I tried to conjure up memories of this place I had visited over 16 years ago, this time with my Husband and two toddlers in the back bench of our Town & Country.
With its miles of beaches, a few beachy feel bars, and loads of fresh seafood, Jensen Beach falls more on the family friendly beach scene than the Spring Break one. This is a quiet beach town where people sunbathe by day and have their curtains closed by night. Though, there is a reason for that…
When we first arrive to our room, I see an informational card with a request for the guests. Because “lights from buildings along the beach distract and confuse the females, as well as the hatchlings” the card politely asks guests to keep their lights off at night, or to close the curtains and/or blinds in their room, to encourage the nesting, endangered sea turtles to come onto land and lay their eggs.
We get dressed for the beach since we still have a few hours of sun before bedtime and I’m immediately hit with a harsh reality: there are no palm trees to block the sun (#beachbumproblems) I’m spoiled, I think. I’ve grown too used to island life in the Caribbean where nature’s palms do the job of manmade umbrellas. It is clear that on this shadeless beach, renting an umbrella for the day is not just an option but a necessity.
Coming back from the beach, I see pockets of sand, roped off with wooden stakes and orange flags. I remembered this from my teenage visit. This is how the nests are marked and monitored, using the stakes as a warning to tourists and also as a way to record information. During my teenage visit to Jensen Beach, I had watched the first part of the process: the females slowly dragging their heavy bodies (often weighing hundreds of pounds) out of the sea and laying their eggs in the sand. Typically, a female sea turtle digs a hole a foot or so deep and then fills the nest with her eggs which are the size of ping pong balls). After laying her eggs she refills the nest with sand and heads back to the ocean; the whole process taking roughly 30 to 60 minutes. This time around, the females had already come, now we were waiting for the eggs to hatch.
That evening, after putting the kids to sleep and waiting for the babysitters to come back from their dinner (aka the grandparents), Husband and I went out for our own seafood dinner at Shuckers, a nearby open-air restaurant at another resort.
You know how sometimes when you order from places the menu sounds waaay better than what the food actually tastes like? Yeah, not here. Every single thing we ordered was Mmmm-worthy, eye-rolling delicious. I referred to the meal that night, on more than once occasion, as “The Perfect Storm” of ordering.
Garlic Truffle Fries
Cup of Clam Chowder
Mussels in a white sauce with andouille sausage
Seared Ahi Tuna with Pickled Ginger and Teriyaki Glaze (not pictured)
With not much else to do in the area, we spend the next day bouncing between the pool and the beach which is fine by us since we’ve just come off the last few weeks of school, a weeklong trip to Cuba, and are gearing up for another week at Disney World. And with all the bouncing around, our kids and their sleeping schedules are a bit out of whack: sleeping later and, somehow, waking up earlier – so lounging is exactly what we need.
The next day, when we’re done packing the car to leave my mom comes rushing from checking out at the lobby, excited to tell the kids that some of the eggs have hatched and that the babies are beginning their own journey to the sea. Although there’s no need to rush (have you seen how slow turtles move?), we rush.
The kids are curious and intensely focused on the baby turtles and I’m happy to see the full circle of the process 16 years later. There are a ton of onlookers, many sharing the information that they know. You aren’t to touch the turtles or even help them to the ocean. One, the strength, they gain from dragging/walking themselves to the ocean will help them build their muscles to actually swim. In the meanwhile, the local turtle people are called who are on their way to ensure that as many turtles make it to the ocean as turtly possible.
With that, we’re on our way to go see about a Mouse.
More Details about our stay
The Vistana Beach Club, as far as timeshare resorts go is fine. The apartments are clean and welcoming, especially for a large family, but mostly they are comfortable. it is really nice to have this kind of space and accommodation when you are traveling with a lot of people. Both bedrooms are large and spacious and the beds are heavenly soft. The master, which my parents were kind enough to give to us and our kids was sweeeeet. The resort itself, in comparison to others we’ve stayed at, was just ok.
They have additional activities that they offer to guests, most of which cost extra and since the town itself is pretty resorty, it doesn’t leave much else to do. (They do have ping-pong tables, human chess and board games to check out for free.) For us, looking for some serious come-down time before a week at Disney, that was fine, but if you are looking for an activity-packed vacation, this might not be it.
~ Until the next bottle ~
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