How to Spend your day exploring MacBeach
By Darien Davies
Nestled on an Atlantic Ocean barrier island in North Palm Beach, John D. MacArthur Beach State Park is the only state park in Palm Beach County. Not only is it an environmental treasure boasting 1.6 miles of pristine beach that offer swimming, snorkeling, paddleboarding, kayaking and hiking opportunities, but there’s plenty of avian, land- and water-dwelling animals to peek upon. In short, you can be as active or as lazy as you’d like, but one thing’s for certain and that is that you’ll be having a grand time.
Friends of MacArthur Beach State Park and High Point Paddle Adventures partnered up in April 2020 to bring all visitors the opportunity to easily enjoy the water. Perfect for beginners or experienced paddlers, the Park’s south paddle launch area is a beautiful space to begin your aquatic adventure exploring the estuary and Munyon Island on your own, or by booking a guided nature tour. They’ve even added yoga and moonlight paddling to the lineup because of visitor enthusiasm.
If you prefer to sit while on the water, kayaking is for you. The great part about MacArthur is that the estuary is a protected body of water, which creates ideal conditions (i.e. calm winds) for beginners or those wanting a relaxing experience. You can also opt to venture out under Burnt Bridge into the Lake Worth Lagoon and Munyon Island. Visitors can rent single or double kayaks from 9 a.m. – 3p.m. daily. But be warned, kayaks work on a first come first serve basis.
Snorkeling is also a great activity to enjoy as there is abundant marine life on the Anastasia Limestone Rock Reef and rock outcroppings that lie in shallow water along the stretch of the beach. Reef squid, colorful tropical fish and schools of snook are a source of delight for snorkelers. This reef formed over 125,000 years ago and can be easily reached with a mask and a snorkel — it’s even visible from the surface!
Depending on the season, visitors may see wildlife including manatees, dolphins, mullet, snook, rays and a variety of birds. There’s also seagrass throughout and mangroves surrounding the entire estuary, which host a variety of life including oysters, mangrove snails, mangrove crabs and more.
If a delightful jaunt is more your speed, MacArthur features two self-guided trails. The roughly .3-mile Dune Hammock Trail begins at the foot of the boardwalk and winds south through a forest of gumbo limbo, mastic, cabbage palm, strangler fig and other tropical and subtropical trees before ending at the beach. The Richard Weinstein Satinleaf Trail is a great way to become oriented with the tropical habitats that the Park protects on Singer Island. This 1.3-mile trail is located at the north end of the Park near the playground and the north pavilion and winds through a mixed maritime hammock comprised of 60% to 70% tropical plant species. The path is relatively flat and doesn’t require any special footwear.
If you’d like to give back to the beach that gives us so much, join the Park for one of their beach cleanup events! Cleanups are scheduled for the third Saturday of the month from 9 – 11 a.m., but visitors who are interested in helping out at their leisure are always welcome to grab a bucket, garbage grabbers and gloves at any time. In 2022, 650 pounds of trash was collected from the Park, which helps to not only keep it beautiful but also provide a safe space for the wildlife to live and enjoy.
The Nature Center welcomes visitors of all ages and serves as a great spot to stop at during your Park visit if you want to learn more in-depth information both before and after your travels through the Park’s rich habitats. The exhibits are a great opportunity to better understand the history and ecology of MacArthur Beach State Park. You can learn about the danger of micro plastics at the Citizen Science Marine Debris Program, and meet the ambassador sea turtle. The marine center also has activities great for kids like scavenger hunts and programs led by Rangers such as snake talks or bird watching with a Ranger.
Step back into “Old Florida” at Munyon Island! The island, which is only accessible by boat, provides visitors a unique opportunity to step back in time and enjoy what Florida used to look like. It’s also a great kayak and paddleboard spot, and the picnic pavilions and grills allow for a great mid-day lunch hangout.
You will love your visit at the Park, regardless what activity you chose to enjoy or save for another day. There’s also a ton of seasonal activities, including sea turtle swimming or witnessing a nesting during sea turtle season, as well as fishing opportunities (with a license). The Park is also ADA friendly and invites wheelchair-bound guests to enjoy a swim with the use of their WaterWheels floating beach wheelchair. Perfect for young and old, casual and bold, the John D. MacArthur Beach State Park has it all.