Best Places To See Sea Turtle Hatchlings

Baby Sea Turtle Hatchlings at Padre Island National Seashore
Photo: NPS Photo

Is there anything more adorable than a baby sea turtle? Cute as they are, these hatchlings are also an awe-inspiring phenomenon in the natural world. Every year, pregnant sea turtles return to the beach where they were born, lay eggs in a nest under the sand, and crawl off. After incubating for around 60 days, the hatchlings emerge, following reflections of light to make it to water.

"When the tiny turtles are ready to hatch out, they do so virtually in unison, creating a scene in the sandy nest that is reminiscent of a pot of boiling water. In some areas, these events go by the colloquial term 'turtle boils,'" according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association. "Hatching and moving to the sea all at the same time help the little critters overwhelm waiting predators, which include sea birds, foxes, raccoons, and wild dogs."

If you want to experience this incredible sight, summer is the most active turtle nesting and hatching season. To help you plan your next beach vacation, we've rounded up the best places to see sea turtle nests and watch tiny turtles make their way to the ocean for the very first time.

01 of 06

Padre Island National Seashore, Texas

Baby Sea Turtle in Sand
NPS Photo

Kemp's ridley sea turtles nest more at Padre Island National Seashore than they do anywhere else in the country, making it a great place to catch a sea turtle hatchling release. This stretch of Texas shoreline is also home to four other species of turtles, including green, loggerhead, leatherback, and hawksbill sea turtles. Hatchling releases usually occur from mid-June through August, but your chances of seeing a sea turtle hatchling release are best when a number of nests are due to hatch at the same time. The park posts updates on the current nesting season and projected release dates on its website.

02 of 06

Gumbo Limbo Nature Center, Boca Raton, Florida

Baby Sea Turtle Swimming
Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Every year, the marine turtle specialists at Gumbo Limbo Nature Center monitor hundreds of loggerhead, leatherback, and green sea turtle nests, and release more than 1,000 stranded hatchlings into the ocean. Sign up for a Hatchling Release program to learn about sea turtles in Gumbo Limbo's classroom and then head to the beach with staffers to watch baby sea turtles make their way to the big blue for the very first time. Programs run weeknights from mid-July until early September.

03 of 06

Sea Island, Georgia

Kids Playing in Sand
Courtesy of Sea Island

The five-star resort's beachfront is a nesting site for loggerhead sea turtles, so the hotel offers two excursions for sea turtle seekers from June through August. Look for turtle tracks, nesting mothers, and hatchlings on a guided Sea Turtle Education and Night Walk, or register for a Sea Turtle Dawn Patrol for a private morning patrol of the beach to search for turtle tracks, nests, and hatchlings. And if you want to be involved even after you leave Sea Island, adopt a sea turtle nest through the resort's Adopt-a-Nest program.

04 of 06

Bald Head Island, North Carolina

Baby Sea Turtle Crawling Through Sand
Mark J. Thomas/Getty Images

Home to loggerhead sea turtles and the occasional green sea turtle, leatherback, or Kemp's Ridley, Bald Head Island's nesting season runs from around mid-May through August, when nests usually begin to hatch. Become a member of Bald Head Island Conservancy and accompany naturalists on nighttime Turtle Walks to potentially see turtles nesting or hatchlings emerging from their nests.

05 of 06

Edisto Beach State Park, South Carolina

Nesting sea turtle at Edisto Beach State Park

Courtesy of Discover South Carolina

This beautiful state park lies about 50 miles south of Charleston on Edisto Island. For an up-close-and-personal loggerhead sea turtle encounter, sign up for a ranger-guided walk in the summer months—Edisto Beach State Park is one of the few areas where the state allows nighttime turtle walks.

Devoted turtle fans can sign up for the Tour de Turtles for opportunities to join morning patrols and nest inventories at four South Carolina state parks, including Edisto Beach. The program sells out quickly, so look to register in December.

06 of 06

Archie Carr National Wildlife Refuge, Melbourne Beach, Florida

Turtle Hatchout At Sunrise
Sea turtles hatch at sunrise at Archie Carr National Wildlife Refuge.


Take a guided sea turtle walk with the Sea Turtle Conservancy in Archie Carr National Wildlife Refuge, a 20.5-mile stretch of beach designated to protect the world's most significant area for loggerhead sea turtle nesting and North America's most significant area for green turtle nesting. The walks are offered Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays in June and July. Or, join a sea turtle nest dig on an early August morning—space is limited and registration occurs each Monday.

Was this page helpful?
Related Articles