Best Places to See Sea Turtle Hatchlings
Padre Island National Seashore, Texas
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.
Boca Raton, Florida
Every year, the marine turtle specialists at Gumbo Limbo Nature Center monitor more than 800 loggerhead, leatherback, and green sea turtle nests, and release more than 9,000 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 July 18 to August 11 and then again from August 15 to September 8.
Sea Island, Georgia
The five-star resort's beachfront is a nesting site for loggerhead sea turtles, so the hotel offers two excursions for sea turtle seekers. Look for turtle tracks, nesting mothers, and hatchlings on a guided Sea Turtle Walk, or register for a Sea Turtle Encounter 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.
Bald Head Island, North Carolina
Home to loggerhead sea turtles and the occasional green sea turtle, the island's hatching season runs from around mid-July to late September. 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.
Charleston, South Carolina
For an up-close-and-personal turtle encounter, check out the South Carolina Aquarium's Sea Turtle Rescue, where stranded and injured turtles are cared for until they're ready to return to the ocean. Once a turtle gets the "okay" from a veterinarian, the Sea Turtle Rescue team delivers him to a local beach - and sometimes the public is invited to see him head out to sea! Find more information about public releases on the aquarium's website.
Kohala Coast, Hawaii
This year, celebrate Independence Day with the green sea turtles of Mauna Lani Bay Hotel! Since 1989, the hotel has raised juvenile Hawaiian green sea turtles in its saltwater ponds until they're large enough to be released into the wild. Each year on the Fourth of July, several two-year-old turtles are given a celebratory send-off into the ocean in a ceremony on the hotel's beachfront.
Melbourne Beach, Florida
A guided sea turtle walk with the Florida-based Sea Turtle Conservancy takes you into Archie Carr National Wildlife Refuge, a 20.5-mile stretch of beach designated to protect habitat for the Western Hemisphere's most significant area for loggerhead sea turtle nesting and the most significant area for green turtle nesting in North America. The guided walks are offered Monday through Friday in June and July.