During sea turtle season, Florida beaches become nesting grounds for beautiful and endangered creatures. Female sea turtles come ashore to find nesting sites and lay their eggs. This means thousands of sea turtle hatchlings will head to sea by moonlight just two short months later.

When is sea turtle season in Florida? You’ll find sea turtle season runs from March through October every year. During sea turtle season, Florida beaches transform into nurseries for turtle eggs and hatchlings. Ninety percent of sea turtles that nest in the United States nest on Florida beaches.

Learn more about turtle conservation and what sea turtle season brings to Florida. 

Which Sea Turtles Nest in Florida

Which Sea Turtles Nest in Florida?

Loggerhead and Green sea turtles are among the most common species you’ll find in Florida. 

Other sea turtles you’ll find in Florida include:

  • Hawksbill Turtle
  • Kemp’s Ridley
  • Leatherback

Sea turtles in Florida range in size from the 1,300-lb Leatherback to the 75-lb Kemp’s Ridley.

Sadly, all 5 of Florida’s sea turtles are considered threatened or endangered. The Loggerhead Sea Turtle is listed as threatened by the Federal Endangered Species act, while the others (Green, Hawksbill, Kemp’s Ridley, and Leatherback) are all listed as endangered.

The Kemp’s Ridley turtle is the most critically endangered Florida sea turtle. Some estimates project there are fewer than 10,000 individual Kemp’s Ridley sea turtles left in the world. There might be as few as 57,000 Hawksbill turtles left in the world.

What Month do Sea Turtles Hatch in Florida?

In sea turtle season, Florida beaches transition from being sunny tourist spots to nesting grounds for beautiful and mysterious animals. More than 100,000 female sea turtles head to the Sunshine State’s beaches to lay their eggs. They come at night, usually in the spring, and dig out nests deep in the sand to keep their eggs safe. The eggs incubate for about 60 days, depending on conditions, before hatching.

Sea turtles hatch in the late summer and fall months in Florida. This means you might see a swarm of infant turtles fighting their way to the sea between August and October. 

Where is the Best Place to See Sea Turtles in Florida?

Sea turtles nest along both the Atlantic and Gulf coasts of Florida.

Your chances of seeing these sea turtles in the wild increase the further south you go. This means you might be most likely to see sea turtles in Florida in Palm Beach, Martin, St. Lucie, Indian River, or Brevard counties.

However, these aren’t the only places you’ll find these magnificent creatures coming ashore. On the Atlantic side of Florida, you might find sea turtle nests as far north as Ormond and Daytona beaches in Volusia County. 

On the Gulf side of the state, you might find sea turtle nests in Hillsborough, Pinellas, Sarasota, Collier, and Lee counties. The barrier islands of Sanibel Island and Captiva Island, located in Lee County, are also known to be sea turtle nesting grounds. 

Where to See Sea Turtles in Captivity and Rehab in Florida

With such a large percentage of the state’s beaches serving as nesting grounds, it’s easy to see why sea turtle conservation is a big deal in Florida. You can see captive and rehabilitated sea turtles in Florida at facilities and attractions including:

While seeing a sea turtle in person in captivity or rehab can be an awe-inspiring experience, there’s nothing quite like seeing them in the wild. Let’s look further into the details on sea turtles in Florida.

Where is the Best Place to See Sea Turtles in Florida

Can You Watch Sea Turtles Hatch in Florida?

During sea turtle season, Florida beaches up and down the state turn into nesting grounds. It is possible to watch the two-hour hatching process from afar along almost any beach during this time. 

However, if you want to watch sea turtles hatch up close and in person, you’ll need a trained naturalist as a guide. Naturalist guides lead turtle walks at night along Florida beaches so visitors and locals can hopefully catch a glimpse of sea turtles nesting and hatching. The guides use special infrared lights to avoid disrupting the turtles, as the creatures use the light of the moon for guidance.

You can find this special turtle walks along many beaches during sea turtle season. Florida is known for its natural splendor and turtle walks are led by specially trained guides who show you how to respect nature while observing.

Looking got a place in Southwest Florida where you are guaranteed to see wildlife? Consider a trip to the zoo in Naples, Florida!

Where Can I go to See Sea Turtles Hatch?

Sea turtles season brings these magnificent and mysterious creatures to beaches up and down the state each spring through fall. 

The best way to see sea turtles hatching is on a guided turtle walk. These walks are held on beaches across the state by trained guides with special infrared lights. These turtle walks forbid regular flashlights and cameras with a flash, as these devices can confuse or disorientate the hatchlings. 

During a turtle walk, the specially trained and permitted guide will give an interpretive talk on turtle conservation and biology. Then you’ll head down to the beach. When on the beach, you should be able to see either a nesting Loggerhead sea turtle mother laying her eggs in the sand, or if you’re really lucky you’ll catch the hatchlings making their way toward the sea by moonlight.

Florida state regulations only allow turtle walks on the state’s beaches in June and July. Additionally, guides are required to hold a special permit issued by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC). The FWC’s Marine Turtle Permit Holders (MTPH) are the only guides approved to lead turtle walks. 

See Sea Turtles Hatch in Southwest Florida

According to information from the FWC, there are two MTPH organizations in Southwest Florida:

  1. Mote Marine Laboratory and Aquarium in Sarasota
  2. Turtle Time Inc. in Fort Myers Beach

Turtle Time Inc. is a non-profit organization and the only MTPH in Lee and Collier counties. They lead guided turtle walks on Southwest Florida beaches in June and July. If you’d like to watch sea turtles nest or hatch during your Southwest Florida summer vacation, consider giving them a call at (239) 481-5566.

How Do You Identify a Sea Turtle Nest

How Do You Identify a Sea Turtle Nest?

Sea turtle nests and eggs are very delicate and should not be disturbed.  But what does a sea turtle nest look like? You can identify a sea turtle nest by a few tell-tale signs.

Sea turtles nest in the sand. A mother sea turtle will dig out a hole to lay her eggs. She might dig several holes in the sand before she finds the right one for her eggs. You might identify sea turtle nesting holes by disturbed vegetation around the nest and flipper imprints in the surrounding sand. 

If a sea turtle conservationist has found the nest first, it will be clearly marked on the beach with signage and protected with mesh fencing. This will prevent beachgoers from disturbing the eggs inside the nest.

If you find a turtle nest in the sand that hasn’t yet been identified by conservationists, consider calling the local FWC office or a sea turtle conservation group. You can reach the FWC Wildlife Alert line at 888-404-3922.

Can You Help Baby Turtles to the Sea?

When a baby sea turtle hatches and emerges from the sand, it was a 1 out of 1,000 chance of making it to adulthood safely. The odds are heavily stacked against them. Baby sea turtles can die of dehydration if they don’t make it to the ocean fast enough. They can also become snacks for birds, crabs, and other animals.

Despite their slim chance at survival, you need to let nature run its course. It is illegal to touch sea turtles in the state of Florida and federally in the U.S. This means that you cannot help baby turtles to the sea by moving them to the water.

How Can You Help Baby Turtles?

Even though you can’t physically help them to the ocean, there are a few things you can do to help baby sea turtles and their mothers through conservation efforts. 

A few things you can do to help baby turtles include:

  • Turn off all lights when combing the beach at night during sea turtle season. Florida beaches are nesting grounds and bright lights can confuse and disorientate turtles. If you live on the beach or are staying in a beachfront vacation rental, turn off exterior lights at night.
  • Keep the beaches clean by removing trash and non-natural debris from the sand. Even the sandcastle you spent the afternoon building in the sun can be an obstacle for baby turtles heading out to see. Bring in chairs, umbrellas, canopies, and other beach gear at night.
  • Don’t touch turtles or their nests, even if you think doing so is helping. Again, it is illegal both in Florida under state laws and in the U.S under federal laws to touch or disturb baby turtles or turtle nests.

What Time of Night do Sea Turtles Come to Shore?

In most cases, sea turtle mothers come ashore at night during high tide. They might spend the rest of the night on the beach looking for the perfect spot to lay their eggs. 

Even though sea turtles use the moon to guide them back to see, it is a myth that they only come ashore during a full moon. Sea turtles come to shore throughout the lunar cycle. 

Sea turtle hatchlings usually emerge from their eggs at the coolest point in the evening. This is usually after midnight into the early morning hours, depending on the forecast.

Plan a Florida Vacation Around Sea Turtle Season

Plan a Florida Vacation Around Sea Turtle Season

Interesting in making sea turtle season part of your next Florida vacation? There are many advantages to visiting the Sunshine State during the Spring, Summer, and Fall months that align with the sea turtle season. 

Not only is the summer high time for sea turtles, but you’ll also likely find this to be the most affordable time to visit southwest Florida. You’ll also find fewer crowds and a great inventory of Florida vacation rentals available to you. 

If sea turtles are what’s bringing you to Florida, you’ll find many other nature-and wildlife-focused activities for the whole family to enjoy across the Southwest part of the Sunshine State. The Naples, Florida Zoo is a great place to see all kinds of creatures up close and in person, while the J. N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge on Sanibel Island is the perfect place for a day of exploring and birding. 

During sea turtle season, Florida turns into a nursery for these beautiful and majestic sea creatures. Get a truly wild Florida experience by seeing them for yourself. Plan your trip with help from the experts at Royal Shell Vacations. Reach out now by calling (866) 341-7799 to learn about vacation rentals, Flexcation™ Options, and more.