Florida's Wildest Beaches
John D. MacArthur Beach State Park is named for its benefactor, who donated nearly 800 acres of land and a two-mile undeveloped beachfront to the state. It is a green haven for humans, as well as a popular nesting spot for loggerhead turtles. The park has been intelligently planned to optimize access while minimizing impact on its four ecosystems: beach, reef, mangrove estuary, and hardwood hammock. There's one hiking trail among 225 acres of uplands. A 1,600-foot wooden boardwalk traverses Lake Worth Cove en route to the beach, which is reached via your pick of four wooden walkways that climb over but don't disturb the dune vegetation. Numbered stops on the trails are keyed to informative brochures. On a casual stroll, we saw herons, ibis, roseate spoonbills, and ospreys, as well as acres of mangrove, cabbage palms, and gumbo-limbo. On the trail through the back dune area, we came upon spiderwebs so thick that walking into them would have created natural shower caps on our heads. More than 150 bird species have been sighted at MacArthur, and a helpful brochure lists them all, if you're of a mind to keep track.
At the beach, two warnings are posted:"No Lifeguard on Duty-Swim at Your Own Risk" and "Caution: Bottom May Contain Submerged Rocks." We dove right in, though, encountering neither rocks nor risks. We were, however, bothered by some tenacious mosquitoes, so come armed with insect repellent. Bugs aside, John D. MacArthur Beach State Park is a magical setting with some of the last untrammeled wilderness beach between here and Miami.
A shuttle cart offers regular service from the parking area to the dune walkovers. We hopped aboard and had a spirited discussion with our driver about (of all things) Luddites. "Wouldn't it be great," he mused, "to have the technology of today with the values of the '40s. It's people who kill off nature, not machines." While we've heard that unconvincing argument elsewhere (with regard to handguns), it was nice to strike up an intelligent debate with a genial stranger for a change.
John D. MacArthur Beach State Park
10900 SR 703 (Highway A1A)
North Palm Beach, FL 33408
Location: 2.5 miles north of Riviera Beach, on Highway A1A.There is a small per vehicle entrance fee.
Hours: 8 A.M. to sunset.
Facilities: Rest rooms and a visitor center.
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication