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“There's a Great Visitor's Center There, Too!”

Guana Tolomato Matanzas National Estuarine Research Reserve
Certificate of Excellence
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Attraction details
Recommended length of visit: 2-3 hours
Owner description: The Reserve was established in 1999 as a part of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) National Estuarine Research Reserve (NERR) System and is one of three NERRs in Florida. The Reserve staff manage the Guana Dam parking area, three beach lots (north, middle, and south), a trail system, the EEC, and a field office in Marineland, Florida. The Reserve’s 73,256 acres also includes Guana River Wildlife Management Area, Deep Creek State Forest, Stokes Landing Conservation Area, Fort Matanzas National Monument, Washington Oaks Gardens State Park, Faver-Dykes State Park, Moses Creek Conservation Area, Pellicer Creek Conservation Area, Princess Place Preserve, and the River to Sea Preserve, all of which are managed by separate agencies. The Reserve is an important economic, ecological, and educational resource for local communities. The estuary provides valuable ecological services such as a nursery, storm protection, flood protection, oyster habitat, and water quality. Its health is fundamental to the survival of endangered ocean species such as the North Atlantic right whale (Eubalaena glacialis) and sea turtles. These resources provide economic opportunities in the form of fishing, recreational businesses, and jobs. As a NERR, the Reserve conducts scientific research, stewardship activities, and educational programs. Some of the unique aspects of this Reserve are its rich cultural history, location by the first city in America, pristine and quiet beaches, and diverse habitats.
Useful Information: Bathroom facilities, Wheelchair access, Activities for young children, Activities for older children
Reviewed March 12, 2014

Yes, it's a biological/habitat reserve. The dunes are natural-looking, the beach is not crowded, the trails are appealing. But everyone keeps missing a great part of the Reserve. There is a very informative Visitor's Center! Here you can see a right whale replica suspended from the ceiling, a telescope trained on an active bald eagle's nest, a couple of (sad) sculptures made out of trash picked up at the beach, a number of interactive exhibits, lots of sea birds perched nearby, really great docents and lots more. This is one of 27 or so national estuarine research reserves in the US. And since it's also a research facility, there are also many research posters to read and learn about.

3  Thank TravelGirl104
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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107 - 111 of 143 reviews

Reviewed March 9, 2014

We took the bikes out to the trails and had a wonderful day exploring. We had one mountain bike and one beach cruiser, both with tag-alongs on the back for our younger children. While I was able to ride the trails with the beach cruiser, it would have been easier with a mountain bike (tree roots, mud, etc). We took the yellow, blue and orange trails and saw some beautiful scenery. The three trails combined was the perfect distance for us. It probably took us an hour to an hour in half. The yellow trail takes you to the intracoastal where my daughter loved playing with hermit crabs and watching the fiddler crabs. We then went to the nature center and my kids LOVED it. The volunteer gave them a scavenger hunt list and the kids (ages 4 and 6) were so into it. At the end they turned it in for a surprise (rainbow loom bracelet). We will be back.

3  Thank Jennifer V
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed January 24, 2014

Maybe 10 miles from the heart of St. Augustine, GTMNERR gives walkers, hikers, bikers, fisherman, crabbers, kayakers, beach walkers, boaters, and other nature lovers an opportunity to do just that. A dog friendly park but dogs need to be leashed - for their protection on the trails. Some trails lead to the Tolomato River, part of which helps form the intracoastal waterway. Views are impressive. Admittance is $3 per carload. Perhaps the best entertainment deal in the area. There are several entrances on A1A and all offering different paths. GTMNERR also has a nice educational center at one of the entrances. Good for kids and adults.

2  Thank JaneRussel
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed December 8, 2013 via mobile

There are three parking lots with walk over A1A. Parking is very difficult so get there early or ride your bike down on the sand at low tide!

Thank Compass_marc
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed November 5, 2013

If you're looking for a quiet, secluded beach, this is your place.

I stumbled upon this gem a few months after we moved to Jacksonville. What a great place and I'm so happy that I found it. I was always very homesick while in Jax, so I'd get in my car and come to Guana Tolomato Matanzas.

Parking is on the opposite side of the beach. As mentioned in other reviews, parking is $3 but it is well worth it. Crossing A1A can be a little tricky. Wait until you're absolutely sure you can cross the road - folks fly up and down the road so it's better to be safe than sorry.

You'll cross over the natural dunes by a boardwalk and enter paradise. Miles and miles of untouched, natural shoreline. If you're looking for shells and sharks teeth, this is a fantastic place. Don't be shocked if you stumble upon turtle egg nests in season, see folks shore fishing (yes, they will catch sharks).

There are no lifeguards, no bathrooms, no trashcans at the beach. Please, leave no trace. :)

2  Thank Candace M
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

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