Turkey Creek Sanctuary and the Margaret Hames Nature Center



PICT0912Turkey Creek Sanctuary at 1518 Port Malabar Boulevard in Palm Bay. Butterfly Cassia, Cork Stem Passion Flower and Sand Pine a number of native plants in the Butterfly Garden. Bird Watchers can enjoy the Great Florida Birding Trail. Walk or jog on the 1.5-mile jogging trail.


The nature center named after Margaret Hames an environmentalist who was instrumental in saving several exceptional areas that became parks. Marine shells, Fiber Tempered Pottery Shards, Native American Pottery and Artifacts exhibited. The first examples of pottery was over four thousand years ago. Crystals from Florida, coquina, clams and fossils displayed. Pen and ink drawings of reptiles including a Gila monster and a six-lined racerunner.


Individuals donated the animals mounted in the Nature Center. Books on the table illustrate the many birds, butterflies and reptiles. More than 180 species of butterflies exist in Florida. Zebra Longwing is Florida’s state butterfly.


PICT0937Take a brochure as you walk on the boardwalk a 1.8-mile self-guided tour. People’s names carved on the wooden planks. Relax in the gazebo or have a picnic. Free entrance to the sanctuary and nature center; hours of operation on the website.

House of Refuge at Gilbert’s Bar

PICT0856House of Refuge at Gilbert’s Bar located on Hutchinson Island in Stuart. Of the 10 houses of refuge, all that remains is the House of Refuge at Gilbert’s Bar now a museum. The first house of refuge constructed at Indian River/Bethel Creek to the last houses of refuge built from Daytona to Miami. Commissioned for the United States Life Saving Service the House of Refuge at Gilbert’s Bar provided shelter, food, clothing and transportation to survivors of shipwrecks. A rocky reef off the shore referred to as Gilbert’s Bar named after Don Pedro Gilbert, a pirate who lived in the early part of the 19th century. 

PICT0876Our tour guide described the sailor’s quarters and once rescued they would remain at the house for one to two weeks. We walked through the keeper’s quarters as she told a story of each room. The keeper’s quarters consisted of a bedroom, parlor, dining room and primitive kitchen that had a fireplace only used for cooking. They had a cistern to collect water. Keepers brought their own furniture. A closet stored medical supplies; no medical care was available. The keepers bought their own supplies; the round trip to Titusville to buy supplies took two weeks. The government provided the necessary supplies to the survivors. Single or married keepers served a term of two to four years and their pay was $40 a month. 

PICT0895Exhibited in another part of the museum are tools that the Life Saving Service used to rescue the sailors. A cot and other items that the survivors were given are on display. The House of Refuge became a Coast Guard Station in 1915. Articles and photographs tells a story of sailors in the Coast Guard and Navy during the war years as well as the early history of the Historical Society of Martin County and the wrecks along the coast.

The house decommissioned in 1946 and in 1953; Martin County decided it was worthwhile to purchase the property. The government sold the 16½ acres for $10 an acre totaling $168.00. In 1956, the house opened as a museum. Plan a visit, the staff is very knowledgeable and afterwards you can sit on the back porch and look out at the ocean. Prices and hours of operation on the website.

Dunlawton Sugar Mill Gardens

PICT0788Dunlawton Sugar Mill Gardens at 950 Old Sugar Mill Road in Port Orange. Before Dunlawton Sugar Mill Gardens became a botanical garden, it was a Plantation and Sugar Mill Factory. In the early 1830s, two families Dunn and Lawton formed a partnership to run the Plantation and Sugar Mill Factory. Plaques throughout the ruins details the life of the families and the production of sugar cane. The slaves and free workers kept the plantation running.


PICT0785During the second Seminole War, the Seminole Indians burned the plantation and all that remains is the Sugar Mill Ruins. Walk around the Boardwalk to view the engine room, steam engine cane crusher, engine powered roller and boiling room. The Sugar Mill Ruins is a Protected Archaeological Area. 


PICT0764The Botanical Gardens has been in operation since the late 1980s. A Gazebo for wedding ceremonies. Couples who before married at the Gazebo had their names engraved on the hitching posts. From the Human Sundial to plants that attract butterflies, Red Buckeye, Spineless Yucca and Shell Ginger Collection to a 200-year-old Live Oak, the gardens have a wide variety of interests for everyone. An onsite Horticulture Reference Library moved from its original site in Orange City. Three trails to walk, The Audubon Trail, Florida Hammock Trail and Boggy Trail Path. Entrance to the gardens is free; donations are accepted.