Beachgoers can enjoy the tantalizing turquoise water from above and below while in Navarre Beach at an attraction that’s good for the environment and the economy.
Underwater and just off the coastline, the Navarre Beach Marine Sanctuary has things going … and growing. The plant and animal life is growing as you read this, attracting fascinating fish and colorful marine life to Navarre Beach.
Already an amazing location for coastal bird and wildlife enthusiasts, the artificial reefs just off the coast of Navarre Beach are now grand central station for snorkeling, scuba diving and various other beachside and aquatic recreation.
The near-shore artificial reef footprint in the Gulf of Mexico will soon triple in size thanks to local volunteers from the Navarre Chamber of Commerce Foundation who have succeeded in placing an expansion initiative into a regional reefing project. An additional reef site one mile off shore has also been approved catering to the exciting sport of kayak fishing.
“The growth continues and more plant life and crustaceans are growing on top of the reefs on top of each other. Because of that, then more of the animal life comes to feed because it’s an easy source,” Sandler said.
One reef is located in the Gulf of Mexico allowing for deep diving as well as snorkeling for the novices. The Gulf reef is about 2,000 feet east of the Navarre Beach Fishing Pier or about 400 feet from the shoreline near lifeguard tower No. 1. The reef site is designated by large, white poles with red and green markers.
The deeper water of the Gulf provides a much wider variety of sea life and vegetation. The reefs offer a colorful kaleidoscope for viewing and attract marine life that you could be lucky enough to spot such as sea turtles, octopi and juvenile and adult fish like cobia, grouper, king mackerel and red fish. Other interesting underwater inhabitants call the reef home or make frequent visits to the growing structure.
The Gulf reefs are 15 to 20 feet below the surface. Green flag days offer the perfect opportunity for even inexperienced snorkelers to easily access the reef. On clear days, paddle boarders and kayakers can view the reefs from their unique vantage point. In other words, you’ll be able to fit in those deep dives and still have time to spend another day in beautiful Navarre getting your land-legs back before returning home.
There are also two reefs located on the north side of the county park in the Santa Rosa Sound. The calmer waters of the Intracoastal Waterway allow younger snorkelers an opportunity to swim among the varied species that reside in the brackish water, with the assurance that they are the largest species in the water.
Oysters, the sound’s natural filtering mollusks, sustain other marine life such as shrimp, crab, sea trout and red trout that the youngsters might catch sight of as well.
An added bonus for divers and snorkelers is the opportunity to spot the Florida sea cow — better known as the Manatee — in both the Gulf and the Sound.
Also of interest to snorkelers is the Adopt-a-Reef-Tree program to provide funds to maintain and repair the reefs as needed, make additional park improvements and develop and promote the marine habitat on Navarre Beach. People have the opportunity to “sponsor” part of the reef and then return in subsequent years to witness the miracle of coral growth and the marine life that it attracts.
The marine sanctuary is an effort to shine the spotlight on the natural beauty of the area, rather than construct more buildings and attractions. Navarre Beach has always been a place of peace, relaxation and recreation rather than amusement parks and commercial developments – and local officials recognize that as something to which both visitors and local residents alike are attracted.A view from below the surface: Navarre Beach Marine Sanctuary a haven for marine life, sightseers
“Navarre (is) interested in options that are more eco-friendly,” said Nancy Sandler, chairman of the Marine Sanctuary Committee. “We have beautiful beaches and we don’t want too much commercial activity out there when we have something natural that people can enjoy.”
The Navarre Beach County Park is open from 7:30 a.m. to sunset.
For more information about the Sanctuary, visit www.navarrebeachmarinesanctuary.com
For more information call Mike Sandler: 686-6643