Blowing Rocks Preserve is not the typical Florida beach. Small gentle ripple of waves do not lap up against soft white sugar sand. The barrier island that forms Blowing Rocks has a under lying substrate of Anastasia limestone, better known in Florida as coquina. Centuries of rain have cut holes into the sedimentary rock giving it a rough face and pocketed surface.
Blowing Rocks Preserve - crashing waves
If you want to see the ocean jetting into the air, then the best time to visit this barrier island is when a strong east wind is blowing (at least 15 to 20 knots) and with an incoming tide. About thirty minutes before high tide is optimal.
Blowing Rocks Preserve - another wave
With an outgoing tide, the spray is not as high. The foaming sea has been known to shoot forty to fifty feet high. A lot of photographers will use a longer lens and mount their camera on a tripod during shooting. This is fine. I prefer to use a wide angle lens (20mm) and get closer. There are drawbacks. Expect for your camera and you to get wet. About every third shot requires a lens and camera drying. Also remember, salt water is not your friend. Spray is bad enough, but with a complete drenching say good-bye to the camera electronics.
My wife and I stayed for about a half hour on both sides of the high tide moving from spot to spot. The breaking waves were spectacular.
Blowing Rocks Preserve - Calmness
Blowing Rocks Preserve - Not so calm
I was told we could go snorkeling if we wanted. The shore entry looked very difficult. Not sure if I want to face a wave of water larger than a concrete warehouse coming at me.
But the waves are mesmerizing. At times, images of Poseidon formed, some smiling, some daring me to edge closer to the water. Seeing I had a land camera, not one that was water proof, I decided to not let the Greek god tempt me to tip-toe any closer.
Blowing Rocks Preserve - Sea Grape tree canopy
- Blowing Rocks Preserve – Old road bed
Blowing Rocks has other features to see, such as a hardwood hammock. These thick clumps of trees on sand dunes or on a rise in the middle of a swamp have given rise to many theories of why they are called “hammocks”. The one I like, true or not, is that ancient sailors found this area to be dry and the trees just far enough apart to tie their bedding (a hammock) in between the skinny trunks.
Being on the beach, a nice breeze is usually found and the sun doesn’t cook you. Upon entering the coastal hammock, life changes, the humidity soars to 100%. No puff of wind ever flows through the corridor. The air is thick and hot and you feel that you have to push yourself through a sponge.
During WWII, highway A1A was built on top of the coastal dune. This made for a very scenic drive. The bad part, at night, the car’s headlights silhouetted passing tankers. Thus, easy targets for the German submarines. The road was closed and moved onto the mainland and forgotten. Strolling along the base of the dune on the ocean side, parts of the old road bed can be seen. I sat on a portion of it and tried to visualize what it was like, seventy years ago, traveling the coast of Florida a stone’s toss from the ocean. How often did the travelers back then stop for a swim, or watch dolphins and rays skim along the surface? Were they always in a rush as we are today?
I’m glad the Nature Conservancy was able to grab this piece of land. Florida has enough steel and glass condos built on shifting sand.
For more information on Blowing Rocks Preserve visit: nature.org/blowingrocks.
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