Friday, April 20, 2018

The Apalachicola NERR Nature Center

A museum may not be the first thing that comes to mind on a beach vacation, but the Apalachicola National Estuarine Research Reserve (ANERR) Nature Center is a stop worth making on your visit to the FL panhandle. The ANERR headquarters are located just northeast of the St. George Island Bridge in Eastpoint, and includes 90+ acres that stretch along the St. George Sound. The oyster harvest area to the south is one of the most productive harvest areas in the entire Apalachicola Bay System, and the Nature Preserve helps conserve the shoreline of this ecologically unique area, as well as provides an educational opportunity for visitors to learn more about the region.

First stop is the Nature Center, where a range of interactive and live exhibits allow visitors to delve into the topic of most interest to them. We watched a movie highlighting the system of rivers, estuaries, bay and gulf that makes up the very unique ecosystem, and then the kids drifted around to the exhibits that most called to them. Mikus was enthralled with the hundreds of shells identified and displayed, and recruited the help of a naturalist to help identify a shell he had found in the Gulf waters near Bradenton. Lauris gravitated towards the displays about the history of the region, and Vilis toured the aquariums in search of inhabitants he could recognize.

While the Nature Center could be saved for a rainy day, the nature boardwalks provide a nice outdoor exploration of the marsh and flatwoods that you won’t want to miss. About ½ mile of trail takes visitors for loops through the forest and to an overlook on the Sound; grab an informational card and follow the numbers to learn about some of the species that call this area home, or bring the binoculars and enjoy the view of the St. George Sound. Make sure to stop in the butterfly garden, and you might be rewarded with a monarch butterfly sighting!

On the other side of Millender Street is Millender Park, complete with beach access and picnic pavilions. Visitors can launch non-motorized boats here, or just enjoy the water on a summer day. There is a third parking area at the base of the St. George Island Bridge, which provides access to the remnants of the old bridge which today serve as a fishing pier. You can get a good view of the boats out harvesting oysters, or take in the views of the water and St. George Island across the Sound.

The Nature Center is open Tuesday to Saturday from 9am to 4pm and admission is free. Find the Apalachicola National Estuarine Research Reserve on facebook and twitter, or visit their website here.

The boys spotted this green anole and tree frog on our boardwalk hike


  1. The Nature Center sounds like a great place to go (and not just on a rainy day). My kids would love the interactive exhibits and the trail.

    1. We were blown away by the place! I had expected a little touristy place, not a scientifically-oriented full-scale museum geared for children and adults. Very happy we stopped in (and not on a rainy day)!


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