One of the coolest ways to spend a few hours in Florida is to visit the Florida Oceanographic Coastal Center (FOCC). If you want a break from the beach and have an interest in sea life, then you will find this experience one of the most memorable of your stay in Florida. It is a great way to mix education with fun.
Located on Hutchinson Island in Stuart, Florida, the FOCC sits between the Indian River lagoon and the Atlantic Ocean. There are 57 acres to this nature center which focuses on marine life and Florida ecosystems.
With a primary aim to educate, the Florida Oceanographic Coastal Center offers various programs for children and adults to experience Florida’s marine life up close and personal. One of the favorite programs for most visitors is the Stingray Feeding Program, which occurs twice a day Monday through Saturday at 10:30am and 2:00pm.
During this 30 minute educational event, you can interact with different stingrays while learning about their habits. It is safe even for children to pet and feed the rays, as their barbs have been clipped. Volunteers at the center teach you how to feed these animals, and help those who may be a little unsure or timid. Although the feeding program lasts 30 minutes, you are welcome to stay as long as you wish, and continue to interact with the stingrays.
Another favorite of visitors is the Lagoon Fish Feeding Program in which you can watch the coastal center personnel feed the large Florida fish in a 750,000 gallon lagoon. Here you see and learn about the features of pompano, grouper, snook, tarpon, redfish, sharks and other Florida fish that live in this ecosystem. This program occurs twice daily at 11:30am and 2:30pm.
Other activities at the center include a guided nature trail walk, sea turtle program, as well as numerous hands-on indoor and outdoor interactive displays, including touch tanks, animal tracks in sand, puzzles and more. Each area has trained personnel who teach you about what you are seeing and the correct way to handle the different sea life. Kids love this as well as adults.
Hours of Operation and Admission Information
Admission: $10 for adults and $5 for children ages 3-12
Hours: Mondays through Saturdays from 10am till 5pm
Sundays from 12noon till 4pm.
Annual memberships are available for $50 per adult or $100 per family, and admission is free with a membership.