Almost three fourths of the North Beach acreage is devoted to National, State or County parks or preserves. This brings many visitors to the area for recreational purposes. These attractions are all accessible from A1A. The following map provides the locations of facilities that are described in following paragraphs.
National Navy UDT Seal Museum (www.navysealmuseum.com)
Jim Watson, a member of Seal Team 2 championed creation of the UDT-SEAL Museum. There was no government support for its creation, but rather an act of love and effort by former Underwater Demolition Team personnel. It was opened in 1985 in the Fort Pierce Treasure Building. That's the circular building that some historical accounts indicate that Mel Fisher used to display his treasure finds in the late 1940's. However, some dispute that Mr. Fisher ever used the building. The museum was dedicated during the first annual muster with about 150 in attendance. In 1993 the old building had a major expansion, adding nearly 7,000 square feet of space. The historical content continued to grow, both inside and outside, as did its membership subscriptions and visitors. On February 7, 2008 it became a national museum and officially known as the National Navy UDT-SEAL Museum. Displays of weapons, pictures and explanations abound. Brass plaques indicating each SEAL team and their membership adorn the walls inside the museum. Since 1985 the Museum has been hosting an annual muster when North Beach is invaded by thousands of former UDT members, Seals and their supporters for a weekend of military demonstrations, remembrances and celebrations. This annual event continues to grow each year and receives increasing county and national attention. In 2012 there were nearly 20,000 at the annual muster.
Early in 2011 another major expansion added about 8,000 square feet of building space to provide for continued growth of museum exhibits. This expansion also allowed the Museum to serve other North Beach needs such as voting location, hosting NBA meetings and picnics, etc. Many functions that had been hosted at the Radisson Inn before the hurricanes of 2004 had to find new, sometimes make-shift, facilities after the Inn was destroyed. By 2012 the Museum was hosting 65,000 visitors annually. More exhibits are added each year, both inside and outside, and on November 7, 2010 a beautiful Wall of Honor was added to recognize the members who had lost their lives in action from 1941 forward. The wall is organized by era with World War II and Korean War (1941-1953) having 96 honorees, Korean and Cold War (1954-1989) with 102, and Desert Storm and War on Terror (1990 and later) 76. The concrete walkways running among outside displays are lined with bricks honoring SEAL associates. More are added each year. By 2013 there were 3,000 such bricks. A well-stocked gift shop was added in 2012. The museum being a major attraction draws many visitors to St. Lucie County and the Treasure Coast.
The following pictures depict the Wall of Honor, the honorary bricks lining walkways, beach obstacles removed from the nearby ocean/beach, and the SEAL Team's super intruder, called the Mark V Special Operations Craft (SOC), just arriving for outdoor display December 2012. SOC's first became operational in 1996. This monster came through the port of Fort Pierce and was trucked over the North Bridge with police escort in the middle of the night because it took the width of the entire highway to accommodate its size. It is 82 feet long (108 feet counting its carrier) and 17.5 feet wide, nearly twice as wide as a normal truck bed, weighs 52 tons and is reputed to operate at speeds in excess of 65 MPH. The specially constructed truck/trailer carrier runs on 26 wheels to support and distribute the weight. The SOC is propeller-less being powered by water jet thrusters driven by twin 12 cylinder diesels cranking out 2,252 horsepower. It is operated by a crew of 5 and carries 15 fully equipped SEALS to their destination. It can carry 4 Combat Rubber Raiding Craft with six outboard motors to deploy SEALS to clandestine targets. The Mark 5 has a range of over 500 miles with 2121 gallons fuel capacity and has substantial armament. The SOC in the museum was operational 2001 to 2012. When needed quickly at a distant destination, it was flown in a C5 aircraft.
The museum is constantly adding to its displays. Also added in 2012 was the Trident House, a 3 bedroom retreat for SEAL members and their families needing short relaxing stays away from daily rigors. The house is complete with swimming pool and dock, and is located on the river in Sebastian. It was donated by Bill and Teddy Novak in memory of their son, a former SEAL who died in Afghanistan while fighting for our freedom.
By 2014 the Museum initiated a million dollar plus upgrade. A black hawk helicopter will be added outside and the inside of the building will have a significant layout upgrade and the addition of interactive displays. Initial plans were also started toward another major building addition.
Fort Pierce Inlet State Park
335 acre recreational area with picnic facilities, ocean beaches, showers, restrooms, birding, canoeing, kayaking, hiking trails, diving, snorkeling and fishing.
North Causeway Island Park
Ample parking, covered picnic facilities, fishing, boat ramps, fish cleaning stations, and restrooms.
Kings Island Preserve (has access to Jack's Island Preserve)
Once the site of a Native American fishing camp, this upland and wetland preserve encompasses 174 acres and features nearly three miles of trails, two 30-foot boardwalks, covered picnic tables and two observation platforms. This property was purchased by the county from Indian River Investments, Inc. for $650,000 April 29, 1998. It has Birding, Fishing, Hiking Trails, Picnic Tables, Historic Interests, Observation Areas, and Piers/Docks.
Wildcat Cove Preserve (has a dog park)
Stan Blum Boat Ramps
On June 18, 1998 the state gave permission to the county to construct boat ramps and parking on the western part of Fort Pierce Inlet State Recreation Area. They also provided $476,000 of funding toward the total package cost of $836,000 for the effort. Initially 4 boat ramps and ample parking were established. There were also provisions for boat washing stations, rest rooms, picnic area and the eventual addition of 2 more boat ramps.
Queens Island Preserve (has various unconnected acreages)
Acquired by the county from federal agencies (Treasury Department and Department of Interior) October 25, 1948 through the efforts, to a large degree, of its namesake, Senator Claude Pepper. In fact the park has a dedication marker to the Senator dated 1941. The original transfer was 43 acres. Other acreage was added over the years and the Beachside and Riverside parks evolved as follows:
Pepper Park Beachside - 3375 N A1A, North Hutchinson Island
52.4 acres. Beach has life guard year round, ADA accessible from parking lot to boardwalk, large pavilion, picnic tables with grills, restrooms, showers, playground, basketball, tennis courts, boat ramps and fishing pier, ample parking.
Pepper Park Riverside - across A1A from Pepper Park Beachside
27 acres. Covered pavilions, restrooms, grills, ample parking, kayak/canoe launch, fishing pier.
Little Jim Bridge Park (leased & privately operated by Richard and Rita King) - boat ramp, marina, food service, music, kayak rentals, rest rooms, fishing supplies, boat fueling, and slips for several dozen boats are available in this quaint old Florida fishermen's hangout. This place had the Little Jim name from its origin but nobody knows who Jim may have been. The first building at this site was a WW II guard Shack operating as a military check point for island entry. From this, the site grew into a gathering place for avid fishermen, many being former Navy SEALS. William Turner established the Little Jim Bait and Tackle business there in 1944. There were a number of proprietors until 2004 when the twin hurricanes decimated the place. Seems nobody wanted to re-establish or rebuild it until Rita and Richard King came along. They loved the place and had kept their boat there since 1994. They decided to rebuild it and had many issues to overcome. There is city, county and state owned territory involved, with the city owning the land where the building sits. This complicated matters because the city envisioned a deluxe modern restaurant there, not a classic Florida fishermen's hangout. After much legal expense ($40,000) the King's did gain a long term lease and rebuilt enough of the old place to host the 2005 Seals' beer bash for Jimmy Watson in conjunction with the SEALS' muster at the SEAL Museum that year. Old fishermen and former SEALs pitched in to help in the rebuilding. The fishing pier of today is what is left of the old wooden structure that bridged over the water to the primary Hutchinson Island. While the Kings are the proprietors, they still maintain their fulltime jobs elsewhere. They are interested in the establishment remaining a classic fishermen's hangout but gaining some sort of formal historical recognition. The pictures that follow show the Kings and the author, the destruction from the 2004 hurricanes, and the remains of the old wooden bridge currently used as a fishing pier. An old newspaper picture also follows.
Avalon State Park
Avalon has more than a mile of increasingly rare undeveloped beachfront. The park provides habitat for many species of wildlife. Threatened and endangered sea turtles such as the loggerhead, Atlantic green and leatherback nest on the beach during the spring and summer. Dune crossovers protect the fragile dune ecosystem. The park is ideal for swimmers, snorkelers, fishermen and sunbathers for beach recreation. Swimmers and snorkelers are advised to be cautious of underwater obstacles left behind by amphibious warfare exercises during World War II. Visitors can enjoy a meal at sheltered picnic tables overlooking the beach.
This park is really an evolving effort. Overall there are over 600 acres involved in the park and it stretches from ocean to Indian River Lagoon. The hurricanes of 2004 destroyed the ocean side boardwalk and picnic facilities. These were rebuilt with more permanent structures including comfort stations. This area is being expanded northward with more parking and additional facilities. The area west of A1A will be upgraded with hiking trails, a canoe/kayak launch and parking and the creation of a group camping area
Jack Island Preserve State Park
Complex of hiking trails up to 4.2 miles. 30 foot observation tower. A foot and bike bridge to the excellent hiking trails on the island was opened early 2015. A sign as you enter the island pictures the hiking trails.
Queens Island Park Under development (has multiple accesses and features)
Also adjacent to St. Lucie County on A1A are two sizeable Indian River County Parks, namely:
Round Island Oceanside - extensive ocean front facilities
Round Island Riverside - extensive river front facilities