John D. MacArthur Beach State Park offers beauty on land and water
I love to walk on the beach almost as much as I love to swim there. And that’s one reason why John D. MacArthur Beach State Park in North Palm Beach is such a great destination.
But there are plenty of others.
With big rock outcroppings forming a reef right at the water’s edge, this is that rare beach where you find great snorkeling without needing a boat or long swim. Snorkelers spot a great variety of reef creatures — reef squid, colorful tropical fish and schools of tarpon and snook. On a day where waves were too rough for snorkeling, I saw schools of fish shimmering in the clear water as I walked.
John D. MacArthur Beach State Park has almost two miles of beach, lined with wild sand dunes covered with native vegetation. There aren’t many beaches in southeast Florida that rival the length and beauty of MacArthur Beach. But the rest of the park is special, too.
A scenic 1,600-foot boardwalk crosses a waterway that separates the parking lot and nature center from the beach. A tram runs regularly; a big help for folks with lots of beach gear.
The waterway is a small cove of Lake Worth, rich with estuary creatures, including oyster beds and wading birds. (In winter, you might be rewarded with a glimpse of my personal favorite, the Barbie-pink roseate spoonbill.)
Kayaking at John D. MacArthur Beach State Park
The waterways at MacArthur Beach State Park are good for kayaking, and the park rents gear at reasonable rates.
The park offers one of my favorite kinds of kayak trails – a trip to an island reachable only by boat. To make it better, it’s an historic island with an interesting story.
Add to that numerous ospreys swooping overhead, a shaded walk through a forest of native vegetation and some deserted little beaches, and you have the recipe for a great day in a kayak.
Here’s our trip report on the kayak trail to the park’s Munyon Island, a historic and scenic destination within John D. MacArthur Beach State Park.
Newly added to the many activities available MacArthur Beach State Park is stand up paddleboard rentals. SUPs rent for $20 for the first hour or $30 for two hours from High Point Paddle Adventures. Details on SUP rentals are here.
Other things to do at John D. MacArthur Beach State Park
- MacArthur Beach features a short (one third mile) hike, the Satinleaf Nature Trail. If you don’t know the satinleaf tree, it’s worth taking the walk to admire its bronze-satin leaves.
- Picnic tables and a playground area available at the north end of the park (near the Satinleaf Trail.) Two picnic pavilions are availble for rent.
- The small nature center is pretty wonderful, with a sea turtle tank, a mangrove aquarium and several other exhibits.
Planning a visit to John D. MacArthur Beach State Park
John D. MacArthur Beach State Park is named for its previous owner, the philanthropist John D. MacArthur, who donated this treasure, 438 acres, to be a public park.
Parking: Ample and no extra charge beyond park admission
MacArthur Park admission: $5 per vehicle, up to eight people. $4 single occupant or motorcycle.
Alcohol: Not allowed.
Pets: On leashes, but not at beach.
John D. MacArthur Beach State Park hours: 8 a.m. to sunset.
There is no camping at MacArthur Beach State Park
Location: 10900 Jack Nicklaus Drive, North Palm Beach.
Useful links for visiting John D. MacArthur Beach State Park
- The website for MacArthur Beach State Park,10900 Jack Nicklaus Drive, North Palm Beach.
- Friends of John D. MacArthur Beach State Park.
- Munyon Island kayak trip at MacArthur Beach
More things to do near John D. MacArthur Beach State Park
- Lake Trail, a bike trail on the elite island of Palm Beach
- Snorkeling trail at Phil Foster Park in Riviera Beach
- Bike trails at Riverbend Park in Jupiter
- Kayaking and canoeing the Loxahatchee
- Snorkeling, swimming and exploring Peanut Island off Riviera Beach
- Hiking and biking at Grassy Waters Preserve in West Palm Beach
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The author, Bonnie Gross, travels with her husband David Blasco, discovering off-the-beaten path places to hike, kayak, bike, swim and explore. Florida Rambler was founded in 2010 by Bonnie and fellow journalist Bob Rountree, two long-time Florida residents who have spent decades exploring the Florida outdoors. Their articles have been published in the Sun Sentinel, the Miami Herald, the Orlando Sentinel, The Guardian and Visit Florida.