Wellington’s Peaceful Waters: Top birding spot, close to two good nature hikes

Boardwalk at Peaceful Waters Sanctuary in Wellington.
Boardwalk at Peaceful Waters Sanctuary in Wellington. (Photo: Bonnie Gross)

On a good winter day, even casual birders will find their hearts pounding with excitement by the quantity and variety of birds at Peaceful Waters Sanctuary in Wellington.

Roseate Spoonbill at Peaceful Waters Sanctuary in Wellington.
Roseate Spoonbill at Peaceful Waters Sanctuary in Wellington. (Photo: David Blasco)

Located a half hour west of Lake Worth just down the road from Royal Palm Polo in Wellington, this is a 30-acre manmade wetland with a 1,500- foot boardwalk and a one mile trail. It attracts lots of birds — and birders!

White pelican flyover at Peaceful Waters Sanctuary in Wellington
White pelican flyover at Peaceful Waters Sanctuary in Wellington. (Photo: David Blasco)

On a cool January Sunday, there were at least 20 roseate spoonbills posing for the long-lensed photographers perched close by on the boardwalk. Two dozen white pelicans with 9-foot wing spans cruised overhead.

Through the binoculars, experts were identifying birds I had never seen (Lesser Scaups, for example) while all around, there was squawking and grunting from the large numbers of more common birds, such as herons, ibises, egrets, storks and many more. (Here’s the park’s bird list.)

For South Floridians, this sanctuary is a good addition to the well-known Wakodahatchee Wetlands and   Green Cay Wetlands,  located a half hour south.

Peaceful Waters is located inside Village Park, where there are restrooms and picnic tables. There is no admission fee.

Nearby: Wellington Environmental Preserve

Wellington Environmental Center has a six-story tower and three miles of walking trails.
Wellington Environmental Preserve has a six-story tower and three miles of walking trails. (Photo: Bonnie Gross)
Boardwalk at Wellington Environmental Preserve.

While you’re in Wellington, consider taking a walk at Wellington Environmental Preserve, 20 minutes west of Peaceful Waters.

Whereas Peaceful Waters is small and full of birders, Wellington Environmental Preserve is big, open and nearly empty of people. It’s a 365-acre area designed to store rainwater. There are about three miles of paved walking trails and boardwalks curving through the property and a 3.6 mile equestrian trail circling the park.

A six-story observation tower provides an impressive view of the park and the adjacent Everglades.

The preserve is landscaped with native trees but few are tall enough yet to cast much shade, so this is best for a cool day. With its paved trails, It would make an excellent biking location for families with younger children.

The preserve attracts a variety of birds, but its broad expanse means they are rarely as close and visible as at Peaceful Waters.

The preserve was built as part of Everglades restoration to naturally cleanse rainwater runoff from Wellington before it enters the Everglades.

There are restrooms at the park. There is no admission fee.

  • Wellington Environmental Preserve
  • 3491 Flying Cow Ranch Road
  • Marjory Stoneman Douglas Everglades Habitat
  • Wellington, FL 33414

Nearby: Royal Palm Beach Pines Natural Area

A third hiking-in-nature destination in the area is the Royal Palm Beach Pines Natural Area, 20 minutes north of Peaceful Waters Sanctuary.

Its 773 acres are composed of a pine forest and wet prairie. The well-maintained trails enable you to take a two-hour 3.6 mile hike.

If you get lucky, you may spot the magnificent sandhill cranes who make this home. With a 6-foot wingspan and a loud rattling call, you won’t soon forget the experience.

It’s a little tricky to find: Take Oceechobee Boulevard west to Royal Palm Beach Boulevard. Head north to Crestwood Boulevard, where you turn left and go to the entrance of the Saratoga Pines subdivision. There are signs (RPB Park) that lead you to it.

Approximately 1.6 miles north of Okeechobee Road and 0.7 mile west of Royal Palm Beach Boulevard. From Royal Palm Beach Boulevard, take Crestwood Boulevard west and turn right onto Saratoga Boulevard; follow Saratoga Boulevard to Nature’s Way; turn left on Nature’s Way to reach the parking lot. There are no restrooms or drinking water. There is no admission fee.

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