Snorkel and Camp on Peanut Island

Peanut Island Panorama

A panoramic view of the island


Description: Snorkeling and camping under coconut palms on Peanut Island, a spoils island in the shadow of Palm Beach.

Starting Point: About 1/4 mile due east of Riviera Beach, or about 3 1/2 miles NNE of West Palm Beach. N 26.775 deg, W 80.0467 Ending point: Same place.

Maps: None needed.

Contact: Peanut Island Park Palm Beach County Parks & Recreation Department) 561-845-4445 Campground office open from 8 AM to 8 PM, "island time." If they're not in, leave a message.) If you're in the area, you can hail the park on Marine VHF radio, Channel 16.

Capt. Joe's Peanut Island Ferry Riviera Beach Municipal Marina 200 E. 13th Street, Slip 517 Riviera Beach 561-339-2504

Palm Beach Water Taxi 561-683-8294 or 561-844-1724, Ext. 2001

Sailfish Marina 98 Lake Drive Palm Beach Shores (Singer Island) FL 33404 800-446-4577 561-844-1724

Adventure Times Kayaks (to rent or buy kayaks) 521 Northlake Boulevard North Palm Beach, FL 33408 888-KAYAK-FL 561-881-7218

Force E Dive Shop (to rent or buy snorkeling gear) Riviera Beach 561-845-2333


Imagine a palm-studded island with a clean, sandy beach surrounded by warm, clear, tropical Gulf Stream waters.

You don't have to go to the Bahamas to find such a setting—it's right here in Palm Beach County. What an inexpensive way to spend a few days at the beach in South Florida.

Peanut Island was created in 1918 from materials dredged from the Lake Worth Inlet. Originally only 10 acres in size, materials subsequently added eventually increased the island's total area to its current 79 acres. The name resulted from past plans to use the island as a terminal for shipping peanut oil.

Until 2003 Peanut Island looked a lot different than it does today. Before that time, it was overgrown with Australian pines, a tall and exotic species which tends to grow close together, and covers the forest floor with a thick mass of needles which effectively prohibits the growth of other vegetation.

Environmental Enhancement

Peanut Island Park

The Peanut Island Environmental Enhancement Project has undertaken to make the most of this bit of land in the middle of Lake Worth. The Australian pines were removed and replaced in some part by coconut palms, Sabal palms, and sea grapes, lending a more tropical atmosphere to the place. Although, in certain spots, the spoils island presently has somewhat of a scarred earth appearance, perhaps the growth of newly planted trees and shrubs will camouflage this aspect and add to the island's charm. In addition, a snorkeling reef and lagoon were constructed on the island's southeast side. One minor and temporary problem (as of July 2005)—clear water from the bay doesn't flow into the lagoon. But I'm told the engineers went back to the drawing board, and figured out how to get the clear, bay waters to flow freely into the lagoon, improving its waters' clarity.

Island in the Stream

Peanut Island snorkeling

The island's good snorkeling is a direct result of the Gulf Stream, which comes closest to the U.S. mainland near the Lake Worth inlet. Twice a day, with the incoming tide, the Stream flushes Lake Worth with clear, warm Caribbean waters. The best snorkeling is the hour or so before high tide to the time of high tide. As the tide recedes, Lake Worth's dark, murky waters once again overtake the area, reducing underwater visibility to just about zero.

Camping

Peanut Island campsite

Twenty coconut palm-shaded campsites, along with restrooms and showers, are available on the island. It's best to reserve a site in advance. Reservations can be made up to 90 days in advance. Stays are limited to three nights, with a maximum of one tent and six people per site. Further, you can only stay once each 60 days. Like all regulations, I suppose these are subject to change. Before you visit, be sure to get the latest camping information directly from the park.

About boats

Campers may use the island's boat dock, which is available to all visitors on a first-come, first-served basis. At night, however, non-campers must move their boats from the dock to make room for those of registered campers. If there is no room at the dock, you may anchor off the beach or beach your boat in permitted areas.

Sunset over Peanut Island

No boat? No sweat. Even if you don't have a boat, Peanut Island is still available to you. Any of several commercial water taxis can shuttle you and your gear back and forth from the mainland. Also, it's only about 300 yards or so to the island, so you can take your canoe or kayak.

Lodging

For lodging before, after (or during your trip if you're not a camper) the Sailfish Marina is a fine, old Florida establishment directly across from Peanut Island. They have lodging, boat slips, ship's store, and a charming restaurant right on the water.




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