Visiting the Sandoway House Nature Center in Delray Beach, Florida - WanderWisdom - Travel
Updated date:

Visiting the Sandoway House Nature Center in Delray Beach, Florida

Traveling has always been one of my passions. It exposes us to new cultures and experiences and makes the world a more tolerant place.

Sandoway House Nature Center

Sandoway House Nature Center

Looking for something to do in Delray Beach other than sit in the sand? If so, I have just the thing. Tucked away right off of scenic route A1A, literally across the street from its beautiful sandy beaches, is the historic Sandoway House Nature Center.

Built in 1935 as the private residence of Mr. J.B. Evans, this Colonial Revival Resort-style house is now home to sharks, alligators, turtles, snakes, a host of other interesting reptiles, as well as Crystal, the beautiful blue and yellow macaw. And if you didn’t find that perfect seashell on the shores of Delray Beach, the Sandoway House has one of the premier shell collections in the world. So, stop on by for a few hours, talk to the staff, walk the grounds, and educate yourself on the diverse ecological marine life that calls South Florida home.

sandoway-house-nature-center-delray-beach-florida

The Sandoway House Nature Center is located at:

  • 142 South Ocean Blvd (A1A)
  • Delray Beach, FL 33483
  • (561) 274-7263

Hours:

  • Tuesday to Saturday: 10 am - 4 pm
  • Sunday: 12 pm - 4 pm
  • Closed Mondays and all major holidays.

Fees:

  • Admission fee is $6 for everyone age 3 and above.
  • Parking is available in the Sandoway House parking lot at no cost.

Shark Feeding:

  • Tuesday through Saturday at 10:30 am
  • Sunday at 1:30 pm

Alligator Feeding:

  • Wednesday and Saturday at 1 pm
Crystal the Blue and Yellow Macaw

Crystal the Blue and Yellow Macaw

Check out the Discovery Porch

Upon entering the Sandoway House you will be greeted by Crystal, the lively and colorful blue and yellow macaw who likes to bob and weave to her favorite tunes. Crystal’s home is on the Discovery Porch of the nature center, where you will also find an assortment of turtles and tortoises native to Florida.

Hopefully, you will get a glimpse of the large gopher tortoise named Maggie, who refused to come out of her den for her photo opportunity, despite my best efforts to lure her out. Gigi, however, had no such problem and is one friendly little turtle. A tip from the staff alerted me to the fact that she likes to have her neck rubbed and I was all too happy to oblige my newfound friend. Gigi is a Florida box turtle and seems very happy here in her home.

Also on the porch is a freshwater turtle pond that is home to a Florida softshell turtle, and the colorful yellow-bellied slider turtle. The Discovery Porch is the home's original porch and provides a great introduction to the Sandoway House.

Gigi

Gigi

Gigi the Box Turtle

Gigi the Box Turtle

Roam the Reptile and Amphibian Room

From the porch, you can proceed into the nature center where you will pay your entry fee and then tour the first floor. Here you will find the Reptile and Amphibian Room, and the Delray Wreck and Hex Tank Exhibit.

The Reptile and Amphibian Room has a number of interesting creatures to check out. The Cuban Knight Anole pictured here lives in a tree and as the name implies is native to Cuba. They can now be found in southern Florida and can grow to twenty inches in length. There are also a few baby alligators in the room along with other lizard species, a couple of box turtles, and an interesting corn snake named Maizey.

Cuban Knight Anole

Cuban Knight Anole

From the Reptile Room head to the nature center’s Hexagon Aquarium that is home to a number of colorful reef fish and coral. Many of these same fish can be found just offshore of Delray Beach at the site of the SS Inchulva, which sank in 1903 during a hurricane. The nature center has an exhibit on the Inchulva called the Delray Wreck that shows visitors an artist's rendition and diagrams of the steamship.

sandoway-house-nature-center-delray-beach-florida
Hex Aquarium

Hex Aquarium

Peruse Sandoway House's Seashell Collection

On the second floor of the Sandoway House is one of the finest shell collections that I have ever seen. And the story of how it came to be is equally amazing. Albert and Ann Becker of La Cross, Wisconsin started collecting sea shells during a vacation to Florida's Gulf Coast in 1953. They became so enamored with looking for shells that it became a life-long obsession. For over forty years the husband and wife team traveled all over the world collecting seashells. The result was a private collection of nearly 10,000 very high-quality shells.

sandoway-house-nature-center-delray-beach-florida
Shells from the Becker Collection

Shells from the Becker Collection

Upon their deaths the collection of sea shells was passed to the couple’s niece, Linda Becker Dean. Not knowing what to do with the shells her family started to research the best possible home for the unique collection. After much deliberation and planning they decided that the Sandoway House was the best option to show and preserve the collection.

The Sandoway House has put on display over 3,000 of the Becker shells for the public to enjoy. I have to admit that I saw shells here that I didn’t know existed. They are absolutely stunning and they appear to all be in pristine condition. This collection is touted as one of the finest private collections of sea shells anywhere in the world. I have no reason to doubt this claim.

Shells from the Becker Collection

Shells from the Becker Collection

Watch the Sharks and Alligators Get Fed

Hopefully you have timed your visit to the Sandoway House to include either the shark or the alligator feeding? I arrived at 10 am when they opened so I would have time to look around before heading to the shark pool out back.

The Sandoway House was at one time a private home with a swimming pool so the obvious thing to do with pool was to convert it to a saltwater home for sharks. Although there are other interesting fish in the pool, especially the puffer fish, the sharks are the star attractions.

The feeding of the sharks is preceded by one of the center’s naturalists who will give you the history and background on the three Nurse Sharks. These three definitely know when it’s feeding time and watching them rest their heads on the steps of the pool waiting to be fed is pretty humorous. There were two elementary school classes at the feeding and watching the amazement on the kid’s faces was priceless not to mention the interesting questions that come from a group of eight-year-olds.

Nurse Sharks

Nurse Sharks

Nurse Shark and Puffer Fish share the pool

Nurse Shark and Puffer Fish share the pool

As you head to and from the pool in the back of the house you have to pass through the Discovery Room. This is where the center holds lectures and brings the kids to talk to them about the ecological diversity of the area. Tucked away in the back corner of this room and easy to miss is a screech owl. The little guy was sitting up in the corner and I almost didn’t see him.

Screech Owl

Screech Owl

As you leave the Sandoway House be sure to walk through the gardens out front. There are a variety of local plants native to the area here and you get a good view of the house from the front garden.

I hope you enjoyed this tour of the Sandoway House Nature Center. It’s one of those hidden little gems that make’s a visit to Delray Beach so interesting and so much more than just a visit to the beach.

Delray Beach Map

© 2015 Bill De Giulio

Comments

Bill De Giulio (author) from Massachusetts on December 03, 2015:

Thank you Stella. It's small but very interesting and worth a visit next time you are in the area. Thanks for stopping by and a nice holiday season to you also.

stella vadakin from 3460NW 50 St Bell, Fl32619 on December 03, 2015:

I live close enough to visit here on one of my weekend trips. I love to see places like this with all that wildlife. I don't mind small places if they are interesting. Thanks and have a good holiday. Stella

Kristen Howe from Northeast Ohio on August 29, 2015:

My pleasure, Bill. You too!

Bill De Giulio (author) from Massachusetts on August 29, 2015:

Thanks Kristen. It's one of those small yet interesting places that I enjoy coming across. Thanks for stopping by, have a great weekend.

Kristen Howe from Northeast Ohio on August 29, 2015:

Great hub Bill. It's so informative and interesting to know about that house in DelRay Beach. Sounds like a great place to go.

Bill De Giulio (author) from Massachusetts on May 25, 2015:

Hi Catherine. I couldn't agree more. It's the nature centers and small museums that really draw me to Florida. And of course the weather, at least during the winter :). Really enjoyed the Sandoway House and the shell collection, high is amazing. Enjoy your Memorial Day.

Catherine Giordano from Orlando Florida on May 25, 2015:

I have lived in Florida (Orlando) for 20 years and was unaware of this charming museum/nature center. People who come to Florida for the "attractions" (Disney, etc.) should take a day or two to relax at charming attractions like these. Voted up and U I B.

Bill De Giulio (author) from Massachusetts on April 29, 2015:

Hi Peggy. Thank you. It's really a great area with lots to see other than the beach. If you like shells you will enjoy the collection here. Thanks for the pin, vote, share, etc. Have a great day.

Bill De Giulio (author) from Massachusetts on April 29, 2015:

Hi Glimmer. Thank you. I really enjoyed the Sandoway House. It's not a huge aquarium where there are hundreds of people, which is probably why it appealed to me. It has that local feel to it and the staff was great to talk to. It was a great experience to be able to interact with Gigi and Crystal and see the Nurse Sharks being fed. If you like shells the collection here is amazing. Hope you get there, thanks so much.

Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on April 29, 2015:

My travels in Florida have never taken me to this area and I will definitely keep it in mind if I ever go back. That shell collection alone would be worth a visit! Thanks for introducing us to the Sandoway House and Nature Center. Up votes, pinning to my Florida category and happy to share.

Claudia Mitchell on April 29, 2015:

Awesome Bill. We are thinking about trips to take over Thanksgiving and I am tagging this one. This would be very doable for us for that week and it would be nice to get some warm sunshine. As always, gorgeous pics and tons of great information. Love Gigi too! I'm a turtle fan.

Bill De Giulio (author) from Massachusetts on April 10, 2015:

Hi Mary. Thank you. I sort of stumbled onto this place and it turned out to be wonderful. The people who work there are so helpful and committed to preserving the wildlife of south Florida. Thanks so much for the vote, etc., have a great weeknd.

Mary Craig from New York on April 10, 2015:

Bill you never cease to educate and entertain. A great hub with delightful pictures. Who wouldn't want to visit Sandoway house after visiting this hub?

Voted up, useful, awesome, and interesting.

Mary Craig from New York on April 10, 2015:

Bill you never cease to educate and entertain. A great hub with delightful pictures. Who wouldn't want to visit Sandoway house after visiting this hub?

Voted up, useful, awesome, and interesting.

Bill De Giulio (author) from Massachusetts on April 01, 2015:

Hi Vellur. Thank you. Glad you enjoyed the tour of the Sandoway House Nature Center. Have a great day.

Nithya Venkat from Dubai on April 01, 2015:

Sandoway House is a great place to visit and to see animals. Great photos and description, enjoyed reading.

Bill De Giulio (author) from Massachusetts on March 15, 2015:

Hi Flourish. You hit the nail on the head, it was fun and educational, a great combination. I love finding these type of places. Thanks so much for the pin, share, vote, etc.. Have a great day.

FlourishAnyway from USA on March 15, 2015:

What a fun, educational, out-of-the-way find! I'm pinning and sharing and voting up and more.

Bill De Giulio (author) from Massachusetts on March 15, 2015:

Hi Linda. Watching the Sharks being fed was certainly interesting. The kids that were there really seemed to enjoy it also. It was a great place to spend a couple of hours and a great way to learn about some of the creatures that call south Florida home. Have a great day.

Bill De Giulio (author) from Massachusetts on March 15, 2015:

Hi Patricia. Thank you. Florida certainly has much to offer and we try to get out and about to see new things when we are there. Thanks so much for the share, vote, etc.. Have a great day.

Linda Crampton from British Columbia, Canada on March 14, 2015:

This sounds and looks like a lovely place to explore nature, Bill. If I ever make it to Florida I'll be sure to visit the Sandoway House. I think I'd find the nurse sharks looking for their meal especially interesting!

Patricia Scott from North Central Florida on March 14, 2015:

I will have to go there. I live in north Florida and travel around as much as I can when my family is all well.

This sounds like a spot I would enjoy.

Well done

Voted up++++ and shared

Angels are on the way to you this evening ps

Bill De Giulio (author) from Massachusetts on March 14, 2015:

Hi Johan. Thanks for stopping by. Glad you enjoyed the tour of the Sandoway House Nature Center

Bill De Giulio (author) from Massachusetts on March 14, 2015:

Hi Phyllis. It's not the greatest photo. He was sitting up in the corner with a ray of sunlight partially revealing him. I'll try to sharpen it up if I can.

Johan Smulders from East London, South Africa on March 14, 2015:

Thanks for an interesting article!

Phyllis Doyle Burns from High desert of Nevada. on March 14, 2015:

Ah! I just checked and the screech owl came back - he must have been out to lunch, LOL. Great pic. Thanks.

Bill De Giulio (author) from Massachusetts on March 14, 2015:

Hi Phyllis. Thank you. This was my kind of place also. I'm not much for sitting on the beach so I'm always looking these kind of hidden gems. The photo of the screech owl appears for me here but I will check to see if there is a problem. Thanks so much for the pin, share, FB, etc. Have a great weekend.

Phyllis Doyle Burns from High desert of Nevada. on March 14, 2015:

Bill, this is one hub about a place that has made it to my "bucket list" thanks to your well-written text and beautiful photos. I must visit Sandoway House somehow, some day.

The photo of the screech owl has gone missing. Hope you can get it back, I would love to see it.

I really enjoyed this article and voted it Up and across, H+ and sharing on FB, G+ and P. I give it a 10 for sure. Thank you for sharing this awesome Nature Center with us.

Bill De Giulio (author) from Massachusetts on March 14, 2015:

Hi Bill. Every time I think I am running out of things to write about I just go through my travel photos and sure enough I suddenly have a bunch of new articles to write. Have a great weekend.

Bill De Giulio (author) from Massachusetts on March 14, 2015:

Hi John. This was a great little discovery. Like you I love nature and learning about and interacting with the creatures. It was a great way to spend a few hours learning something new. Thanks for stopping by, have a great weekend.

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on March 14, 2015:

It seems to be that a travel writer such as yourself always has something to write about. The world is your oyster so to speak, and you do this so well. Nicely done, Bill. You make me want to pack my bags and go on a road trip.

John Hansen from Queensland Australia on March 14, 2015:

Sandaway House does look like a great place to visit and the admission price is much lower than most similar attractions here in Australia. I am a nature lover and being able to interact with the creatures like the turtles and the macaw etc is a plus. Very interesting Bill, thanks for sharing.

Bill De Giulio (author) from Massachusetts on March 14, 2015:

Thank you Sheila. I had been to Delray Beach before but just discovered this place on the last visit. It would be a great place to take the kids or grandkids. Thanks so much for the pin. Have a great weekend.

Sheila Brown from Southern Oklahoma on March 14, 2015:

I love you hub, thank you for sharing all the information on this place! I have been to Florida twice now and would love to go back and spend more time there. This would be a fascinating place to see and hopefully be able to take my grand kids! I am pinning this for future reference! Up and awesome, Bill!