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The Sandoway House Nature Center: Delray Beach, Florida

Updated on March 12, 2017
bdegiulio profile image

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

Sandoway House Nature Center
Sandoway House Nature Center | Source

Looking for something different to do other than sitting in the sand while visiting Delray Beach, Florida? If so I have just the thing. Tucked away right off of route A1A in the heart of Delray Beach, literally across the street from the beautiful sandy beaches of Delray 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 the home to sharks, alligators, turtles, snakes, a host of other interesting reptiles, and 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.

The Sandoway House is also known as the J.B. Evans House, named after the home's first owner.

Source

Hours:

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

Fees:

  • Admission fee is $4 for everyone age 3 and above.
  • Parking is available in the Sandoway House parking lot at no cost.

The Sandoway House Nature Center is located at:

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

Shark feeding:

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

Alligator Feeding:

  • Wednesday and Saturday at 1pm

Delray Beach Map

A markerSandoway House, 142 South Ocean Blvd, Delray beach -
142 South Ocean Boulevard, Delray Beach, FL 33483, USA
get directions

Crystal

Crystal the Blue and Yellow Macaw
Crystal the Blue and Yellow Macaw | Source
Gigi
Gigi | Source

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 tune. Crystal’s home is on the Discovery Porch of the nature center and here 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 new found friend. Gigi is a Florida box turtle and seems very happy here in her home.

Also on the porch is a fresh water turtle pond that is home to a Florida soft shell 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 the Box Turtle
Gigi the Box Turtle | Source

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 | Source

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 to the Inchulva called the Delray Wreck that shows visitors an artist's rendition and diagrams of the steamship.

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Hex Aquarium
Hex Aquarium | Source
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Up 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 sea shells. The result was a private collection of nearly 10,000 very high quality shells.

Shells from the Becker Collection
Shells from the Becker Collection | Source

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.

Shells from the Becker Collection
Shells from the Becker Collection | Source

Engage the Staff

Don’t be afraid to approach the staff. They are very friendly and eager to talk with visitors about the animals that call the Sandoway Nature Center home.

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.

The Becker's Story

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Before heading back downstairs be sure visit the second floor porch, which has a great view out to the beach and the ocean.

Delray Beach
Delray Beach | Source

Nurse Sharks

Relatively slow moving bottom dwellers that are not a threat to humans. They can grow to 14 feet and can be found in the warm waters of the eastern Pacific and western Atlantic oceans.

Nurse Sharks
Nurse Sharks | Source

Hopefully you have timed your visit to the Sandoway House to include either the shark or the alligator feeding? I arrived at 10am 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 salt water 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 Shark and Puffer Fish share the pool
Nurse Shark and Puffer Fish share the pool | Source
Screech Owl
Screech Owl | Source

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.

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.

Watch the Sharks being fed

© 2015 Bill De Giulio

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    • bdegiulio profile image
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      Bill De Giulio 17 months ago from Massachusetts

      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.

    • ladyguitarpicker profile image

      stella vadakin 17 months ago from 3460NW 50 St Bell, Fl32619

      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 profile image

      Kristen Howe 21 months ago from Northeast Ohio

      My pleasure, Bill. You too!

    • bdegiulio profile image
      Author

      Bill De Giulio 21 months ago from Massachusetts

      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 profile image

      Kristen Howe 21 months ago from Northeast Ohio

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

    • bdegiulio profile image
      Author

      Bill De Giulio 24 months ago from Massachusetts

      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.

    • CatherineGiordano profile image

      Catherine Giordano 24 months ago from Orlando Florida

      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.

    • bdegiulio profile image
      Author

      Bill De Giulio 2 years ago from Massachusetts

      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.

    • bdegiulio profile image
      Author

      Bill De Giulio 2 years ago from Massachusetts

      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 W profile image

      Peggy Woods 2 years ago from Houston, Texas

      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.

    • Glimmer Twin Fan profile image

      Glimmer Twin Fan 2 years ago

      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.

    • bdegiulio profile image
      Author

      Bill De Giulio 2 years ago from Massachusetts

      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.

    • tillsontitan profile image

      Mary Craig 2 years ago from New York

      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.

    • tillsontitan profile image

      Mary Craig 2 years ago from New York

      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.

    • bdegiulio profile image
      Author

      Bill De Giulio 2 years ago from Massachusetts

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

    • Vellur profile image

      Nithya Venkat 2 years ago from Dubai

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

    • bdegiulio profile image
      Author

      Bill De Giulio 2 years ago from Massachusetts

      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 profile image

      FlourishAnyway 2 years ago from USA

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

    • bdegiulio profile image
      Author

      Bill De Giulio 2 years ago from Massachusetts

      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.

    • bdegiulio profile image
      Author

      Bill De Giulio 2 years ago from Massachusetts

      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.

    • AliciaC profile image

      Linda Crampton 2 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      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!

    • pstraubie48 profile image

      Patricia Scott 2 years ago from sunny Florida

      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

    • bdegiulio profile image
      Author

      Bill De Giulio 2 years ago from Massachusetts

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

    • bdegiulio profile image
      Author

      Bill De Giulio 2 years ago from Massachusetts

      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 profile image

      Johan Smulders 2 years ago from East London, South Africa

      Thanks for an interesting article!

    • Phyllis Doyle profile image

      Phyllis Doyle Burns 2 years ago from High desert of Nevada.

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

    • bdegiulio profile image
      Author

      Bill De Giulio 2 years ago from Massachusetts

      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 profile image

      Phyllis Doyle Burns 2 years ago from High desert of Nevada.

      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.

    • bdegiulio profile image
      Author

      Bill De Giulio 2 years ago from Massachusetts

      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.

    • bdegiulio profile image
      Author

      Bill De Giulio 2 years ago from Massachusetts

      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.

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      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.

    • Jodah profile image

      John Hansen 2 years ago from Queensland Australia

      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.

    • bdegiulio profile image
      Author

      Bill De Giulio 2 years ago from Massachusetts

      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.

    • sgbrown profile image

      Sheila Brown 2 years ago from Southern Oklahoma

      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!

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