Peanut Island

With summer break just around the corner, it’s time to start thinking about how to pass the time and make memories the whole family will remember fondly. Take a trip down to the Palm Beach area and make your way over to Peanut Island, a man-made paradise, both above ground (the island itself) and under the sea (the man-made reefs that the area is known for). The island is also home to a very significant historical landmark – JFK’s Cold War bunker, which is currently under restoration and expected to be reopened to the public again in the next few years.
To reach this 80-acre park, you can launch your own vessel, either boat, kayak or SUP, as it’s a short, easy paddle to get there. If you would rather be ferried, take the Peanut Island Shuttle. For only $25 per adult or $15 per child, you can hop aboard with all of your beach gear and be there in less than 10 minutes. Running non-stop every day from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., it even sells snacks and drinks. Reservations can be made online and walk-up tickets are also available.

Peanut Island originated from a dredging project in 1918 and became a county park in 2005. Now famous for its snorkeling and white sand beaches, it also houses a campground, tiki-style thatched roof pavilions with grills, bathroom facilities, a 1.5-mile-long nature trail, fishing dock, boat slips (for day use only), and a walkable sandbar off the coast (accessible during low tide). Hidden among the tall grass in the island’s center is JFK’s Cold War bunker, a fallout shelter, known as “Detachment Hotel” that was built just after 1960. It was open to the public until 2017. An old Coast Guard barracks and refueling dock sit opposite the bunker, inaccessible as well.
People come from all over to take the plunge into the rush of crystal clear water that flushes into the area surrounding the island during high tide. The close proximity to the Gulf stream and the strong tidal flow gives Peanut Island the distinction of having some of the clearest waters in the Sunshine State. The artificial reefs that dot the shoreline are an oasis for tropical fish including the much-loved parrotfish, scorpionfish, barracuda, sea horses, spotted eels, manta rays, nurse sharks and even manatees. If you are lucky, you may spy a brilliant orange cushion star or nine-armed sea star lying in the sand in this underwater oasis, to the delight of children and adults alike. You will find it hard to pull yourself from the underwater beauty your eyes will behold.

Though peace and calm can be found on the island on weekdays and in the off season, it is a contrast to the party like atmosphere on the weekends afternoons, with boats and jet skis anchored off the beach outside the swimming area, music bellowing and crowds amassing. Houseboats have taken up permanent residence off the island, and each year more fall victim to hurricanes and strong storms, their partially submerged ruins making for fun exploration when visiting the sandbar and providing the perfect spot for wildlife to thrive. Be sure to make your way back to the island during slack tide, as the currents are particularly strong in the area when tides change.

Plan a weekend getaway to the Palm Beaches this summer and visit Peanut Island. Whether you are a beach bum looking to relax, a history buff ready to explore, a fisherman ready to cast, or a water lover ready to take the plunge, there is something there for everyone.



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