Bird Island is a Not So Secret Wildlife Sanctuary

Ponte Vedra Beach is known as home to world class golf along Florida’s Historic Coast. The seaside settings are a draw, too.

But nature sanctuaries should also be high on the to-do lists for visitors making their way to Ponte Vedra Beach. A drive down Florida A1A, the main thoroughfare through Ponte Vedra, moves visitors quickly past the local library branch. But just behind that Ponte Vedra Branch Library is a treasure trove of nature that’s not only compelling for the adults, but it’s a sanctuary of tranquility for kids centered around a pond and an outcropping that draws those outdoor wonders.

Bird Island Park is a temple of tranquility and wildlife. Lined with boardwalks and a pavilion that juts out over the water in the pond, it provides nature views. It’s a nearly pristine setting with turtles and fish instantly drawn to those peeking over the rails of the wooden boardwalks overlooking the green water.

And in the middle of that pond is the namesake for the park: Bird Island. It’s a small outcropping of local shrubbery and trees – known as a wildlife hammock -- but plays home to Florida fowl ranging from egrets to herons and other wild water birds that often roost there.
Kiosks with wildlife information provided by St. Johns County, which owns the park and the library, helps visitors identify the different birds they might see in the park. There’s also plenty of reading on the underwater wildlife.

But the serenity doesn’t stop at the water’s edge. The entirety of Bird Island Park spans a few acres with concrete pathways winding through what is essentially an ancient sand dune, though the park is about a half mile west of the Atlantic coast.

Even on steamy Florida summer days, the path streams through a canopy of local trees and vegetation that provides plenty of shade to take the edge off the Florida sun. There’s even a playground for kids at the northern end of the park and a small circular educational amphitheater for school visits on the south.

A life-size statue of a small girl reading a book greets visitors on a chair and a funky turtle sculpture livens up the walkway with a spectrum of color on the trails at another stop.

Then the kids really get to have fun as a rather large hedge maze that’s shaped in the outline of a turtle presents a different kind of path. And don’t worry mom and dad, that maze is made of knee-high hedges so you won’t lose sight of the kids.

At the western end of the hedge maze, is yet another large pavilion with kiosks and wildlife reading. It’s also connected directly to the boardwalks surrounding the pond with a small wooden bridge, as are almost all pathways.

Keeping with the kids theme, there are multiple benches along the concrete path throughout the park meant to provide a respite for smaller visitors. Many of the benches are designed in the shape of local wildlife ranging from rabbits to alligators just to name a few.

The safe space for wildlife and families is amazing considering similar attractions in larger cities might easily charge entry fees for such an amenity. But Bird Island Park is free as it was intended to be when it was founded. It’s open from dawn to dusk every day.

An entire afternoon could easily be spent at Bird Island Park for the ecologically inclined or for the family who wants a quiet resting space after a round of golf or a day of shopping at some of the stores or restaurant offerings in Ponte Vedra Beach.

The founding of the park is also a testament to Florida’s Historic Coast penchant for nature and civic pride. The pond and bird hammock have been located by the library for years. But the waterway and surrounding area were considered overgrown and inaccessible until a community effort turned it into what it is today.

The official address of the library is 101 Library Blvd. It’s only a couple of blocks south of Solana Road on Florida A1A. Officials ask park visitors to park their vehicles at a designated parking lot to the south of the library. They would like to keep library parking set aside for library patrons. Also, you are asked to refrain from feeding any wildlife in the park.