Walk into the Guana Tolomato Matanzas Environmental Education Center and be greeted by a giant North Atlantic Right Whale. That is, one hanging Calder style from the soaring atrium ceiling. Heads turn skyward to see the full-size mammal, her newborn calf, a dolphin, Hammerhead shark and Giant Manta Ray. The facility houses displays of coastal and estuarine ecosystems and the natural history of Northeast Florida.
While vacationing with my family at South Ponte Vedra Beach (a week known as Camp Lander), I took one of my grand-daughters to the GTM Education Center. Caroline is only three, but she loved the place.
The employee at the desk handed Caroline a clip board with a page of marine life drawings. She was to go on a scavenger hunt to find and match the animals to the pictures. We were instructed to look up, down and all around, as well as open specimen display cases in drawers.
Caroline took about ten minutes to locate all the sea creatures- a perfect time span for little ones. She then proudly returned her form and was given a prize– a coloring book and book mark. She was delighted and returned home to tell the other family members.
Later, my 5 and 7-year-old grandchildren paid a visit to the center with their parents. Their activity was a little more demanding, but still age-appropriate. They loved the giant shark’s teeth display as they’d been finding smaller ones on the beach every day.
As a rainy day activity, this place has the right stuff at a bargain price.
Admission is only $2 for adults and $1 for children ages 10-17. Those under 10 are free.
Hours are 9 am to 4 pm, except closed on Florida state holidays.
Location is south of Jacksonville, off State Road A1A, 8 miles north of Vilano Beach and just a short drive from St. Augustine.
Guana Tolomato Matanzas (GTM) Environmental Education Center
505 Guana River Road
Ponte Vedra Beach, FL 32082
904 823 4500