Bathtub Reef Beach
Bathtub Reef is located just offshore at Bathtub Beach Park, 1585 SE MacArthur Boulevard in Stuart.
Bathtub Beach is special, due in large part to this reef system just offshore, home to more than 500 marine creatures, including endangered sea turtles. This reef system is created by tiny tube-building Sabellariid sea worms and is not only incredibly unique, but also an extremely fragile one. The worms cement sand grains together, creating a vast network of tube dwellings. Colonies build on top of one another over time and create a reef system that helps break waves in the summer months, creating a “bathtub effect”.
During the calmer seas of spring and summer, it is normal to see sandbars inching toward shore eventually attaching and creating beaches favorable for recreational use. These are also the conditions under which the reef does its best job at keeping the waves from eroding the beach. While this “bathtub effect” is one of the beloved features of the protected waters along the beach, it is important to note that recreational accessibility is greatly impacted by varying seasonal conditions.
Management & Storm Response
While unique, ocean energy greatly impacts the fragile reef system at Bathtub Beach and can increase the frequency and severity of beach erosion. This type of reef system is not tall or sturdy enough to break up the wave energy throughout the fall and winter seasons, or in rough conditions like Nor’easters, tropical storms and hurricanes.
Under these conditions, the water inside the reef can develop strong currents, and big waves breaking just offshore can cause extensive beach erosion.
After rough conditions, this reef is tall enough to keep the sandbars from moving back to shore, resulting in a thin beach where the effects of erosion are much more significant. The result requires regularly scheduled restoration work and hurricane recovery projects. In addition to protecting this valuable reef, these restoration projects also provide critical protection for upland structures, infrastructure and MacArthur Boulevard.
2018 Restoration Project Complete
Bathtub Beach has reopened to the public as of Saturday, April 28.
Crews began work in February 2018 to repair damages from Hurricane Irma, placing 140,000 cubic yards of sand and replanting dunes with sea oats, a critical component of dune stabilization and shore protection. The beach nourishment project restored the beach and dunes that provide significant protection for infrastructure.
Additional work at the beach includes new restroom facilities and improved beach access. Martin County Ocean Rescue is on duty between the hours of 10 a.m. and 5 p.m. Ocean Rescue reminds patrons to swim near the guarded area for safety.