Florida: Erosion from high tides, rough surf closes Martin County's popular Bathtub Reef Beach

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Martin County's popular Bathtub Reef Beach / Photo by Martin County

Posted November 19, 2019

MARTIN COUNTY — Bathtub Reef Beach is closed because, well, there's no more Bathtub Reef Beach.

A combination of high tides, waves and wind have washed away the popular beach near the southern end of Hutchinson Island.

Closed by Martin County officials Thursday night, it won't reopen until "there's a walkable beach, even at high tide, and safe access from the parking lot to the beach," said Deputy County Administrator Don Donaldson.

When that happens depends on the weather, Donaldson said.

Heavy surf conditions and safety concerns required officials to close Bathtub Beach beginning Friday, Nov. 15, 2019, in Stuart.

Heavy surf conditions and safety concerns required officials to close Bathtub Beach beginning Friday, Nov. 15, 2019, in Stuart. (Photo: HOBIE HILER/SPECIAL TO TCPALM)

"At minimum, it will take until the current stormy weather subsides," Donaldson said. "But if we get a series of recurring storms, it could be sometime in December, after the high fall tides go away."

Worse this weekend

Look for conditions to worsen slightly this weekend before getting better early next week, said Derrick Weitlich, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service in Melbourne.

"The highest waves and winds will be this weekend," Weitlich said. "So there could continue to be erosion along area beaches."

Beyond that, Weitlich said, it's difficult to say.

Read more.

Read also Martin County Press Release


Beginning Friday, November 15, and until further notice, Bathtub Reef Beach will be closed due to erosion and safety concerns. The beach will not be able to withstand the impending rough surf and high tides, and in an abundance of concern for resident and visitor safety, the beach, pavilion and parking areas will be closed.

Due to the erosion, Martin County Ocean Rescue needed to remove the lifeguard stands from the shoreline. Bathtub Reef Beach will not be guarded or open until shoreline conditions improve.

During this time, beachgoers are encouraged to visit other nearby Martin County beaches, each offering beach and amenities residents and visitors have come to enjoy. Jensen Beach offers a beautiful guarded beach, Sand Dune Café, restrooms, showers and plenty of parking. Other nearby beaches include Stuart Beach, Chastain, Santa Lucea and Tiger Shores for quiet relaxation on the shore.

View all Martin County beach locations in our Beach Locator Map.


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 up over time and create a reef system that helps break waves in the summer months, creating a “bathtub effect.”

Sabellariid sea worms

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.


To listen to daily pre-recorded information on the beaches such beach closure notices, tide times, surf and weather forecasts, and the number of lifeguard towers open for the day, call Martin County's Beach Information hotline at (772) 320-3112.

Martin County Ocean Rescue is on duty at Bathtub Beach from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Bathtub Reef Beach
1585 SE MacArthur Boulevard
Stuart, Florida, 34996


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.

Source: coastalnewstoday.com