The Alexander Stream flows for about 45km from the east, through the Sharon region via Hefer Valley, and into the sea near Beit Yannai Beach, south of Mikhmoret. The national park that encompasses the stream is a hidden gem, rarely visited by tourists. Alexander Stream National Park covers a landscape of eucalyptus groves, historical structures, dunes, and the wide stream which is flanked by lush vegetation. Alexander Stream holds a few surprises that will delight visitors young and old.
Highlights of Alexander Stream National Park
The Alexander Stream Turtles - Alexander Stream is home to the largest population of softshell turtles in Israel. The turtles inhabit the freshwater stream and the surrounding shallow tributaries. In 1991 the stream flooded and most of the turtles were washed into the sea. The Park Authority managed to collect the remaining eggs and incubate them until they hatched and were returned to the stream.
The best place to see softshell turtles is from Turtle Bridge. The bridge is part of the Alexander Stream hike trail and is adjacent to a pleasant picnic and playground area. Two additional species of a turtle - the green sea turtle, and the loggerhead sea turtle, come out of the sea to lay their eggs on the beach. Both these species are endangered, and great efforts are made to provide them with a safe nesting ground.
Archaeological Ruin - The park is home to a kurkar hill, a calcareous sandstone mound where a 19th-century structure served as an Ottoman tax depot or custom station for goods being transported to the seaport. From the hill, there are sweeping views along the coast and inland across the park.
Beit Yannai Beach - Beit Yannai Beach (Hof Yannai) is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful beaches in Israel. Visit Hof Yannai if you’re looking for a wide sandy beach, with full facilities including showers, shade, toilets, a beach restaurant, and lifeguard service. The beach is popular with a variety of visitors from families, and groups to young adults, and sports enthusiasts who come to surf, parasail, and hang glide.
The beach operates from April to October, with lifeguard service from 8 am to 5 pm /6 pm/7 pm (depending on daylight hours). The beach is somewhat wheelchair accessible. There is an official campground on the sand, adjacent to the bathing area where visitors can pitch tents.
Fauna and Fauna
In addition to the softshell turtles, the stream is home to coypu, an invasive species of semiaquatic rodent that resembles a beaver. You can also see mongooses, aquatic birds like nutrias, and small reptiles. The water is home to tilapia, eels, mullets, and catfish. Near Turtle Bridge, it is easy to spot large catfish in the water.
The stream banks are thick with reeds, southern cattails, and holy brambles. You might spot dock leaves, elephant grass, and dark-purple iris flowers. Closer to the beach, the plant life changes, and you can see sea fennel, sea daffodils, sea cudweed, and morning glory.
History of Alexander Stream National Park
In the 19th-century, a small port called Minat Abu Zabura stood where the stream flows into the sea. Boats would dock here to load watermelons being shipped to Egypt and Lebanon. The harbor went out of use after WWI, but later, under the British Mandate, the Jewish community was permitted to use the harbor for exports and imports.
However, the real purpose of the harbor was for illegal Jewish immigrant ships. The Altalena docked here in 1948, carrying weapons for Etzel (Jewish underground forces). Before they had time to finish off-loading the weapons the new Israel Defense Force opened fire on the ship, forcing it to continue to Tel Aviv.
In the 19th-century Jewish settlers began draining swamps near the stream. They made the stream wider to prevent overflowing during winter rains. The stream became polluted and a health hazard. Many of the local species and precious vegetation began to die as their habitat was destroyed.
In 1982, the park was declared to protect the flora, fauna, dunes, sandstone ridges, and particularly the habitat of softshell turtles. The area underwent massive rehabilitation and the stream was expanded and deepened to further help avoid flooding. The clean water, and inviting vegetation that thrives on the banks once again has become home to creatures living in and around the stream.
How to Get There
The best time to visit is in spring or autumn. In the summer it can be very hot, and in the winter the stream is prone to flooding. To reach Beit Yannai Beach from Tel Aviv, take the coastal road (Highway 2) north to about 15 minutes north of Netanya. There you’ll exit at the Yannai interchange, and turn west, towards the sea.
At the T-junction turn right and right again. To reach the archaeological ruins follow the same route but at the T-junction take right and travel for less than a kilometer before turning left towards the sea at the “Alexander Stream” sign. Continue until you reach a bridge eastward near the stream.
Perhaps the best place to start exploring the park is from Turtle Bridge. Take Highway 4 to the Hefer Junction and turn towards Kfar Vitkin. Continue for 1 km until you come to a traffic circle with a sign “To the stream turtle park.” Cross the stream at the bridge and continue a little further to the north then turn west to the Samara Grove. For Waze, enter Alexander Stream National Park-Bet Yannai Beach.