Florida Guide > Days Out
Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge
On our recent February visit to Florida we took the opportunity to revisit Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge. We had been here many years ago when our children were younger and went body boarding at the beach. The refuge roads, various trails and boat ramps are open daily from sunrise to sunset however, the visitor centre hours do vary by season.
Merritt Island is only 52 miles from Orlando and is adjacent to N. A. S. A’s John F. Kennedy Space Centre and is the perfect place to just get away from the hustle and bustle of the Theme parks and have a day exploring this 35 mile barrier island which is home to over 500 different species of wildlife and 1000 species of plant.
We decided to head straight for the Visitor Centre as we wanted to check if any Manatees had been spotted in the area and if so we would include a stop at the Manatee Observation Deck but unfortunately the water temperature was still too cold. Whilst the manatees can be spotted year round the best times are in the Spring and Fall and I think we were just a couple of weeks too early. The Observation Deck is located 10. 5 miles north of the Visitor centre off State Road 3 at Haulover Canal.
Instead we spent time in the Visitor Centre looking at the wildlife and habitat displays, chatting to the knowledgeable volunteers who man the centre and then took a walk around the ¼mile Boardwalk, spotting numerous birds and watching a few snapping turtles basking in the sun.
We had the option to either head to the Black Point Wildlife Drive which is a 7 mile one way drive through the freshwater marshes and gives fantastic opportunities for spotting the abundance of wildlife from wading birds right through to alligators. We had done on previous visits so instead we opted to head off to the beach. You will need to purchase a pass and the current cost for a daily pass is $5 per vehicle however, you can but an annual pass at the visitor centre for $15 if you plan more than the one visit .
We headed for Playalinda beach which offers 24 miles of beach. There are numerous car parks which offer easy access to the beach together with rest room facilities. Parking Lot number 8 is also offers wheelchair access to the beach. On the drive to the beach you get fantastic views of the space centre including some of the launch pads and in the distance the Vehicle Assembly building.
The beach itself is pristine and we spent a few hours just chilling and relaxing watching the pelicans and sea gulls. The sea was just too chilly to take a dip this visit but on earlier visits our children love body boarding here.
Author: Mike and Michelle Walden
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