Following levees between vast shallow impoundments in Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge, Black Point Wildlife Drive offers some of Florida’s best birding.
While most visitors loop the mangrove-lined hardpacked limestone drive in their car, cyclists are welcome to ride the road as well.
You can stop at pulloffs between the marshes to spend time birding from your vehicle, or simply pull off the road at broader spots.
There are also two locations where you can get out of the car and wander down a trail to an observation deck, as well as one long hike, the Cruickshank Trail.
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Length: 7 miles linear
Trailhead: 28.657507, -80.754484
Fees: $10 per vehicle or $2 per bicycle
Restroom: Portable toilet at Cruickshank Trailhead. No drinking water.
Land manager: Merritt Island NWR
Open dawn to dusk. A National Parks Pass, Duck Stamp, or Federal Public Lands Pass covers your parking fee.
Plan at least an hour for the drive, two hours if you expect to walk around a little at the trailheads, and 4-5 hours if you hike the entire Cruickshank Trail loop as well.
From Interstate 95 exit 220, Titusville, follow SR 406 east for 8 miles to cross the Max Brewer Bridge and the causeway to Merritt Island. Stay left at the divide in the road to continue on CR 406. Watch for the well-marked entrance on the left.
Stop at the entry kiosk to pay your fee (or display your pass in your windshield) and pick up a copy of the interpretive brochure.
It explains different points along the route and is keyed to the numbered plaques you see along the road.
As the narrow road twists and turns between dropoffs into mangrove marshes and open lagoons, pay attention to the edges of the road while scanning the skies and the trees.
Distraction can’t be helped when roseate spoonbills wing overhead in a blur of pink, but that’s why there are pulloffs here and there along the route.
Be courteous to other drivers and use them, or at least pull to the side to let others pass when you stop for a picture.
On our drives along Black Point Wildlife Drive, we’ve found the best diversity of birds to be essentially during hiking season, between October and early April.
The first few miles are through large shallow impoundments where depending on water conditions, the flats may be dry and muddy with ponds, or a sheet of water.
When the water ponds, the birds – and alligators – gather in tight clusters.
Don’t forget to look up in the trees and down along the banks, too. Birds roost above and pick through the grasses below, or stand and preen.
Even without stops for hiking, a birding expedition can take half the day at a slow pace. Especially if you brought a good camera. Use your car like a bird blind.
The Wild Birds Unlimited Trail is the first of the two trails along the drive. It’s a half mile round-trip out to two bird blinds on two different depths of impoundments.
By comparison, the Allan Cruickshank Trail is a 4.8-mile loop out in the sun. It’s definitely for more hardy hikers and should be tackled early in the day.
An easy walk for birding along Black Point Wildlife Drive in Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge, Wild Birds Unlimited Trail is a short trail with observation platforms
Even if you don’t want to take a long hike, it’s worth a stop at the Cruickshank Trail its three observation platforms, all within a quarter mile of the trailhead.
We’ve observed roseate spoonbills and alligators of every size very close to the trailhead.
You can easily spend an hour just observing wildlife between the observation platforms.
The Cruickshank Trail also offers the only restroom along Black Point Wildlife Drive, and the only parking lot.
Once you’re past it on this one way road, there are only a couple more pulloffs before you run out of impoundments.
The last part of the drive is a long straight route paralleling a canal out to SR 3. Rarely is there a reason to stop on this section and there are no established pulloffs.
Once you get out to SR 3, turn right to get to the intersection with SR 406, where another right turn will lead you back past the entrance to the drive and back to Titusville.
Alternatively, you can visit other birding locations in the preserve, like the Pine Flatwoods Trail, the Scrub Ridge Trail, and the Visitor Center Boardwalk.
Learn more about Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge
Following the Brevard Coast to Coast Trail, it’s a short road ride along SR 406 from its current terminus at the refuge boundary to Black Point Wildlife Drive.
There is no bike lane. Download a copy of the Refuge map, below, for the full route.
The eastern terminus of the state-spanning Coast to Coast Trail is in the trail town of Titusville, where a ride on the Brevard Coast to Coast Trail provides cyclists the best ride in the county
More to explore in Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge
Delving deep into the hammocks of North Merritt Island, the Palm Hammock Trail treats you to a lush forest of mature saw palmettos under a dense canopy of live oaks on the way to an island of cabbage palms
The wildlife-rich interpretive Oak Hammock Trail at Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge provides an easy introduction to the hammocks of the island
The only fully-accessible trail at Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge, the Visitor Center Boardwalk offers many overlooks for wildlife watching and birding
See our photos from Black Point Wildlife Drive