Blanketing the north end of Merritt Island between the Indian River Lagoon and the Atlantic Ocean, Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge protects 140,000 acres with some of the best birding in Florida.
Lat-Lon: 28.641204, -80.735856
Fees: Some portions of the refuge are free, others cost $5 per vehicle. If you have a National Parks/Interagency Pass, it covers all fees.
Open: Sunrise to sunset
Renowned for its diversity of species, the park offers hiking trails, observation decks, and scenic drives on which you’ll want to bring your binoculars and camera as you search for some of the 310 different types of birds, including Florida scrub-jays, bald eagles, black-necked stilts, and roseate spoonbills.
Although Kennedy Space Center is surrounded by the refuge, recreational activities occur on the north end of the refuge, north of the launch pads and landing strips. Access the refuge via CR 406 (Garden Street) east from downtown Titusville. At the split in the road, keep right to visit the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge Visitor Center first to get your bearings. The visitor center is open 9-4 daily. From there, you can wander farther east to the Hammock Trails, follow CR 3 north to the Scrub Ridge Trail, Haulover Canal, and Pine Flatwoods Trail (as well as several boat launches), or loop back around to CR 406 to enter the one-way single lane Black Point Wildlife Drive, which takes you to two additional trails.
Explore the park
- Back to the Hammock - Hiking the Hammock Trails in Merritt Island NWR this weekend brought back memories of hiking and camping in these woods as a young Boy Scout in the 1960s and 70s
- Bairs Cove - If you've wanted to see bioluminescence while paddling in Florida, this is your put-in spot. Bairs Cove offers an easy launch into the Indian River Lagoon as well as a sheltered cove along Haulover Canal.
- Biking Downtown Titusville - It's taken six months to be able to get back on a bike, and I'm back to checking out progress on the C2C. Here's what's new through downtown Titusville for riders.
- Black Point Wildlife Drive - Winding along a narrow hardpacked limestone road for 7 miles, Black Point Wildlife Drive offers from-your-car birding amid the marshes of Merritt Island NWR.
- Cruickshank Trail - The longest hiking trail at Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge, the 4.8-mile Allan Cruickshank Memorial Trail loops out to the Indian River Lagoon.
- Manatee Observation Deck - Where Haulover Canal connects the Indian River Lagoon and Mosquito Lagoon in Merritt Island NWR, a manatee observation deck makes it easy to watch for manatees drifting by
- North Merritt Island by bike - A bike ride through the northern part of Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge from Titusville to the Haulover Canal and back.
- Oak Hammock Trail - The wildlife-rich interpretive Oak Hammock Trail at Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge provides an easy 3/4-mile introduction to the hammocks of the island.
- On a Mission with Space Shuttle Atlantis - Thirty years. Six spacecraft. 135 missions. Learn the rich history of the Space Shuttle program inside Space Shuttle Atlantis, a compelling exhibit space at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex, with its primary focus the orbiter Atlantis.
- Palm Hammock Trail - 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
- Visitor Center Boardwalk - At Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge, the Visitor Center Boardwalk introduces you to typical habitats on the refuge and provides an easy spot for viewing birds and wildlife
- Wild Birds Unlimited Trail - Along Black Point Wildlife Drive in Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge, Wild Birds Unlimited Trail is a short accessible trail connecting two great bird observation platforms on the marshes.