On the barrier island that protects Titusville, Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge is one of the top destinations in Florida for winter birding.
The Visitor Center boardwalk eases you into an introduction to typical habitats on the refuge and provides an easy spot for birding.
Short yet broad, the boardwalk follows the edge of an oak hammock to a roofed observation deck overlooking a pond.
This is an easy stroll for visitors of all ages and abilities.
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Length: 0.5 mile loop
Trailhead: 28.641567, -80.735717
Restroom: Inside the Visitor Center
Land manager: Merritt Island NWR
Open 8 AM to 4 PM Mon-Sat. No pets, please. Check out the interpretive displays in the visitor center, and visit the gift shop for field guides.
If the gate is shut, the area is fully closed. If the gate is open, the trail may be open even when the building is not. Portalets may be available in the parking lot.
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 right at the divide in the road to continue on CR 402. Drive another 2.8 miles to the Visitor Center entrance on the right. An ample parking lot adjoins the smaller one.
Before you walk this trail, take the time to look at the exhibits inside the visitor center. They provide an overview of habitats and history at the refuge.
A gift shop occupies one corner. The exit to the boardwalk is in the opposite direction. As soon as you step outside, notice the signs about painted buntings.
During the winter months, they often show up in pairs at the feeders set just off the end of this side of the building.
Follow the boardwalk down towards the ponds. Birders are often rewarded with sightings of wading birds here.
Look for purple gallinules hiding in the grasses along the pond’s edge, and little blue herons stalking the shallows.
The boardwalk sweeps around to the back of the building and down to a native plant garden and butterfly garden.
Beyond it, it begins tracing the outline of the larger pond, leading past stands of cattails as it enters the oak hammock.
In the oak hammock there is a junction in the boardwalk. Turn right to continue around the loop.
The next side trail to the right leads to a platform overlooking a large open marsh, another good birding stop.
The trail loops around through the hammock to come back to the edge of the large pond. A roofed platform provides a place to sit and watch wildlife.
More benches are along the path as it continues behind the screen of saw palmetto to finish the loop.
Continue back along the walk to the visitor center to finish this easy half-mile excursion.
Learn more about Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge
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
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
See our photos of the Visitors Center Boardwalk