Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge
If you’re in Florida and want a real wildlife experience, you definitely need to make it to the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge. This park offers something for everyone, with a variety of hiking trails as well as a driving route through the park.
When you first arrive at the park, don’t miss the manatee viewing area turn off. It’s a small parking lot that’s pretty easy to drive past just before the bridge. I was pretty skeptical that I would see any manatees here for whatever reason, but I was quickly proven wrong. There were a number of cute little noses popping up for air and you could even see manatee tails sticking up in areas where some were feeding. It was really cute to watch and I could have stayed there for an hour, at least!
The refuge is located on the Atlantic coast of Florida and offers sightings of many species of wildlife including the famous Florida alligator! Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge is actually the gateway site for the Great Florida Birding Trail, so you can count on seeing some pretty impressive species of bird while you’re there, too!
I opted for the driving trail, in order to see as much of the park as I could in the little time I had left. Blackpoint Wildlife Drive is a six mile self-guided tour that they say should take anywhere from 30 – 60 minutes. Let me tell you though that there are multiple stopping points along the way that are pretty hard to resist. It ended up taking me nearly two hours to complete the loop, and I seriously thought about doing it a second time! It does cost $5 per vehicle to enter the driving loop, but it’s worth the cost…I promise (80% of the revenue goes directly into funding public use projects)!
Although the tour is self guided, with wifi capabilities why not just pull up this link that describes each of the different areas. Merritt Island is somewhere that is going to stay on my Florida bucket list for a while. I have a feeling I could go back to this park countless times and still not feel like I’ve seen enough.