Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge Travel Guide

  • Crossing over the bridge to Merritt Island
    Crossing over the bridge to Merritt...
    by alancollins
  • Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge
    by alancollins
  • Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge
    by alancollins

Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge Things to Do

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    Alligator sunning itself 4 more images

    by alancollins Written Mar 5, 2014

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    Merritt Island is a large island off the central eastern coast of Florida, covering a total area of 47 square miles. The northern part of the island is shared by Kennedy Space Centre and the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuse. The refuse covers an area of 140,000 acres and is home to an array of wildlife. There is a Visitor Information Centre which is located on SR 402, 5 miles east of US 1 in Titusville and is open from 9am to 4pm daily. The visitor's centre has a 20-minute video about the refuge, a short hiking trail, wildlife and habitat exhibits, and a staffed information desk. You can purchase a $5 pass to use Black Point Wildlife Drive, from the visitor's centre and they will also provide a map. Passes can be purchased from a self service point at the beginning of the drive. The drive is 7 miles long and though it is a track it is easy to negotiate with a small car, you can walk if you prefer. There are various information points to stop, though you can stop anywhere so long as you do no block the road. Approximately halfway round there is a car park and toilets where you can stop and then wander along various trails. Besides the dozens of birds we saw, there were a couple of large alligators that were basking in the sun.

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    • Hiking and Walking
    • Birdwatching

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    Visitor's Center from the boardwalk 4 more images

    by grandmaR Updated Dec 12, 2010

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    For almost all National Parks or Reserves, it is a good idea to stop first at the visitor center and this one is no exception. The visitor's center has an orientation to the refuge, interactive wildlife and habitat exhibits (photo 5 for an informational sign about the freshwater ponds), maps and brochures, and educational videos about the refuge. There is also a 1/4-mile handicap-accessible boardwalk adjacent to the center which offers great views of a freshwater pond and hammock habitats and associated wildlife. There were bigmouth bass and bluegills in the water (photo 2). From the boardwalk, we saw a vulture on an osprey platform (photo 4) and we saw big turtle on the road as we left the visitor's center (photo 3).

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    • Birdwatching

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    Sign 4 more images

    by grandmaR Updated Dec 12, 2010

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    After we left the Visitor's Center we drove along the road to the Haulover Canal bridge. Each time we went transited the ICW from the Chesapeake to Florida, we had to have the Haulover Canal bridge opened (photo 2). It was very interesting to be on the bridge (photo 3 and 5) instead of going under it.

    The original Haulover Canal was located about a mile south of its present location and was used by Native Americans and the early settlers of the area. Logs were cut and laid across portions of this shallow passage and mule teams were used to help haul the boats through, hence the name Haulover Canal. In the late 1800's the present canal was dug by hand. It has since been made wider and deeper with machinery.

    We had no idea when we were on our boat that there were manatees in the area, so we stopped at the Manatee Observation area. The manatees that I photographed in the marina in Titusville were more visible, although these came up to the surface fairly often (photo 4)

    The Merritt Island website says "Located on the northeast side of Haulover Canal, this observation platform overlooks an area that is frequented by manatees. As many as 42 manatees have been seen here during spring months, however use of the area by manatees varies. Interpretive panels, a polarized viewer, and tactile panels are on site. Parking is available at the deck, and a ramp makes this facility universally accessible.

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    • National/State Park
    • Whale Watching
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Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge Transportation

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    Digging machine we met on loop road 4 more images

    by grandmaR Updated Dec 13, 2009

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    #The speed limit on all Refuge roads, unless otherwise posted, is 15 miles per hour. State traffic laws that govern the use and operation of vehicles apply on the Refuge.

    # Traveling outside of designated routes of travel is prohibited. Designated routes of travel are shown on the Refuge maps or as posted with road closed, no vehicle, or foot traffic only signs.

    # Operating any vehicle or boat that does not bear valid license plates or identification numbers and that is not properly lighted, certified, registered, or inspected according to State laws is prohibited. ATV's (3-wheelers, 4-wheelers, dirt bikes, etc.) are prohibited.

    # Stopping or parking a vehicle (either attended or unattended) on a road, trail, or firelane such that it blocks the free movement of other vehicles is prohibited.

    For instance, on Black Point Wildlife Drive, passenger vans and cars are permitted. However, due to safety issues, full size buses and vehicles over 29 feet and 2.5 tons are not permitted on the Drive. We met a digging machine and that shows why large vehicles can't do this drive

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Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge Shopping

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    Shop

    by grandmaR Updated Dec 12, 2009

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    At the Visitor Center is a nature orientated bookstore which stocks environmental educational materials.

    Another slightly different possibility is offered by members of the Brevard Watercolor Society who have an exhibition called Watercolors of the Refuge from early November through the end of January in a small auditorium in the Merritt Island Wildlife Association’s visitor information center. The paintings are for sale‚ and 20 percent of the proceeds are donated to the Merritt Island Wildlife Association. Artists are also invited to make prints of their work to sell in the center’s book­store and gift shop‚ with a percentage going to the wildlife association.

    What to buy: Field guides and binoculars (if you don't already have them) can be purchased at the Visitor Center store and they will make your trip more fulfilling. There are also children's games with an ecological theme, and various articles of clothing.

    What to pay: I bought a Florida bird book ($13 plus tax).

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    • Sailing and Boating
    • Budget Travel
    • National/State Park

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Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge Warnings and Dangers

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    Looking at launch from beside the Titusville Bridg 4 more images

    by grandmaR Written Dec 12, 2009

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    One of the reasons that the Wildlife Refuge has been set aside is so that it can serve as a buffer zone for Cape Kennedy. Most of the refuge is closed 24 hours prior to a Shuttle Launch with the exception to the area north of Haulover Canal which remains open.

    The bridges adjacent to the Refuge are restricted also and the Titusville Bridge, the Haulover Bridge and the NASA bridge will not open for boat traffic during space shots. So if you are transiting the ICW in a sailboat, you need to find out when there will be a shuttle shot.

    Other rules from the Refuge website:

    # Camping, open fires, feeding or baiting of wildlife, swimming in Refuge canals, or entering any area posted with area closed signs is prohibited.
    # All domestic pets (dogs, cats, etc.) must be properly confined, leashed (10-foot maximum), or haltered and under owner control at all times.
    # The use of a spotlight, automotive headlight, or other artificial light to spot, observe, locate, or take any animal on the Refuge is prohibited.
    # Taking, possessing, injuring, disturbing, damaging, destroying, or collecting any plant or animal (or attempting these actions) is prohibited.
    # Destroying, defacing, damaging, disturbing, or removing any private or public property, including any natural object or artifact, is prohibited. The use or possession of metal detectors or similar devices is prohibited.
    # Littering or dumping of garbage, refuse, sewage, debris, or other wastes or poisons is prohibited.
    # Disturbing, molesting, or interfering with any person engaged in an authorized activity is prohibited. Engaging in any act of indecency or disorderly conduct (as defined by State or local laws) is prohibited.
    # Entering or remaining on the Refuge when under the influence of alcohol or a controlled substance is prohibited.
    # Begging or soliciting in any form or conducting a commercial enterprise on the Refuge is prohibited.
    # Carrying, possessing, or discharging firearms, fireworks, or explosives is prohibited. Firearms may be possessed, used, or transported only by persons with a Refuge permit and engaged in public hunting.
    # Carrying, using, or possessing cross bows, bows and arrows, air guns, spears, gigs, or other weapons is prohibited
    # Hunting and fishing are subject to State and local regulations, seasons, and bag limits. Only the use of pole and line, rod and reel, or cast net is permitted. A Refuge permit is required for hunting.
    # The speed limit on all Refuge roads, unless otherwise posted, is 15 miles per hour. State traffic laws that govern the use and operation of vehicles apply on the Refuge.
    # Traveling outside of designated routes of travel is prohibited. Designated routes of travel are shown on the Refuge maps or as posted with road closed, no vehicle, or foot traffic only signs.
    # Operating any vehicle or boat that does not bear valid license plates or identification numbers and that is not properly lighted, certified, registered, or inspected according to State laws is prohibited. ATV's (3-wheelers, 4-wheelers, dirt bikes, etc.) are prohibited.
    # Stopping or parking a vehicle (either attended or unattended) on a road, trail, or firelane such that it blocks the free movement of other vehicles is prohibited.
    # Carrying, using, or possessing paintball guns or paintball markers is prohibited.
    # Any act of indecency or disorderly conduct is prohibited.

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    • National/State Park

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Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge Off The Beaten Path

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    Looking north 4 more images

    by grandmaR Updated Dec 12, 2010

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    We drove out along the edge of the refuge that adjoins the space center until we got to the southern part of the Canaveral National Seashore. The seashore has undeveloped beaches and limited services. There are no designated picnic areas, phones, food, or drinking water. There is no public transportation in the park. The park visitor may tour the park via private vehicle, bicycle, or on foot

    VT doesn't have a location for most of the National Seashores, so the most logical place to put information on it is here. It is midway on Florida’s east coast between Daytona Beach and Melbourne, and is accessible via U.S. 1, I-95, and Fla 528 (Beach Line Expressway).

    The southern access, Playalinda Beach in Titusville, is on Fla 406/402. Playalinda Beach is reached via Fla 402 (also known as Beach Road). From I-95, the exit number for our north district (Apollo Beach) is 249. For the south district (Playalinda), the exit number from I-95 is 220 ADA accessible ramps to the beach are located at Parking Areas 1A, 3 & 5. The Visitor Information Center is handicap accessible, as are all restroom facilities. Beach wheelchairs are available

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    • Budget Travel
    • Beaches

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