Come see all the wildlife at the Merritt Island Wildlife Refuge. From walking the trails and seeing armadillos, snakes, gators, and countless birds, to watching manatees and dolphins in the water, there really is a new animal to see everywhere you look. There’s even a seashore, if you want to hit the beach, a Visitor Center with helpful guides and interesting exhibits (and a super cool gift shop), and miles of wilderness to walk or drive through. The Merritt Island Wildlife Refuge is a ‘don’t miss’ on any schedule of events in Brevard County.
When you first arrive at the refuge, make sure to stop by the Visitor Center to peruse the (well priced) gift shop, learn about the refuge from the exhibits, and talk to the friendly and helpful park rangers. You’ll also need to register for a car tag – it costs a small fee to drive around the park, but it’s not much. I can’t remember what the one-day pass costs, but our annual pass cost $15, though it would have been more if it had included access to the Seashore.
Make sure to ask the park rangers about recent wildlife sightings – usually, they’ll happily show you on a map where the prime viewing locations have been of late. We’ve seen snakes, birds of all sorts, a wandering armadillo, small mammals, manatees, dolphins, scrub jays, vultures eating a dead wild pig, and, of course, gators of all shapes and sizes (from little babies to pretty darn big ones).
Ask the rangers how to get to the boat launch area, which often has a number of manatee swimming around (and bottlenose dolphins leaping a little ways offshore); explore the trail which travels through the ecosystem of the endangered Florida Scrub-jay (which is also where we saw the above armadillo rooting around); and take a relaxing tour of the Black Point Wildlife Drive. It’s full of birds, small mammals, snakes, and, of course, gators – it’s only about 9 miles long, but give yourself an hour or more (at least). The drive has locations to pull off and park and walk around, and you’ll want to stop frequently for photographs.
As fascinating as the park is, it always seems quiet and almost empty, and everyone who comes seems completely respectful of the wildlife and the environs.