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Merritt Island NWR

Birding / Hiking / Adventuring Roadtrip Info

Andrew Thoreson
May 2017
 Typical view [?]
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Typical View (21)

Snapshots! (17)
GRADES: Click each for info, * = Note
Revisit? A
Birding A
Wildlife C *
Summer Heat C
Terrain B *
Fun Hike B *
Maintained B *
Mosquitos C *
Biting Files A *
Ticks Not Rated
NOTE: Varies. Manatees but not many deer.
NOTE: Varies but mostly flat and sandy.
NOTE: Varies but more collection of spots than hikes.
NOTE: Few facilities but it's taken care of well.
NOTE: Varies but beachs are usually too windy for mosquittos
NOTE: So far
NOTE: There might be trails where there are ticks but most aren't that kind of spot.
 LOCATION: Accuracy: Read me
Map On Big Map: Click map (or on google maps). Address: 3.5 miles east of Titusville, Titusville, FL, Brevard, USA, 32782

1) What It's Like

This is regarding the overall area of Meritt Island - See other articles for more specifics.

Merritt Island in general is full of great birding spots - coastal, mangrove, forest - in the large areas that are set aside I presume for NASA in case a launch goes wrong. However Titusville, the city on the mainland, is so economically depressed and depressing to go through it plays a major factor in deciding if we want to make a trip out there, certainly if deciding to stay overnight in a hotel. Here's a quote from a 2010 NY Times article on wikipedia: "...a small, sleepy and, some might say, seedy town with a handful of not too luxurious motels and hotels that jack up their prices whenever there is a scheduled shuttle lift-off.".

2) Kinds of Birds

Really anything but certainly plenty of wading birds and shore birds when in their respective environments.

3) Wildlife

There might be deer etc but not on the beach or in the mangroves. Only place I've seen aligators in salt water and there's a bridge with large numbers of manatees that's pretty great.

4) Amenities

Not much although it's taken care of well enough. The welcome center has a nice gift shop. The seashore and some other areas have brick and mortor chemical toilets without running water.

5) Directions

There's only a couple ways in/on to the island and barrier island. Most people would take the main bridge in Titusville (Max Brewer Memorial Pkwy) to the welcome center. The rest you could think of as one loop inside the other continuing from that starting point. One goes the 24 miles along Canageral National Seashore - the barrier island - and ends up at New Smyrna Beach - another good birding spot. The inner loop would be to go along Courtenay Pkwy (Indian River is on West, Mosquito Lagoon and view of Canaveral National Seashore on the east). That loop is half as long. Several places to stop on each.

6) Time Requirements

It's a bit of a drive to get out there but it's generally small trails or just places to stop along the road. The wildlife drive is fairly short as is the bird trail behind the welcome center.


This is an overview of the Merritt Island area in general. We'll do reviews of smaller areas in other field notes. 

We've gone a few times and it's hard to sum up because Meritt Island is more of a region than a destination. More or less it's the land reserved near NASA for spacecraft debris to potentially fall on woodland creatures instead of what would otherwise be lots of condos by now. The place most people would consider "the" destination is the wildlife drive - personally I think you miss the vast majority of birds if you're driving instead of walking and you'll only see the kinds of birds that don't scare easily like egrets and herons. However the trail behind the welcome center is pretty nice - we've seen quite a few species of birds here. And I got a nice hat!

We're still figuring this area out but in general this is the lay of the land: The north part of the main island is what you'd generall consider Merrit Island and it's mostly mangrove with forest mixed in. The south part of the island is NASA and an airforce base then furhter south is typical residential areas. If you keep driving across the north part to the beach you hit Canaveral National Seashore - it's 24 miles of barrier island the ends at the top at New Smyrna Beach and Ponce Inlet. It's impressively remote and wild - very very unusual for Florida and worth it just to see that if you've lived in Florida long enough to get sick of condos. On the beach itself we haven't seen a huge variety of shorebirds as much as it being interesting to see them in their natural place. Watching sandpipers fly unimpeded along vast stretches of beaches stopping at drift wood to each barnacles - you don't really see that at beaches. That area betwen the island and the mainland is what they call "Indian River" - a brackish lagoon and a name stamped on endless bags of oranges as a marketing slogan. There are some interesting birding spots along this that we haven't expored yet.

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