Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge

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Norris Real Estate Brevard County

Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge

Category : Fun , Merritt Island

It is a conflict of both time and technology.  The Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge sits on the northern end of Brevard County and shares it’s geography with one of the most advanced technological areas of the world, the Kennedy Space Center.

While NASA, the US Air Force, Space X, Blue Origin and others are sending satellites and getting ready to send astronauts back into space, there is another kind of amazing happenings going on with over 500 different varieties of wildlife and well over 1000 species of plants.  The Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge is comprised of 35 miles of barrier islands strung along Central Florida’s east coast.  This is part of the are popularly known as the Space Coast of Florida.  The subtropical and temperate climate makes it ideal for most species of plants and animals to thrive year round.  The Refuge happens to lie geographically right along the Atlantic Flyway, which is the most significant and primary migration bird corridor on the east coast of the North America. The Refuge itself is a major stop for migratory birds.  The Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge (MINWR) is home to one of the most concentrated collection or variety of endangered and threatened species of all wildlife refuges across earth.  We are very fond and proud of our Refuge and it itself is a testament that both nature and advanced technology can coexist.

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photo: Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge

Travel Distances From the Refuge Visitor Center:

Black Point Wildlife Drive – 3.5 miles

Hammocks Trails – 1.5 miles

Manatee Observation Deck – 10.5 miles

Playalinda Beach – 7 miles

Scrub Ridge Trail – 6.5 miles

Pine Flatwoods Trail – 13 miles

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Membership and Fees for the MINWR

The MINWR annual pass is a great bargain at $15.00.  Anyone with a valid i.d. can purchase an annual pass at the Visitor’s Center.  Additional passes can be purchased at the Visitor’s Center as well, including; The Refuge Daily, the Refuge Annual, the American and the Beautiful Senior, Access, Military as well as the Federal Duck Stamp.  Children, accompanied by an adult, under the age of 16 are admitted for free.  The Canaveral National Seashore Annual pass is also available and allows entry for all refuge fee areas.  Each pass admits the pass-holder and all of their passengers in a private, non-commercial vehicle.

Refuge Daily pass can be purchased for $5.00 per non-commercial vehicle.

Individuals on foot or bicycles can purchase daily pass for $1.00.

America the Beautiful Senior Pass – $10.00

America the Beautiful Annual Pass – $80.00

America the Beautiful Access Pass – Free to medically authorized individuals

America the Beautiful Military Pass – Free to U.S. Military members and their dependents.  A valid U.S. Military I.D. must be provided.

Federal Duck Stamps – $25.00.

Cash or Check is required.  Credit Card payments are not accepted.


Visitor Center

The visitor center is the heartbeat of the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge.  If you have never visited the Refuge before, it is greatly beneficial for first-time visitors.  Visit our Facebook Page for our Visitor Center Hours of Operation.The visitor’s center is located on SR 402, five miles east of U.S.1 in Titusville.


  • Refuge Maps
  • Wildlife and Habitat Displays
  • Auditorium for Movies and Programs
  • Bookstore and gift shop
  • Educational Resources
  • 1/4 mile Boardwalk


Foot Trails

One of the most popular activities at the Refuge is hiking.  With our subtropical and temperate climate and weather, hiking can be enjoyed year round.  There are currently 7 walking trails and they are marked on maps for the hiker’s convenience.

Visitor Center Boardwalk – 1/4 mile loop

Oak Hammock Trail – 3/4 mile loop

Palm Hammock Trail – 2 mile loop

Scrub Ridge Trail – 1 mile loop

Cruickshank Trail and Tower – 5 mile loop

Wild Bird Trail – 1/4 mile loop

Pine Flatwood Trail – 1 mile loop

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photo: Don Norris


Wheel Chair Accessibility

  • Refuge Information Center & 1/4 mile Boardwalk
  • Manatee Observation Deck
  • Observation Deck at stop #9 on Black Point Drive
  • Observation Deck at Refuge entrance on SR406
  • Beach access at EddyCreek (parking lot #9) at Playalinda Beach



Restrooms are located at:

  • Refuge Visitor Center
  • Stop #9 along Black Point Wildlife Drive
  • Playalinda Beach


Beach Access

Some of the most beautiful beaches and shoreline in all of Florida.  The Canaveral National Seashore and Playalinda Beach has over 24 miles of undeveloped, natural and pristine beaches for relaxation, walking, sunbathing, swimming, surfing, camping, horseback riding, fishing and hiking.  Camping and horseback riding are limited to the months of November 1st through April 15th and require a special permit.  There are no designated picnic areas, food services, beach showers or drinking water available.


Manatee Observation Deck

One of the most popular and beloved residents of the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge is the West Indian Manatee, or better known as the Florida Manatee.  Manatee can be seen year round at the Refuge, but most notedly in the months from Spring to Fall.  The manatee observation deck is a great place to view these wonderful animals in the natural habitat.  The deck is located 10.5 miles north of the Visitor Center off SR 3 at Haulover Canal.  (another good spot to view the manatee is at Bairs Cove boat launch)

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photo: Don Norris


Boat Launches

If it will float, and you can get it there, the Refuge is a great place to enjoy a day out on the water whether you are in a motorboat, canoe, kayak or stand up paddle board.  A great place for fishing or just getting out and being one with nature.  Bring your camera for some amazing pics of scenery and wildlife.  Boat speed regulations are strictly enforced for the protection of manatee. Boat, canoe and kayak launching is limited to designated launch sites.  To launch from Bairs Cove, Bio Lab and Beacon 42, a $5.00 Refuge Daily Pass is required.

  • Bairs Cove – Haulover Canal
  • Beacon 42 – Mosquito Lagoon
  • WSEG – Mosquito Lagoon (No Fee)
  • Bio Lab – Mosquito Lagoon
  • Eddy Creek – Mosquito Lagoon


Wildlife Observation and Photography

The Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge has the potential to make even the most amateur photography look like an expert.  The best trail or route to view wildlife is the Black Point Wildlife Drive.  One of the best ways to view and photograph wildlife is by kayaking or canoe.  Hiking trails, observation towers, decks and dike roads offer a great opportunity to view the diverse wildlife at the Refuge.  Best time for observing the wildlife is October through March.

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photo: Don Norris

Refuge Regulations

Of course, there are some basic Rules and Regulations to keep both the visitors and the wildlife safe.  The park is always closed, unless otherwise posted, from sunset to sunrise.  All activities and use of the Refuge must be done during daylight hours.  Due to the close proximity of NASA, certain areas of the park may be closed from time to time due to security restrictions.

  • Air boats, jet skis, wave runners and ATVs are not permitted within the Refuge.
  • Carrying, possession and firing of any kind of firework is strictly prohibited.
  • Persons carrying a firearm must comply with all local and state laws.
  • Feeding, enticing, disrupting, or disturbing alligators, manatee or any other wildlife is not permitted.
  • Littering and dumping of any kind is prohibited.
  • Camping, open fires and barbecue grills are not permitted on the Refuge.
  • Pets are allowed on the Refuge, but must be registered (shots), leashed and under control at all times.
  • Horses are not permitted on the Refuge.  However, as stated earlier, they are permitted on the North District of the Canaveral National Seashore from November 1st through April 15th.  Call 386-428-3384 est. 0 for information and reservations.
  • Releasing any any wild or domestic animal onto the Refuge is prohibited.
  • Collecting, capturing, trapping or any animal or plant life on the Refuge is prohibited.  (other than legally taken fish or waterfowl)
  • Fishing and crabbing is permitted on the Refuge in accordance with state and refuge regulations.  A Refuge permit is required for both recreational as well as commercial fishing.  Fishing is allowed in open waters of the Indian River Lagoon, Banana River, Mosquito Lagoon, mosquito control impoundments and interior lakes.  Fishing is prohibited on the Kennedy Space Center security areas as well as along the Black Point Wildlife Drive and it’s adjacent dike roads with the exception of L Pond Road.
  • Two pole and troll zones are located in the Mosquito Lagoon.  Operation of internal combustion engines is not allowed within the zones and vessels drafting more than 12″ may not enter.
  • Electric trolling motors and non-motorized power sources such as peddles, paddles and push poles are permitted.
  • Waterfowl hunting is permitted September through January only in designated hunting areas.   A Refuge permit and hunter safety certification is required.  State, Federal and Refuge regulations apply.
  • Glass beverages containers are prohibited.
  • Bicycles are prohibited on foot trails.


For More Information about the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge, Contact:

Refuge Manager
Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge
P.O. Box 2683
Titusville, Fl. 32781


Visitor Center Phone Number: 321-861-5601


About Author

Don Norris

Don & Natalie Norris were raised in Central Florida on Merritt Island. After Don moved off to college and then traveling and living both around the United States and abroad, he moved back to Merritt Island to marry his best friend and business partner Natalie. Natalie, after graduating Merritt Island High school with Don, stayed on the Island after going to college in Lakeland, Fl. and California. Together, Don and Natalie have raised their six children on Merritt Island. They enjoy relaxing afternoons on the beach, kayaking around the Thousand Islands of Cocoa Beach and the Indian River. Brevard County is in their blood, but enjoy traveling around the United States and abroad as well. Norris Real Estate allows Don and Natalie to engage their customer base on a personal level by not just assisting selling or buying homes, but by providing a trusting and competent hand in the selling and buying process that creates a bond, relationship and appreciation with their customers. As a team, Don and Natalie Norris have all of the tools they have acquired and cultured over the past 20 years to give their clients the absolute best customer experience in the selling of their home or buying their dream home.

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