Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge

Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge

Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge was created in 1963 from land that was originally purchased to build the Kennedy Space Center but ended up going unused. The Refuge is managed by the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service and is not part of Canaveral National Seashore. However, to the typical tourist, the Refuge and the Seashore are indistinguishable from each other. Even the National Park Service map for Canaveral shows the two parks as one, and it is hard to find any map that shows where the boundary between the two is drawn. For that reason, National Park Planner has included Merritt Island NWR activities in its review of Canaveral National Seashore.

Merritt Island NWR is open daily from sunrise to sunset. It is a day-use park, meaning there is no camping or overnight parking allowed. The only exceptions are those night fishing from a boat, in which case parking is allowed after dark at the Bairs Cove Boat Ramp and the Beacon 42 Boat Ramp.

There is a fee to drive on Black Point Wildlife Drive and Bio Lab Road and to use any of the boat launches. You can purchase a day pass on location using self-pay envelopes (cash or check) or by stopping at the Visitor Center. National Park Service annual passes, Duck Stamps, Canaveral National Seashore passes, and annual Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge passes are also accepted. Annual passes for the refuge are on sale at the Visitor Center. Note that no credit or debit cards are accepted. See Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge’s Visit Us web page for the latest fees.

As its name implies, Merritt Island NWR is the place to come to see wildlife. Here you will find a wide variety of bird species and reptiles such as alligators and turtles, all of which can be seen along the hiking trails and scenic roads set aside for nature viewing.

Unfortunately for the animals, it’s not a refuge year-round, because both waterfowl, deer, and hog hunting are allowed during the normal Florida hunting seasons, which usually run from October through January. Most, but not all of the Refuge is open for hunting. Fishing is also allowed. See the Fishing and Hunting web page for more information.

If you plan on biking in the park, there is one thing to be aware of. While it may seem logical to think that the roads running through a “Wildlife Refuge” would be low-speed, scenic roads perfect for biking, in reality all paved roads within the Refuge are major highways with 55+ MPH traffic and no road shoulder. The only safe roads for biking are the Black Point Wildlife Drive and Bio Lab Road. Both of these are very scenic and offer plenty of opportunities to see birds and alligators. Bikes are not allowed on the hiking trails.

All trails, boat ramps, and other attractions are well marked by road signs. There is always a sign that indicates an attraction is coming up and a second sign at the point of the turn.

For more information, see the official Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge website.


Visitor Center

Black Point Wildlife Drive

Bio Lab Road

Manatee Observation Deck


Bio Lab Boat Ramp

Bairs Cove Boat Ramp

Beacon 42 Boat Ramp

Eddy Creek Boat Ramp

WSEG Boat Ramp


Allan D. Cruickshank Memorial Trail

Boardwalk Trail

Oak Hammock Trail

Palm Hammock Trail

Pine Flatlands Trail

Scrub Ridge Trail

Wild Birds Unlimited Trail

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Last updated on April 20, 2022
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