Merritt Island and Canaveral National Seashore

Instead of heading straight to the beach after a visit to the Space Coast, make time to visit the preserves of Canaveral National Seashore and Merritt Island. There is a wide range of fauna, habitats, marshes and hammocks along with a mixture of alligators and manatees. The area includes Florida's largest undeveloped barrier island beach - a 24 mile strip of sand and dunes which is Canaveral National Seashore. This has Apollo Beach in the north and Playalinda in the south. Turtle Mound can be found behind Apollo Beach - it is a 40 ft pile of oyster shells which was created by Timucua Indians abetween 800AD and 1400AD. Stop on S Atlantic Avenue just south of Turner Flats and you can walk on the boardwalk for a view of Mosquite Lagoon with mangrove islets.

Please note that access via the 402 is restricted as it crosses the northern area of the Kennedy Space Centre. Your only route back to the main land is to return north again on the A1A but it is worth the drive to the beautiful beaches for sun worshippers - beware swimming conditions can be very hazadous - no lifeguards on duty here. From the most southerly point on Playalinda you can get great views of Kennedy Space Centre launch pads.

Merritt Island Wildlife Refuge covers an area of 220 square miles but most of it lies within Kennedy Space Centre and is out of bounds. Timing your visit is important - early morning and later afternoon are the best times of the day between October and March. Start you visit with a 20 minute video and see the exhibits. There is a 3/4 mile Oak Hammock Trail and a 2 mile Palm Hammock Trail. Watch out for the alligators behind the visitors centre.

There is a 6 mile Black Point Wildlife Drive you can take - it is a one way dike road around marshes and through pine flatwoods. Don't forget to pick up a leaflet at the entrance, which details the stops you should make. There is a chance to walk part of the way when you reach Cruickshank Trail - this is a 5 mile trail - it also has an observation tower. If you visit in the summer remember Mosquito Lagoon gets its name for a reason - bring plenty of repellant.