Merritt Island and Canaveral National Seashore

Merritt Island and Canaveral National Seashore
If your ideal getaway involves communing with nature on miles of undeveloped, sandy beach, then Canaveral National Seashore may be your perfect place. Situated just north of the Kennedy Space Center on a barrier island along Florida’s east coast, the northern portion of Merritt Island comprises the national seashore and the national wildlife refuge.


The area has been inhabited for thousands of years, as evidenced by the heaps of discarded shells or “middens” left behind by early indigenous peoples.

Separated from the mainland by Indian River and Mosquito Lagoon, the federal government, in the 1950s, set aside the land north of its NASA installation as a buffer zone between the space center and nearby towns. Since 1963, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has managed the strip of land west of Mosquito Lagoon as the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge. The National Park Service, since 1975, has administered the long, narrow, Atlantic shoreline east of Mosquito Lagoon as Canaveral National Seashore.

Canaveral National Seashore

Canaveral is the newest of the 10 national seashores in the U.S. It was established by the U.S. Congress and President Gerald Ford in 1975. Its 25 miles of Atlantic beachfront is divided into 3 sections. The northernmost section is called Apollo Beach, the middle section is known as Klondike Beach, and the southern section is named Playalinda Beach. Apollo and Playalinda Beaches are accessible by road, while Klondike Beach is accessed only on foot or by bicycle. All beaches have restrooms and boardwalk access, but no picnic facilities, food, phones, beach showers, or drinking water. Lifeguards are on duty from 30 May to 1 September.

The Canaveral National Seashore Visitor Information Center is located at the north end of Apollo Beach, just south of Turtle Mound, a pre-Columbian Indian midden beside Mosquito Lagoon. Visitors can climb to the top of Turtle Mound via a boardwalk and enjoy a great view of the area. Geocachers will find an earth cache there. Outside the visitor center is a picnic shelter and a launch site on Mosquito Lagoon for canoes and kayaks.

Access to Apollo Beach and the visitor center is 7 miles south of New Smyrna Beach on Hwy. A1A.

Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge

The wildlife refuge visitor information center is located along Hwy. 402, 4 miles east of Titusville. Behind the visitor center you will find a ¼-mile-long nature trail that takes you along a boardwalk through a butterfly garden and past many species of native plants. There is a printed guide to this trail, but the signage along the trail is very informative as well. Continuing east along Hwy. 402 will take you to Oak and Palm Hammock Trails and ultimately to Playalinda Beach.

The Black Point Wildlife Drive is a 6-mile-long, unpaved loop road. It is accessed along Hwy. 406. Continuing east and north on Hwy. 406 will take you to the Scrub Ridge Trail and to the Manatee Observation Deck on Mosquito Lagoon. The refuge boasts 1,045 plant species and has recorded sightings of 310 species of birds. It protects 14 wildlife species federally listed as endangered or threatened including sea turtles, West Indian manatees, southern bald eagles, wood storks, peregrine falcons, eastern indigo snakes, and Florida scrub jays.

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