Sometimes taking a break in nature is the perfect way to enjoy a relaxing retreat. Enjoy that escape in a tropical setting at the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge, a Space Coast landmark managed by the U.S. Department of Interior. The refuge was established in 1962 when NASA acquired 140,000 acres of land, water, and marshes around Cape Canaveral. Today, visitors enjoy the natural beauty of the area while enjoying some wildlife viewing activities.

Here are some fun ways to discover the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge:

Take a Driving Tour

Make your way down Black Point Wildlife Drive to catch a glimpse of alligators, raptors, shorebirds, snakes, and other wildlife native to the area en route. This seven-mile drive is a one-way route around marshes and pine flatwoods. Peak wildlife viewing season is from October to March. Plan on getting there in the early morning or late afternoon to see more animals and birds.

Take Advantage of Fishing Opportunities

If you’re a saltwater angler or want to try your hand at crabbing, the refuge is the perfect place to enjoy some water activities. All Florida Fishing Regulations apply and fishing enthusiasts are permitted to catch all types of fish, crab, clam, oyster, and shrimp around the Indian River Lagoon, Mosquito Lagoon, Banana River Lagoon, and other areas. Some of these lagoons and fishing areas are also prime spots for bird watching and canoeing excursions.

Enjoy Hiking Activities

If you’re in the mood for a hiking adventure, make your way to one of six hiking trails around the refuge. One of the easiest trails is the Boardwalk that loops around the Visitors Center. This trail provides a view of freshwater ponds, a butterfly garden, and a wetland prairie. The longest hike is the five-mile Cruickshank Trail and will take you anywhere from two to four hours. If you’re looking for a more leisurely stroll, head to Scrub Ridge for a one-mile walk around one of the most unique habitats in Florida.

The Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge is also home to a Visitor Information Center with exhibits, movies, and programs to educate the public about the area and native wildlife. Guests can schedule a free guided or self-guided program to further their environmental education.

Learn more about the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge and other natural attractions around Florida’s Space Coast here.