Merritt Island

Merritt Island Florida is arguably one of the most interesting destinations in the United States. After all, this census-designated place on the East Coast is where you can find the John F. Kennedy Space Center. Used as the launch site of choice for NASA beginning in 1968, the Kennedy Space Center is now in a state of hiatus. It remains a major U.S. tourist destination, however, which has everything to do with its various attractions. Other enticing attractions also serve to make Merritt Island a great place to visit, and visitors can take advantage of the fact that the island is within easy reach of one of Florida’s main tourist cities – Orlando.

Merritt island, Florida
Merritt island, Florida

Merritt Island is both the name of an unincorporated town and the island on which this town can be found. The island is the largest island in Florida and is known primarily as being the home of the Kennedy Space Center and the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge. At the Kennedy Space Center, there is a visitor complex that offers tours to the general public. Over at the 140,000-acre Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge, observing wildlife is among the main activities. Both hiking and driving trails can be taken advantage of, and the refuge serves as a major gateway for the Great Florida Birding Trail. Bald Eagles are among the resident avian species, while other animals that are commonly seen include American alligators and sea turtles. There is no fee to access the refuge, and the main visitor center can be found approximately four miles east of Titusville on Florida 402.

To the immediate north of the Kennedy Space Center and the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge is the Canaveral National Seashore. Among the highlights of this protected area is the 13-mile-long beach that is backed by palmetto trees, sea grapes, cabbage palms, marshes, and a lagoon that is known as Mosquito Lagoon. The area in general is a wonderful place to do some birdwatching, and chances are good that you might spot manatees and dolphins in Mosquito Lagoon. Other Canaveral National Seashore activities include canoeing along a marked trail and backcountry camping. November through April is the camping season, and permits are required. You can obtain these permits at the main Canaveral National Seashore visitor center, which is found at 7611 S. Atlantic Avenue in New Smyrna Beach. Camping fees apply, as do fees to access the National Seashore in general.

Another destination of interest in the Merritt Island Florida area is Cocoa Beach. Surfers are definitely fond of Cocoa Beach, and it is considered by many surfing enthusiasts to be the East Coast’s surfing capital. The area around the pier at Cocoa Beach is where the best surfing is to be had. Also popular with Cocoa Beach Pier visitors are the fishing, shopping, and dining opportunities. A renowned surf shop calls the Cocoa Beach area home, and situated at 150 E. Columbia Avenue is the Cocoa Beach Surfing School. The Merritt Island Florida area pretty much offers something for everyone. There are splendid beaches, wonderful parks and refuges, the famous Kennedy Space Center, inviting shops, and tempting restaurants.

Being that this is Florida, the area is also home to golf courses. Examples of places to tee up include the Savannahs at Sykes Creek course and the course that is part of the municipal Cocoa Beach Country Club. The Savannahs at Sykes Creek golf course offers 18 holes and is found to the near south of the Kennedy Space Center. The Cocoa Beach Country Club features 27 golf holes, not to mention lighted tennis courts. Other ideas for things to do in the Merritt Island area include going on airboat or swamp buggy rides, taking dolphin-watching cruises, or going on sunset dinner cruises. Finding fun things to do in the Merritt Island area is easy.

As for finding a place to stay, Merritt Island is home to the Clarion Hotel Kennedy Space Center – 260 E. Merritt Causeway SR 520. Amenities include free internet access, free breakfasts, a fitness center, and tennis courts. Also found in Merritt Island is the well-priced Aladdin Motel-Apartments – 430 West Merritt Island Causeway. Area visitors will also do well to consider the Cocoa Beach hotels, as they arguably offer more in the way of overall quality. Examples include the Residence Inn Cape Canaveral Cocoa Beach and the Inn at Cocoa Beach, to name just a couple.

Top image: Stig Nygaard (flickr)

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