Merritt Island Gets Back to Nature
Merritt Island Gets Back to Nature
Credit: Arco Images GmbH / Alamy

Sharing land with NASA, the unspoiled Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge—filled with coastal dunes, saltwater estuaries, and marshes—couldn’t be more different from its space-age counterpart. Trade your car for a boat to get up-close to the alligators, West Indian manatees, migratory birds, leatherback turtles, and more. Go during the late fall through early spring when the wildlife is at its most abundant.

Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge

The best time to visit this refuge is winter (late Oct.–early Mar.), when its Everglades-like wetlands teem with migratory birds, not to mention low-lying alligators. Pick up a map at the entrance, and motor down the seven-mile Black Point Wildlife Drive to take in the best spots.

Coconuts on the Beach

Outdoorsy and fun, this honky-tonk bar has free live music and tasty coconut shrimp.

New England Eatery

The marine-motif restaurant serves fish specials inspired by Ipswich, MA.

Surf Studio

The property has low-slung cottages set on manicured lawns next to a beach with some of Florida’s most surf-friendly waves.