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A visit to Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge – one of the most fun attractions in Orlando – should be at the top of the list for anyone with an interest in the space program or catching a glimpse or two of the area’s abundant wildlife.

The History of Merritt Island

The beginnings of the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge can be traced back to the development of the country’s space program. NASA acquired 140,000 acres of land, marshes and water that was adjacent to Cape Canaveral in 1962. This land was used to establish the Kennedy Space Center.



During this development, a launch complex and other related facilities were built; however, most of the area was not necessary for other development. In 1963, an agreement with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service was signed to establish the refuge. Additionally, in 1975, another agreement established the Canaveral National Seashore. Currently, most of the unused portion of the Kennedy Space Center is managed by the Department of Interior as a National Wildlife Refuge and National Seashore.

What to Do at Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge – One of the Top Tourist Attractions in Orlando Florida

A great place to start your visit is with a stop at the Visitor Information Center. Here you’ll find exhibits, programs, movies and more. There are also several interpretive and education programs that will let visitors participate in activities and awareness programs about the Refuge.



Hikers will love the six hiking trails. These trails range in length from a short ¼ mile to five miles. For those who don’t want to hike, the Back Point Wildlife Drive is a seven-mile auto tour that offers wonderful wildlife observation opportunities. Don’t miss the Manatee Observation Deck to see these magnificent animals up close.



Birding and fishing are also very popular at Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge. Anglers can fish for various fish, along with crab, clam, oysters, and shrimp. Birding enthusiasts have the opportunity to catch a glimpse of the 357 species that have been identified within the refuge, including reddish egrets, brown pelicans, and the magnificent bald eagle.



From some areas of the refuge you can immerse yourself with watching wildlife and the expansive vistas with a backdrop of the Kennedy Space Center launch pad. Visitors have flocked to this area just to glimpse the launch area from some of the most pristine areas around.



If you want to know more about the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge and all the things you can do there, just ask. At Tropical Escape Vacation Homes, we want to help you get the most out of your Florida vacation! Contact us today to learn more about Orlando Area Attractions!