Hanging Out With Gators at the Merritt Island Wildlife Refuge, Florida

We drove down to Merritt Island wildlife refuge from St. Augustine, which was about a 2-hour drive. It’s on the “space coast” near the NASA Kennedy Space Center, which was something we wanted to check out but didn’t want to spend the $70 each to go inside for a tour (maybe next time!). Our friends Pati and Saydi met up with us at the wildlife refuge and were able to use our Annual National Park Pass to get us all in for free.

We decided to do the Black Point Wildlife Drive, which is 7 miles long and chock full of awesome critters. We had barely started the drive when we saw our first gator! There are turnouts where you can park the car and get out to take photos. We were really able to get up close and personal with the gators. This could have been dangerous, but we were super cautious and tried not to get too close. We even saw a little baby gator, who was adorable.

After about our 5th gator, we stopped to check out a bald eagle nest, which had an eagle sitting on eggs inside of it. We also saw some turtles, an osprey eating a fish he had just caught, and an armadillo. We’ve never seen one before outside of being smashed on the side of the highway :(. You can also see nesting sea turtles during certain times of the year. This place is FULL of amazing wildlife. 

We then headed over to the manatee viewing area where there were at least 20 hanging out in the channel. There is also a small cove where 6 to 7 manatee were rolling around. They were possibly mating, which was one of the most bizarre things we’ve ever seen! They would roll to one side, then to the other. It was great that we got to see manatees again. They were the very first kind of wildlife that we saw when we got to Florida and were the last we saw before we left. They are such amazing gentle giants!  We were also surprised by a bottlenose dolphin showing up.

After exploring the wildlife refuge, we headed over to the Canaveral National Seashore where we were told/ warned had a nude beach. Naturally, we decided to go check it out and they were right! Nude folks in every direction- all the power to you folks! Beach parking number 13, the very last one, is the nude beach, all the others are “family friendly.” The beach was super clean with small waves and would have been a perfect spot to spend the afternoon on a warm day. 

After we were done exploring, we drove a little further south to Cocoa Beach to eat at Paisley Vegan Kitchen, which is an amazing fully vegan restaurant. 

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