When you get away from cities and highways and get on the back roads of Florida, you can see your surroundings in something close to their natural state.

One place I’ve found that’s as close to natural as anywhere is in Titusville: the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge.

In 1963, the government knew it would need a lot of privacy and a buffer zone to accommodate the nearby space launches, so they created this 140,000-acre refuge, which happens to sit beneath the Atlantic flyway, which is a migratory route for birds. The placement is perfect for about 330 species (including bald eagles) that make their homes here at least part of the year. Come here and you may also see manatees, sea turtles, bobcats, and alligators. There's even a manatee observation deck, plus canoeing and kayaking.

Best of all is that in addition to a wonderful visitors center, which carries a wealth of reading material and features a short boardwalk that offers a glimpse of the surrounding environment, the Black Point Wildlife Drive ($5) is a seven-mile loop road where the environment (which contains 1,000 species of plants) completely surrounds you as you drive along to view shorebirds, wading birds and waterfowl. Feeling adventurous? Footpaths lead deeper into the marshes.

If you’d like to see Florida wildlife as it was when the Calusa Indians were the welcoming committee for European settlers, come to the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge.

It’s 100 percent pure Florida.

 merritt island national wildlife refuge

One of the prettiest drives in Florida is within the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge.

- courtesy MINWR

florida wildlife refuges

A boardwalk at the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge offers just a glimpse of the area's 140,000 acres.

- courtesy MINWR