By Gary McKechnie
To see Florida the way it was before there were buildings, billboards, subdivisions, (and electricity even), I’d suggest you head off the beaten path to just east of Titusville and the Black Point Drive entrance to Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge.
Covering more than 140,000 acres, the natural preserve is a throwback to a simpler time, when it didn’t take a thrill ride or a 3D film to entertain you.
It’s also a throwback to the early days of America’s space program, since the refuge—established in 1963—was needed to provide a buffer zone between civilization and the ready-to-launch rockets.
At the visitor's center you can watch a video about your surroundings, hike a nearby trail, and look for manatees from a viewing area. You’ll also find boat launch areas and sites for fishing.
Along seven-mile Black Point Drive Loop, the pleasure is in a slow and meandering exploration on a dirt road that crosses a variety of ecosystems and reveals an abundance of wildlife (often camouflaged by the surroundings). According to the rangers, more than 50 species of waterfowl, shorebirds, songbirds, and raptors live here.
A little more than midway through the drive you’ll find restrooms as well as a hiking trail that leads further into the wilderness. About 100 yards away, an observation beckons and should you go to it and climb the steps, the surrounding view is majestic in that “I didn’t realize how pretty emptiness can be” sort of way.
The wide expanse of land, the new (yet familiar) sight of Florida, the understanding that the slower you drive the more you’ll see…it all conspires to remind you of the natural beauty that’s available to us every day.
If You Go:
Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge
Phone: (321) 861-5601
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