What You’ll See at the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge

Whether you’re a birding enthusiast or a New Smyrna Beach vacationer who just wants to explore the area’s most scenic landscape, make plans to visit the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge. This enormous natural area near Titusville, Florida, features seven distinct habitats across 140,000 acres. You’ll find estuaries, marshes, pine flat woods, and more, all teeming with over 500 species of wildlife to discover. The next time you stay with us, make time to explore this unique and beautiful area.    

Find out more about all of the fun things to do in New Smyrna Beach, FL, when you download our free Vacation Guide. It’s full of the best recommendations for things to see and do like visiting the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge.

What You’ll See at the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge

Bird Watching

Did you know that to date, over 350 species of birds have been identified on the wildlife refuge? Each year, an enormous variety of birds flock to the refuge because of its coastal location, tropical climate, and a wide variety of habitat types. In the winter, at peak concentrations, the refuge is often home to over 100,000 waterfowl. Throughout the year, visitors will find plenty of bird watching opportunities, but the best time to visit for birding is from October through April. However, waterfowl most abundant from November to February.  


Fishing is another popular activity on the refuge. When you visit, you can bring a boat and use the boat ramps on the refuge for $5 a day. Or, you can fish from the shores of the Indian River Lagoon, Mosquito Lagoon, Banana River Lagoon, Mosquito Control Impoundments or Interior Freshwater Lakes. Besides fishing, you can also Crab, Clam, Oyster, and Shrimp. However, a Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge fishing permit is required at all times. You may pick one up for free at the visitors center.

Big Game and Waterfowl Hunting

The wildlife refuge features 5,000 acres used for a Big Game Hunt every year. The Big Game Hunt is an archery only event for white-tailed deer hunting, but it also allows the unlimited harvest of feral hogs.

In addition, the refuge offers waterfowl hunting at select times from September through February on 36,000 acres of the refuge’s 140,000 acres. For Merritt Island National Wildlife refuge duck hunting, as well as big game hunting, hunters 16 years of age or older must have a free Merritt Island NWR Hunt Permit.


The Merritt Island refuge is also a wonderful place to experience one of Florida’s most pristine natural areas. The refuge features seven hiking trails that range from a short 15-minute walk to a 4-hour adventure. These trails each offer unique scenic views and are a great way to discover the diverse ecosystem at the refuge.

Alligators, Manatees, and More!

As its name suggests, the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge is teeming with creatures to discover. The best way to do so is by traveling along the Black Point Wildlife Drive. This one-way drive takes about 40 minutes and covers 7-miles along a dike road. As you drive this route, you’ll navigate around marshes and through pine flat woods. Along the way, you may encounter:

  • Alligators
  • Bobcats
  • Manatees
  • River otters
  • Waterfowl, wading birds, shorebirds, and raptors
  • And more!

How to Visit

Experience the natural beauty of the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge on your next visit to New Smyrna Beach, FL. The wildlife refuge itself is open every day from sunrise to sunset. However, the Visitors Information Center is open at the following times:

  • November 1 through March 31, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily
  • April 1 through October 31, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Saturday
  • Closed on most federal holidays

Entrance into Black Point Wildlife Drive is $5 per vehicle and using the boat ramps is also $5. You may purchase these permits at the Visitor’s Center when it is open. Or, by using the provided fee envelopes and depository when it is closed.

Experience Spectacular New Smyrna Beach Scenery with Us!

The Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge is just one place to explore the Florida’s most beautiful landscape. You can also explore the Canaveral National Seashore or go birding on the Atlantic Flyway.

But, no matter where you explore, ensure you return to a home-away-from-home that is just as scenic as the outdoor havens near New Smyrna Beach! At the Night Swan Intracoastal Bed and Breakfast, you’ll find stunning scenery that will not disappoint. Our beautiful inn is located directly on the Intracoastal Waterway and features breathtaking views of the sparkling water from a large front porch and throughout the property.

Each of our 16 guest rooms offers unique style and a range of amenities, including king sized beds, oversized whirlpool bathtubs, or stunning views of the waterway. In addition, every stay at the Night Swan always includes a delicious, full breakfast. Browse our accommodations today to find the perfect fit for you. Then, book a getaway to New Smyrna Beach with us! We can’t wait for you to join us!

Photo credit: Getty Images / adwalsh