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Merritt Island, FL

The Space Coast's Attractions and Activities

Merritt Island, Florida, is actually an unincorporated area of Brevard County, Florida. It has no local city police force or fire stations, but is well supported by the Brevard County services, with law enforcement offices, full government services and emergency support. With a full time population of 36,090, per the year 2000 United States Census, it has a larger significantly population during tourist season. However, Merritt Island tends to be the full-time retirement home of choice for many retiring to the Space Coast area of East Central Florida due to the central location, and lack of crowding. Merritt Island is a team member with Cocoa Beach Chamber of Commerce, not having a Chamber of its own. Oddly enough, Cocoa Beach Chamber of Commerce is located on Merritt Island.

Merritt Island, a true island, measuring 40 miles in length and 6 miles in width, is bound on the eastern side by the Banana River Lagoon and on the western side by the Indian River, a part of the Inter-Coastal Waterway system. The major north-south highway servicing Merritt Island is State Road 3, and east-west service is provided by the Cocoa Beach Causeway (SR520) connecting Merritt Island to the beaches only five miles away, and SR528 on the north, also known as the Beeline since it provides a very straight-line access to Orlando or Port Canaveral. Merritt Island has its own small local airport providing access to private planes and it is only a 38 mile trip across the Beeline, SR528, to the Orlando International Airport. Long-range bus service is provided at a station only 8 miles away, and the local mass transit “trolley” system will pick you up within one block of the bus station. Boat dockage for your personal sail or power boat is readily available with full facilities all around Merritt Island’s waterfront.

Activities include shopping, movies, golfing, boat and Jet Ski rentals, parasailing, and historic scenic drives. River Road, stretching from the south end to well past SR 528 runs along the edge of the Banana River and provides a scenic, slow drive along the a small winding road, allowing you to view the many historic homes built in the early 1900’s when Merritt Island was accessible only by ferry boat.

Affordable hotel accommodations are available on Merritt Island and seasonal rentals can be reserved in small apartments, condominiums, and mobile homes. Camping is available in several areas as well. There are also available RV parking and hookup sites.

There is ready access to fishing in both rivers. Wildlife viewing is one of the treats on the southern and northern ends of Merritt Island. Many animals and birds can be spotted: water fowl, American bald eagles, osprey, roseate spoonbills, deer, alligators, ibis, herons, ducks, and the endangered scrub jay, as well as many migratory birds. Manatees, known as “Sea Cows” can be seen playing in the rivers and all boaters are requested to respect the “No Wake Zones” posted to prevent injury to these huge friendly herbivores. Also, please don’t feed the manatees. Bottlenose dolphins are also regularly seen playing and jumping in the river, in singles or in groups. Often the dolphins will come right up to your boat!

Northern Merritt Island, north of SR 528 provides housing in secluded and less dense housing areas and huge areas of citrus groves, the major agricultural crop of the region. The far northern end of Merritt Island is home to the Merritt Island Wildlife Refuge and Kennedy Space Center, both of which have limited public access, but tours are available and worth the visit.

Kennedy Space Center (KSC or the Space Center to the locals) is home to the United States space program, both manned and unmanned. KSC provides a great educational tourist activity for people of all ages. The Visitor’s Center, accessible from SR 3 by turning onto the NASA Causeway at the clearly marked signs, is the start of your experience with IMAX films, exhibits explaining the space program and a “rocket garden” of past craft. The Challenger Astronauts Memorial can be viewed there as well. Bus tours then take you throughout the Space Center, into the Space Station Processing Facility, by the famous Vehicle Assembly Building, by launch pads, and provide numerous photo opportunities. Don’t miss out on your chance to investigate and learn about the space programs; no visit to Merritt Island is completed without a KSC tour!

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Chamber of Commerce

The Chamber of Commerce serving Cocoa Beach and Merritt Island, Florida.

 

Nearby cities to check for activities and attractions: Orlando, Kennedy Space Center, and Cocoa Beach.

 

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