Merritt Island, Cape Canaveral and Melbourne

Usually when I go up north to Melbourne, I go play the disc golf course there and then head out to the beaches and drive south along the coastline to Vero Beach. I decided to change things up a bit this past Saturday and explore the areas north of Melbourne, including Merritt Island and Cape Canaveral. I found out that there are quite a few parks up that way that I’ve never been to, so after a 2 and a hour morning drive, I reached my first destination at Rotary Park in Merritt Island. Not sure what to expect, I was pleasantly surprised by the mile-long boardwalk that meandered through the woods. I got there a little too early to check out the nature center though. I then headed over to Veterans Memorial Park, which featured a war museum with a small but nice display of memorabilia from the Civil War to modern times. Afterwards, I went to the Ulumay Wildlife Sanctuary, where I hiked for a mile or so and checked out the bird-watching tower that overlooks Sykes Creek.

I then continued north to Kings Park and Manatee Cove Park, where I saw about 5 manatees and a dolphin swimming around. Next, I drove over to Cape Canaveral and around the different ports. I’ll be up here again in a couple of weeks, so I wanted to get familiar with the area. While there, I checked out Freddie Patrick Park for a great view of the cruise ships at the port and then went over to Jetty Park, where I was thinking of camping out at for the night. They didn’t have any campsites available, and by the number of people at this beach park, I can see why. I went for a nice walk along the beach there and hung out a bit on the big fishing pier, where I even got to see the Cape Canaveral Lighthouse off in the distance. I’ll get a closer look of the lighthouse when I take the tour there soon.

I was hoping to check out a few beach parks in Cocoa Beach, but the trafiic was so heavy going down A1A, I got off the main strip and headed back into Melbourne and over to the Brevard Zoo. Apparently, whoever wasn’t at Cocoa Beach was at the zoo, as it was adventure just to find a parking space at the ‘mob’ scene. I’ve been to this zoo a few times, most recently a few years back when my cousin from Hungary came over to visit. This was one of her favorite places, and it was fun to come back and check out this small but unique zoo. It’s divided up by continent and it’s amazing to see all the different types of animals that inhabit each country. The highlight was the giraffe-feeding display. And he ate good, as visitors were lined up to give him a cracker snack. The zoo also featured a guided kayak tour, but the next tour wasn’t for another hour and I was just getting ready to leave.

So instead of kayaking, I went disc golfing over at Wickham Park. I hadn’t played this course in almost 2 years, and even though the Thursday rains still flooded parts of the course, it was great to play this fun course again. Since I was now in golfing mode, I next hit the course in Malabar as I slowly made my way back south. An extremely tough course that is not recommended to play by yourself (it helps to have someone spot for you as it is super easy to lose a disc there – and yes, I did lose a disc!), I managed to escape the plethora of saw palmettos unharmed, even though my high score kinda hurt.

As I continued further south, I took a nice walk on the beach in Jupiter under the full moon. And though it was a bit nippy, it was a great way to end a long day of exploring, hiking and disc golf. I concluded my evening with a walk around the small lake at the Juno Town Center, which I always try to make a point of doing whenever I head home from the north.

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