The Sebastian River Area has over 20,000 acres of preserve ideal for hiking, birding and horseback riding. Sebastian is home to Pelican Island, America’s 1st National Wildlife Refuge, with over 130 species of birds. The St. Sebastian River Preserve State Park, part of the Great Florida Birding Trail, is considered one of the top birding locations in the U.S. Below you’ll find more information on these sites as well as a list of other recommended sites to explore!
Barrier Island Sanctuary
The 34-acre Sanctuary offers visitors an invitation to explore the barrier island’s diverse habitats through interactive exhibits at the Center, and along a 1-mile hiking trail that winds from the ocean to the Indian River Lagoon.
The Barrier Island Sanctuary 1-mile hiking trail begins at the Center and winds through several habitat types with spectacular views of beach and lagoon. It features a small picnic pavilion and a kayak launch area. Wildlife can often be seen and heard along the trail, including osprey, great blue herons, gopher tortoises, and great land crabs.
The Barrier Island Sanctuary is located at 8385 S Hwy A1A, Melbourne Beach, FL 32951.
For more information, visit http://www.brevardcounty.us/EELProgram/Areas/BarrierIslandSanctuary
Blue Cypress Park
Blue Cypress Lake, considered part of the headwaters of the St. Johns River, is a large lake situated approximately 35 miles west of Vero Beach.
Blue Cypress Park is located at 7400 Blue Cypress Lake Road, approximately 23 miles west of I-95. Features include 2 boat launches, a floating dock, paved parking, grass overflow parking, restroom facilities with showers and 2 covered pavilions. Activities include bird-watching, wildlife viewing, fishing, seasonal hunting, bicycling, canoeing and hiking along many miles of levees. Primitive camping is allowed in designated areas. An air boat launch is also available.
This area is part of the Upper St. Johns River Basin Project implemented by St. Johns River Water Management District and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The Eastern portion of the area contains foraging and nesting habitat for the endangered Snail Kite. Wetland dependent species found here include Great Blue Herons, White Ibis, Snowy Egrets, Limpkins, and Night Herons. Other birds using the area include endangered Wood Storks, Ospreys and Bald Eagles.
Blue Cypress Park is located at 7400 Blue Cypress Lake Road.
Captain Forster Hammock Preserve
The Captain Forster Hammock Preserve was opened with public access improvements on February 17, 2003. The Preserve contains trails through mature maritime hammock and coastal hammock habitats. New restrooms and parking are located one mile south of County Road 510 on Jungle Trail. Seasonal tours are offered and self-guided walks are a great way to see a remnant of "old Florida." Trails are easy walking and are open from 8am until sunset.
The 110 acre Captain Forster Hammock Preserve was purchased in the mid 1990s by Indian River County with cost-share funds from the State Conservation and Recreation Lands Program. The property was purchased to conserve natural and cultural resources on the site. The Preserve contains maritime hammock, coastal strand and wetland plant communities. It borders Jungle Trail, a State designated greenway and a byway of the Indian River Lagoon National Scenic Highway. The Preserve contains one of the largest remaining coastal maritime hammocks on Orchid Island. The site was home to Captain Frank Forster, one of the first Orchid Island residents who homesteaded on the barrier island growing winter vegetables and fishing along the Indian River Lagoon.
Benefits of the Conservation Area:
- Approximately 14 designated species listed as Threatened or Endangered by Federal and State Agencies are found on the property
- Permanent protection from encroachment and development
- Educational tool for environmental education
- Neo-tropical songbirds passage
- Habitat for animals that have been displaced by development
- One of the only remaining undisturbed maritime hammocks of significant size in Indian River County
- Located near protected Archie Carr Wildlife Refuge, specifically created for Sea Turtles
For more information, visit http://www.ircgov.com/departments/General_Services/Parks/Conservation/Captian_Forster_Hammock_Preserve.htm
Environmental Learning Center
The Environmental Learning Center is a 64 acre sanctuary where you can discover the natural world and connect with your environment. There’s a nature nook, a discovery station with a touch tank, aquariums, a butterfly garden, canoeing, hiking and many other programs of special interest.
Take a hike and learn a little about this beautiful, diverse, and ecologically authentic place. It's diverse because it ranges from hammock (high ground) through salt marshes (sometimes underwater) to mangrove forest (with its feet in the water).
It's ecologically authentic because before the pavilions were built, they cut down all the exotic invasive trees like the Brazilian peppers and the Australian pines and replaced them with indigenous (native) species such as live oaks, cabbage or sabal palms, coontie, and wax myrtle.
Their surroundings are especially beautiful because they provide a natural habitat for birds, fish, crustaceans, and mammals of many kinds. In fact the Indian River Lagoon, the big body of water that nearly surrounds us, is home to more than 4,000 different species, 36 of which are endangered or rare. It's such a diverse estuary (the most diverse in North America) that the Environmental Protection Agency has named it an Estuary of National Significance.
Try to be quiet during your walk about so that the birds and small animals will show themselves. With luck you'll see an otter. Or down by the canoe dock, a dolphin or manatee. Look up, look down; there's a lot to see. Follow the signs posted near the paths and boardwalk. You can't get lost and you can find out a lot.
The Environmental Learning Center is located at 255 Live Oak Drive, Wabasso.
Click Here for campus map.
For more information, visit www.discoverelc.org.
Fellsmere Trailhead Preserve
The Fellsmere Preserve is located northwest of the I-95 and CR 512 interchange. Situated on approximately 86 acres, this park will provide numerous passive recreation amenities that will be developed through a 10-year management plan including: walking trails, primitive camping and trailhead welcome center.
For more information, visit www.cityoffellsmere.org.
Historic Jungle Trail
The historic Jungle Trail, now listed on the National Register of Historic Places, was originally a sandy road built in the 1920s for the citrus growers on the barrier island (called Orchird Island). The trail, nearly 8 miles, passes through hammocks of palms and other coastal wetland species, as well as gated communities, spectacular homes and the shores of Indian River Lagoon. Vehicles use the trail to access Pelican Island; however, the trail is great for cyclists, walkers and joggers, too.
From the northern end point, the trail begins in Pelican Island National Wildlife Refuge, the nation's first wildlife refuge established in 1903 by Teddy Roosevelt to protect birds from feather hunters. Bird feathers were widely used to decorate women's hats in the early 20th century, and Florida's barrier islands were teeming with the most vulnerable of species.
To reach the northern access point and parking: From the intersection of Wabasso Road (CR 510) and SR A1A, drive north 3.7 miles on A1A; you will see a sign on the right indicating Pelican Island Wildlife Refuge; turn left onto the road marked Historic Jungle Trail. To reach the southern access point (no parking): From the intersection of Wabasso Road (CR 510) and SR A1A, drive south 2.4 miles on A1A to Old Winter Beach Road and turn right. Drive a short distance to the bend in the road. The trail starts on the right when the road becomes gravel/sand.
North Sebastian Conservation Area
The North Sebastian Conservation Area (NSCA) contains 407 acres of many different habitats. The conservation area is located west of US Highway 1, north of Main Street (in Sebastian) and south of Roseland Road. The conservation area is bounded on the western perimeter by Sebastian Airport and the Sebastian Golf Course. The area is primarily xeric oak scrub, a globally and locally endangered habitat (FNAI). Other habitats include: Sand and Pine Scrub, Sand Pine Forest, Scrubby Flatwoods, Mesic Pine Flatwoods, Wet Flatwoods (osprey nesting area), Freshwater Marsh, Upland Hardwood Forest, Wetland Forested Mix, Shrub, Brushland, freshwater Ponds and Lakes.
The primary purpose of the Northern Sebastian Conservation Area (NSCA) is the protection and enhancement of native scrub habitat. The sand pine scrub, scrubby flatwoods and xeric oak scrub communities, comprising approximately one third of the conservation area, are classified as rare or imperiled both globally and statewide by the Florida Natural Areas Inventories and the Florida Department of Environmental Protection.
The NSCA is the key mitigation tract of the Sebastian Area-Wide Florida Scrub-Jay Habitat Conservation Plan (Florida Scrub-Jay HCP). Again, as with the Sebastian Scrub Conservation Area, the first and foremost priority is the resource management component, which must be carried out and in accordance with the Florida Scrub-Jay HCP. In addition to resource management, limited facilities are planned for the property to provide public access for environmental education and passive recreation.
The NSCA public access facilities are planned for 2004 and should be open to the public by Winter 2005. Public facilities include parking off of Main Street, adjacent to the Sebastian City Hall Complex, boardwalks, fishing piers, over 5 miles of trails, restrooms, parking, horse trailer parking and educational signage throughout the Conservation Area.
Click here to download the park brochure which highlights the 18 trails.
For more information, visit http://www.ircgov.com/departments/general_services/parks/Conservation/North_Sebastian_Conservation_Area.htm
Pelican Island National Wildlife Refuge
Sebastian is home to Pelican Island, America’s 1st National Wildlife Refuge, established in 1903. Located in the Indian River Lagoon on the east coast of Florida, Pelican Island National Wildlife Refuge is both the name of the refuge and the name of the original 5.5 acre rookery island, which supports important bird rookeries, key fish spawning sites, and a globally important juvenile sea turtle nursery. Primarily comprised of lagoonal waters, the refuge includes aquatic, transitional, and upland habitats supporting a diversity of species, including 14 federally listed threatened and endangered species. This complex ecological system also supports hundreds of species of birds, fish, plants, and mammals. Over thirty species of birds use Pelican Island as a rookery, roost, feeding ground, or loafing area.
Sixteen different species of birds nest on Pelican Island, which include the:
- Brown pelican, Wood stork, Great egret, Snowy egret, Reddish egret, Cattle egret, Great blue heron, Little blue heron, Tricolored heron, Green-backed heron, Black-crowned night heron, Double-crested cormorant (resident), Anhinga, White ibis, American oystercatcher, Common moorhen
Species that nest elsewhere in the refuge or nearby include:
- Least tern, Royal tern, Black skimmer, Osprey
Summer visitors include:
- Roseate spoonbill and Magnificent frigatebird
Wintering birds include:
- White pelican, Double-crested cormorant (migratory), Blue-wing teal, Lesser scaup, Red-breasted merganser, Ring-billed gull, Laughing gull, Forster's tern, Common loon
The Pelican Island Welcome Center & Centennial Trail is located on Historic Jungle Trail (off of CR 510 & A1A). Directions from I-95: Exit 156 (Fellsmere Rd, also County Road 512) East, continue on Fellsmere Road to US 1 in Sebastian, turn right onto US1 traveling south, turn left at the intersection of Wabasso Road (County Road 510), continue on Wabasso Road over the Indian River Lagoon to the intersection of A1A, turn left on A1A traveling north and drive 3.7 miles, turn left onto Historic Jungle Trail.
For more information about Pelican Island, visit http://www.fws.gov/pelicanisland/
Sebastian Inlet State Park
Sebastian Inlet State Park is a wonderful place to view wildlife. Located on the tip of two barrier islands and surrounded by water, birds flock to Sebastian Inlet State Park. Visitors have a chance to view over 180 species of birds during the course of a year. The Sebastian Inlet State Park is part of the Great Florida Birding Trail. Site has waders and shorebirds, views of ocean for gannets, jaegers, shearwaters and petrels, and mangrove margins for migratory songbirds.
Sebastian Inlet State Park is located at 9700 S. State Road A1A, Melbourne Beach, FL. Click here for a map of the park.
For more information, visit http://floridastateparks.org/sebastianinlet/default.cfm
Sebastian Storm Water Park
This property, 175 acres, is a community multi-use amenity. The stormwater portion of the property services more than 1,400 acres of primarily residential development. Water from the canal system moves through this system before entering the South Prong of the Sebastian River. The property also contains uplands. Multi-use trails meander through the property, providing quality passive recreation in an urban area.
Florida scrub jays and gopher tortoise can be observed in the eastern portion of the property. A variety of wading birds are typically visible in the created and natural wetlands.
Recreational activities include hiking, bicycling and wildlife viewing.
The parking area and access point to the property is located on the south side of Englar Drive. From U.S. 1, go west on Barber Street, turn north on Schumann Drive and west onto Englar Drive. From Sebastian Boulevard (County Road 512), turn east on Barber Drive, then take a left onto Englar Drive.
Click here to view a map of the area.
For more information, contact the city of Sebastian’s Parks and Recreation Department at (772) 589-1009.
St. Sebastian River Preserve State Park
The Preserve is part of the Great Florida Birding Trail and has been identified as one of the top birding locations in the United States. Many different species of birds use the preserve during migration, such as the swallow-tailed kite, various songbirds, hawks, hummingbirds and robins. Please look at our bird checklist to see which birds are here during each season. Our most popular birds are red-cockaded woodpeckers, Florida scrub jays and Bachman's sparrows. More common sightings include sandhill cranes, wood storks, southern bald eagles and American kestrels.
Click here for a map of the State Park. North Entrance: Bachman's sparrows, scrub-jays and red-cockaded woodpeckers on the NE part of horse trail accessed via Stumper Flats trail. Green, Blue, and Red trails have hammock with migratory songbirds and swallow-tailed kites.
The St. Sebastian River Preserve State Park is located at 1000 Buffer Preserve Drive, Fellsmere, Florida 32948.
For more info., visit http://www.floridastateparks.org/stsebastianriver/
T.M. Goodwin Waterfowl Management Area
Located in the upper basin of the St. Johns River, these wetlands feature ten impoundments, managed intensively for waterfowl, wading birds and shorebirds, and a semi-permanent flooded marsh managed as a reservoir. Walking, bicycling, horseback riding and boating are all permitted. Managed hunts occur seasonally.
Expect gamut of ducks in late fall/winter, as well as shorebirds and hawks in migration. Area closed to birders during hunts; call in advance for info. Hike dikes around the impoundments. Road into area can be good for everything from swallow-tailed kites to bobwhites to caracaras.
Walk the dikes between impoundments for good views of dabbling duck species in the winter including shoveler, wigeon, teal, pintail and gadwall. Mottled ducks are found year-round. The summer is the best time to spot swallow-tailed kites and roseate spoonbills. Northern harriers fly regularly over the marshes in winter and, during hawk migration in October, join red-shouldered and red-tailed hawks, peregrine falcons, merlins and kestrels. White-tailed deer are common on the dikes and in the marshes. Otters, bobcats, wild hogs and raccoons occur regularly here. Look for wading birds such as wood storks, limpkins, white and glossy ibis, herons and egrets; and black-necked stilts, greater and lesser yellowlegs, dowitchers and other shorebirds.
Directions: From the intersection of 1-95 and C.R. 512 north of Vero Beach, head west for three miles to C.R. 507 (Babcock St.). Turn right (north) and after five miles, turn left (west) onto Fellsmere Grade Road, just south of the C-54 canal. Follow signs to the site entrance from the Stick Marsh boat ramp.
For more information, visit http://myfwc.com/hunting/by-species/waterfowl/tm-goodwin/