Beachside EEL Sanctuary Hikes

There are a number of sanctuaries along A1A below Melbourne Beach which provide some nice easy hikes. Though these trails tend to wind adjacent to and even cross over A1A at times, you will find them to be remarkably quiet and provide you a descent “wilderness type” experience. Rather than writing up each area separately I have elected to just combine them under this one entry. One thing to be aware of, these sanctuaries are maintained and controlled by the Brevard EEL Group. They have many rules and are adamant that they are observed... Please, respect the fact that no bikes or pets are allowed on the trails. Make sure you bring your camera and a pair of binoculars if you own them. Take advantage of “one time viewing” with the binoculars from the scenic overlooks along the trail. Your camera will provide you with forever snap shots to share with friends. Stop, relax, get out of the sun, and enjoy the surroundings on the benches provided. The trails are well marked, creatively laid out and well groomed. I would consider the trails in these sanctuaries to be friendly for the novice hiker. It is just about impossible to get off a trail and get lost. If you are into GEOCaching, there are a number of caches placed in the sanctuaries. Overall these “in your backyard “areas are good places to visit. So take advantage of them, whether for an hour in between errands, or as a family friendly afternoon get away.
Here is a list of the areas –
• Coconut Point Sanctuary – 1.0 Miles – Start: N28 00.678 W80 31.837
• Maritime Hammock Sanctuary – 3.6 Miles – Start: N27 57.378 W80 30.166
• Barrier Island Sanctuary - .6 Miles - Start: N27 54.095 W80 28.288

Coconut Point Sanctuary
This entrance to the trail is located across the street from the Ponce De Leon Park. Parking is available at the park, along with picnic tables and restrooms. After crossing A1A you will see the trailhead and information stand, take a few minutes to read about the trail and what is available. The 1 mile hike starts in a sandy, scrub area and continues for the first half of the trail winding its way along sandy pathways, scrub trees and bushes. Depending on the time of the year you will encounter a variety of plants and animals which inhabit Florida scrub. Scrub jays have been seen in this area, though it may be tempting, do not feed them. Violators are subject to fines. For the second half of the hike you will enter a potentially wet area, with a number of boardwalks which are necessary during the wet season. There is an overlook provided to view this section of the Indian River Lagoon, be sure to watch for the turn. You will then exit the wet areas and proceed back into scrub land and then exit onto A1A. You now can walk back along A1A to your car or retract your steps along the trail in hopes of making additional discoveries. All in all, this short trail provides a variety of ecosystems to enjoy.

Pictures and Hiking Map Links –
• You can see a number of pictures of the area at - Coconut Point Sanctuary Pictures – use the “Launch Slideshow” function to loop through them
• My hike can be viewed/downloaded at - WIKILOC Hike - If you have GPS you can download the tracks

Some Coconut Point Pictures (click to enlarge) -


Maritime Hammock Sanctuary
This is the longest of the three sanctuary hikes and also my favorite. It used to be just a little over 2 miles, but sometime in 2010 the EEL Group opened up more trails into the northern section. The hike starts at a small parking area off A1A where you will find an information station with a trail map. The trail winds into the woods along a boundary fence which separates the sanctuary from a residential neighborhood. Though the homes are located in the center of the sanctuary, the trails are relatively private, tranquil and peaceful. As you walk along you forget civilization is a stones through away and really can lose your thoughts in the “wilderness” of your surroundings. You will find a number of benches along the trail as well as bridges and boardwalks which afford you the luxury of staying dry. One bench is located just off the trail and has a very pretty view of a canal. The newer trail sections branch off through a small wooded section and then into a large open area with a beautiful pond. Around the pond you will find some spectacular oaks graced with spanish ivy. The day I hiked around the pond there were some coots, ducks and wading birds. There also is a new entrance to the sanctuary provided off Pelican Drive. This entrance has been decorated with some driftwood to add to the charm. After looping around the pond the trail leads down and then along the Indian River Lagoon. The views of the lagoon are spectacular. . The trail then goes back to what is actually an old dirt road which winds through the sanctuary. This section of the trail brings you to a bridge over the canal that will lead you back to the foot trail. This section is scenic as well. You will be walking along boardwalks over some salt marshes as you meander along the trail. Eventually a lookout area appears giving you a view of a small lagoon in the woods. There have been a number of wading birds spotted in this area. The rest of the trail is picture perfect in many areas, with some ornate scrub oaks as well as other types of trees. Many benches are provided in this section where you can stop, snap a picture with your cellphone and share the beauty of the trail with someone. Eventually you will windup back on A1A, where your options are to walk back along A1A to your car or retrace your steps back along the trail.
The ecosystems encountered in this sanctuary are amazing; I have encountered and now shared with you a fair number of those which you might expect to find in Florida. At different times I have seen a variety of wildflowers, animals, wading birds and songbirds. I highly recommend this sanctuary to families who want to get out and experience some time in nature.

Pictures and Hiking Map Links –
• You can see a number of pictures of the area at - Maritime Hammock Sanctuary Pictures – use the “Launch Slideshow” function to loop through them
• My hike can be viewed/downloaded at - WIKILOC Hike - If you have GPS you can download the tracks

Some Maritime Hammock Sanctuary Pictures (click to enlarge) -


Barrier Island Sanctuary
This sanctuary is rather small, the trail is only .6 miles long and a far portion of it is just a cleared road. Parking is supplied either at the EEL Visitor’s Center (maybe closed) or at Bonsteel Park across A1A. The trail starts out winding through a small forest, prepare to “limbo” as some of the oak trees just lean across the trail. You will come to a small area with benches in a circle; this I presume is used for small presentations. There also are a number of benches placed along the trail. You will come to a spot with a nice view of the Indian River Lagoon. The SJRWMD has placed an information station down by the river to inform people of what is going on in the area. Eventually you will loop back towards A1A; here you will walk under a natural canopy of green leaves – straight out of a fairy tale -- as you cross a large boardwalk over a salt marsh. Upon exiting to A1A you could walk back on the road to the parking area or do as I did, just go back on the trail for a new perspective. Depending on the time of the year and the weather you could see a wide variety of wildflowers. The trail is very well maintained; even exposed roots and other protrusions have been painted as an attempt to protect people from tripping.

Pictures and Hiking Map Links –
• You can see a number of pictures of the area at - Barrier Island Sanctuary Pictures – use the “Launch Slideshow” function to loop through them
• My hike can be viewed/downloaded at - WIKILOC Hike - If you have GPS you can download the tracks

Some Barrier Island Sanctuary Pictures (click to enlarge)-

1 comment:

edmund zaruba said...

Thanks to Tom for sharing so much experience with the trails.
I hike and bike the scrubs in the Melbourne area mostly during the cooler months and have never been bored or disappointed with the time spent. Each season has it's own delightful surprises along the way!