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Nature Based Vacation For The Land Lovers on The Space Coast

The Space Coast is considered a leader in Florida eco- and nature based tourism.  Located on the Atlantic Flyway, the area is within close proximity to 40 sites on the Great Florida Birding Trail and is a perfect place to watch for migrating species.  the Annual Space Coast Birding&Wildlife Festival, now in its 11th year and ranked as one of the top three birding events in North America, attracts thousands of birders from around the world each January.  birds that can be seen include reddish egret, roseate spoonbill, crested caracara, American bald eagle, multiple herons and egrets and the painted bunting, among dozens of others.  Options for exploring the region include guided and un-guided tours by foot, boat, automobile, kayak or bicycle.  The unique and protected habitats, resulting from a convergence of temperate and sub-tropical climate zones, can make even a amateur eco-tourist's friends "green" with envy.  Much of the untouched natural "old Florida" on the Space Coast is due to the Kennedy Space Center, which purchased hundreds of acres of land on which only seven percent has or will be developed.  The rest areas set aside decodes ago and makes up the huge 220 square mile Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge and Canaveral National Seashore.  The refuge, which includes points of interest along Black Point Wildlife Drive, a 7-mile self guided tour of impounded marshes, a Visitor Center, four hiking trails and the historic Haulover Canal, is a veritable cornucopia of unique systems and animals.  Kayaking tours of some of the wading bird islands and otherwise hard to reach spots are offered by many reputable tour providers. 

The Space Coast area is so magnificent that one site is even recognized a "enchanted."  The Enchanted Forest Sanctuary, located Titusville, was recognized with a first place landscape award fro the Florida Native Plant Society for its wildflowers and butterfly gardens.  The 428-acre sanctuary has more than four miles of hiking trails, provides interpretive exhibits and hosts a reference library, gift shop, restrooms, picnic area and an outdoor amphitheater.  The Space Coast is also home to the natural beauty of the Florida Institute of Technology's Botanical Gardens.  The 35 acre garden offers to all a place of peace and quiet study, an opportunity to sit or to stroll, to listen and to learn.  Located inn Melbourne, this garden has more than 2000 palms proving what Aristotle once said, "In all things of nature there is something of the marvelous." 

In an interesting juxtaposition with nearby major cruise ships, Space Coast River Tours out of Port Canaveral offers tours of the Port and its locks, including stunning views of the ocean liners and the abundant wildlife.  For sea turtle fans, Turtle Walks are available in June and July of each year along the Central and South beaches and through the Canaveral National Seashore in the north part of the county.  The guided walks provide educational information and allow guests the opportunity to observe nesting female sea turtles.  Reservations are required and the limited number of spaces available for each walk book very quickly.  For those looking to enjoy the great outdoors without as much physical exertion, there are plenty of choices as well.  Many nature-centered boat tours offer great insight into the local environment including Dolphin Girl Cruises & Eco-Tours headquartered at the Conch Key Grill in Suntree; Island Boat Lines touring the Banana River near Florida Seafood Bar & Grill in cocoa Beach; catamaran tours with Indian River Cruises or paddleboat tours aboard the Indian River Queen in Cocoa Village; and awe-inspiring trips around the Cocoa Beach Thousand Islands with Adventure Airboat Tours or the Cocoa Beach Manatee Watch.  At little more than ten years old and 56-acres, Brevard Zoo has already won international acclaim for donating more than $200,000 to conservation efforts and for incorporating eco-tourism elements into their mission.  The zoo now offers kayaking tours in a 22-acre restored wetlands on site as well as in the man-made river encircling the Expedition Africa area where luck paddlers can get quite close to giraffe and white rhino. 

In an effort to better promote wildlife conservation, the zoo staff also expanded their education reach outside the gates to offer two and four hour guided kayaking tours of nearby lagoon systems as well.  while the preservation of natural habitats started with the refuge set aside by NASA, the people of Brevard County were quick to recognize the importance of the local ecosystems.  Residents and community leaders are working hard to ensure that the Space Coast's assortment of beautiful and wild places will remain in pristine condition for generations to come.  The Space Coast is and will remain one of the largest intact eco-systems in Florida for the foreseeable future and will continue to offer unparalleled opportunities for a nature-filled vacation.  Florida's Space Coast is a fabulous place for nature lovers to visit.  The Space Coast is truly a "water world" with the Atlantic Ocean on its east coast, wetlands by the thousands, and a large estuary system right in the middle of the county - a very special place called the Indian River Lagoon.  Lying in a region where temperate and subtropical climate zones meet, each of our distinct ecosystems is in a dynamic state of change.  Animals and plants from the north and south overlap here and compete with each other producing an area rich in species.  Some species are rare or endangered.  And some are endemics, which means they are only found here.

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