Pelican Island National Wildlife Refuge

Get close to some of the world's rarest wildlife and nature in this extraordinary protected area on an island in the Indian River Lagoon, near the Atlantic coastal community of Sebastian, Florida. Over more than 5,400 acres of protected waters and lands, the Pelican Island National Wildlife Refuge was the first national wildlife refuge in the country. It provides natural habitats for wildlife and fish and, as such, is designated as a Wetland of International Importance, a Marine Protected Area and a National Historic Landmark. A beautiful natural haven Explore the wilds in a variety of exciting ways in the refuge. 

Choose to take a hiking trail through the untouched landscape and you'll encounter fantastic opportunities to observe wildlife and take stunning photographs. A number of observation platforms around the island have been erected, providing the perfect venues for viewing the best that Mother Nature has to offer. 

Visiting during November through to March? 

The experienced volunteers in the refuge also give free wildlife tours by tram to the observation platforms and over our trail system, a fantastic way to learn more about the wild world around you. For adventurous and active types, hire a kayak to see the wetlands from the water and get close to the wading birds and fish! 

An important habitat 

As you explore the island, you'll become aware of the importance of the place as a home to hundreds of different species. Located in the Indian River Lagoon, Pelican Island National Wildlife Refuge supports important bird rookeries, key fish spawning sites, and a globally important juvenile sea turtle nursery. The primary habitats of the Refuge are lagoonal waters, including estuarine waters, seagrasses, drift algae, hardwood forest, lakes, mangrove swamps, mud flats, forested wetlands, scrub-shrub wetlands and non-vegetated wetlands, among others. 

More than 140 species of birds use the Refuge as a nesting, roosting or feeding area, including, of course, brown and white pelicans. The refuge hosts 14 federally listed threatened and endangered species. As a juvenile sea turtle nursery, the lagoonal waters of the Refuge are critical for threatened and endangered sea turtles. Visitors may also spot diverse species like Atlantic bottlenose dolphins and West Indian manatees, alligators, and mangrove crabs. 

A fishing paradise

With 5,000 acres of saltwater, there is naturally a large population of varying fish species in the Refuge - as many as 200 in total. As such, fishing is a hugely popular pastime in the reserve. Try your luck angling for sea trout, red drum, mackerel, spotted sea trout, and bluefish, to name but a few. Fishers can enjoy bank fishing or, for better results, use the boat launch facilities at Sebastian FL, the Wabasso Causeway, and at Sebastian Inlet State Park. 

For an incredible trip in East Florida, explore the Pelican Island National Wildlife Refuge for a day that all the family will remember.

Nearby hotels

Country Inn andamp; Suites by Radisson, Vero Beach-I-95, FL - Pool
13.23 mi / 21.29 km from Pelican Island National Wildlife Refuge
496 reviews