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Pelican Island National Wildlife Refuge

This Refuge is located near the Atlantic coastal community of Sebastian, Florida, and it is America’s first National Wildlife Refuge. Pelican Island is a small land in the Indian River Lagoon, and the Pelican Island National Wildlife Refuge surrounds it; with nearly 5400+ acres of protected land and water, this Island has an extensive international footprint.

Teddy Roosevelt established the Pelican Island National Wildlife Refuge in 1903. This historical event happened thanks to Paul Kroegel, a German immigrant who moved to the Indian River in 1881. Paul was fascinated by the giant bird population in the Indian River Lagoon. He was especially interested in a small island filled with pelicans, ibis, egrets, and other waterfowl. This Island was mainly used as a hunting area for people interested in selling plumage for hat making. So, Paul was determined to save this island bird population. He began his own ‘Stop hunting birds’ movement. So, thanks to his efforts, this Island was declared the first National Wildlife Refuge.

This historic place offers a range of recreational opportunities areas for birders, photographers, and other outdoor fans and enthusiasts. Both 3-mile loop trails and the newest Wildlife Trail give a unique taste of the Refuge’s habitats and wildlife around the salt marshes and the mangrove habitats. The Centennial walking trail offers beautiful scenery of the Centennial Pond; At the very end of this trail, there’s a 500-foot Americans with Disabilities Act accessible observation tower and a boardwalk in the middle of the Indian River Lagoon where you can get a good view of the Island.

The best time to visit this refugee is in the fall through spring cause you’ll get to see both the migratory white pelicans and the nesting brown pelicans. You can find informational signs along the trails that detail the story and people behind this Refuge. You can also kayak, ride a boat, and swim in the Lagoon waters surrounding Pelican Island and the mangrove island that falls in this Refuge’s boundaries.