Jim Abbott on Florida Travel
Postcards from Florida
November 2, 2013
Although the government shutdown has ended, the Visitor Center at the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge was still closed on my recent visit to this quiet gem, one of almost a dozen national parks and monuments in Florida.
A park volunteer at the closed gate told me that the Visitor Center (fws.gov/merrittisland) would be closed into November for repairs. I missed strolling its inviting boardwalk, where I enjoyed a point-blank staring match with beautiful painted buntings on a rainy-day road trip earlier this year.
Fortunately, the other areas in the park are all open.
The birds will be back in force as the weather becomes colder in the winter months. That's the perfect time for a slow drive along the gravel path of the 7-mile Black Point Wildlife Drive, where even an amateur bird-spotter (moi) has no trouble observing great egrets, roseate spoonbills, ducks, wood storks and even the occasional gator or bald eagle.
On my recent visit, I spent more time along one of the boardwalks over the dunes at Canaveral National Seashore. Deserted on a weekday afternoon, I savored the stillness, alternating my gaze from the blue water on the horizon to the view of the enormous Vehicle Assembly Building at the Kennedy Space Center in the distance.
I took the north exit road, returning to civilization in southern Volusia County, where I headed north of U.S. Highway 1 through Edgewater to tiny Oak Hill.
I didn't come equipped with a fishing rod, which ought to be considered an essential accessory for a destination that was once known for its annual seafood festival. Fortunately, I did arrive with an appetite for seafood as I pulled into the parking lot of Goodrich's Seafood and Oyster House (goodrichseafoodandoysterhouse.com).
Sitting along River Road on the Mosquito Lagoon, Goodrich's is a laid-back spot for breakfast or lunch by the water on the wooden deck out back. Breakfast is a specialty, but I arrived for sunset, when a bowl of New England clam chowder went well with the falling temperature.
I looked around for retired Miami Dolphins star Larry Csonka, who winters in Oak Hill and owns the restaurant land.
I had season tickets with my dad for the Dolphins' perfect season in 1972 and someday I hope to reminisce with Zonk about it over a beer.
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