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Make Brevard trip of animals, art

Beaches are a big attraction in Melbourne, but a road tripper needn't venture to the sand and surf for day-trip diversions.

That's encouraging news for your Postcards correspondent, who always has enjoyed looking at the ocean more than actually wading into it.

From giraffes to galleries, there are other options in Melbourne. And, if you time it right, you can enjoy both.

The giraffes, like the one in the photo with this week's column, are big at the Brevard Zoo, an utterly engaging animal showcase that's worth the roughly 80-mile one-way drive from the Orange-Seminole county corridor.

Although the zoos I remember from childhood were depressing places, with the cages and the animals pacing so restlessly inside them, the Brevard Zoo (off Wickham Road at Interstate 95) is built around inviting wooden boardwalks that are hospitable for both animals and people.

It's divided into five "loops" — Expedition Africa, La Selva (modeled after the rain forests of South America), Austral-Asia, Wild Florida and the children's area, Paws on Play. In addition to opportunities to feed the giraffes, there are kayak excursions and train rides available to check out the attractions from different angles. Visit brevardzoo.com for hours and admission information.

Make your zoo excursion on the first Friday of a month and you can conclude the day with a leisurely stroll through the First Friday Art Walk at the Eau Gallie Arts District (eaugalliearts.com), along Highland Avenue at Eau Gallie Boulevard in downtown Melbourne.

On my visit, artists were selling paintings, tie-dyed dresses, ornamental squirrel feeders, bamboo flutes and other trinkets in Eau Gallie Square, where a local band banged out bluesy rock 'n' roll. Other spots — ranging from Funk's Antiquary, a tiny shop packed with quirky finds, to the Foosaner Art Museum, which hosts live jazz music for the Friday Art Walks — offered art and antiques.

Run by the Florida Institute of Technology, the museum makes good use of its compact space, with exhibits such as the display of paintings by German impressionist Ernst Oppler (through Jan. 6).

If you just can't resist the water, grab lunch or dinner at Squid Lips, on the Indian River next to the Eau Gallie Causeway, followed by a stroll on the pier next door.

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