Zenfolio | April L. Gustetter | SEBASTIAN INLET STATE PARK - Melbourne, Fla.

82 photos
9502 South A1A
Melbourne Beach, FL 32951

$3.00 Kayak Launch Fee

Put-in: Sebastian Inlet State Park Marina, which launches into Campbell Cove

Destination: Sebastian Inlet (which divides Brevard and Indian River counties) and the Swim Cove it hosts

Sebastian Inlet State Park is located in Brevard and Indian River counties on a barrier island between the Atlantic Ocean and the Indian River Lagoon. Access to the park is from State Road A1A, 12 miles north of Vero Beach or 18 miles south of Melbourne. The park contains 971.01 acres.

Acquisition of the park began in 1966, with a donation from Robert P. McLarty and Dodo W. McLarty. The State of Florida acquired Sebastian Inlet State Park to protect, develop, operate and maintain the property for public outdoor recreational, park, conservation, historic and related purposes.

The park provides important resting, feeding, and 23 nesting habitat for many state and federally listed shorebirds and wading birds, including but not limited to Roseate Spoonbill, Little Blue Heron, Reddish Egret, Snowy Egret, Tricolored Heron, Wood Stork, White Ibis , Least Tern, Black Skimmer, Wilson’s Plover, Royal Tern, and the Piping Plover.

The park’s archaeological resources represent many facets of the larger area’s history, including the Indian River Lagoon’s pre-contact and protohistoric native population, the 1715 Spanish Plate Fleet wreck and salvage operations, French colonial activity on Florida’s northern Atlantic seaboard, and the inlet’s 19th and 20th century fish camps.

The original Sebastian Inlet was dug by hand between 1886 and 1895, but closed by a storm soon after. A permanent inlet was opened in 1924, allowed to close during World War II and reopened after the war.

Sebastian Inlet is renowned as a top fishing location. In addition to attracting sport and local fisherman, park lands have an historic association with a once thriving commercial fishing industry. This history and these lands have cultural significance for still living local communities. With construction of the Sebastian Inlet Fishing Museum in 2000, the park formally assumed a role in the preservation and interpretation of this history.

To the west of the park is the Indian River – Malabar to Vero Beach 48 Aquatic Preserve that was established to protect the living waters of the Indian River Lagoon, a shallow lagoon estuary. Also near the park are various protected lands acquired and managed by Brevard and Indian River Counties, some of which provide public beach access. Of note, Brevard County opened the Barrier Island Sanctuary Management and Education Center in 2008 that is located less than two miles north of the park. This new educational facility focuses on the habitats of the barrier island, sustainable living and the sea turtles found in the Archie Carr Refuge. Brevard County also operates a large camping area at Long Point Park on an island in the Indian River Lagoon adjacent to the northwest corner of the park.

Bordering the lagoon side of the park is mangrove tidal swamp. The marina and boat ramp area provide access to this water body that is used by fishermen, pleasure boaters and canoe/kayakers. Along the 500-foot wide inlet, the park’s shoreline is heavily used by fishermen. In particular, the jetties at the mouth of the inlet that extend into the ocean have produced many impressive catches.

The beach dunes, coastal hammock community and the mangrove shoreline along the Indian River Lagoon provide excellent wildlife habitat. In winter, thousands of birds gather to feed on the wide tidal flats. In summer, sea turtles nest along the park beach, and on adjacent beachfronts. Manatees can be seen feeding in the Indian River. In addition, rare worm reefs can be found in certain areas just off the beach.

The Florida mangrove system is an important habitat for many species. In the Sebastian Inlet Park, there are three species of mangrove: black, white, and red. The Red Mangrove grows closest to open water. It has multiple prop roots, which may help to stabilize the soil around its roots. Next comes the Black Mangrove. It does not have prop roots, but does have pneumatophores, which grow up from the roots to above the water level. The White Mangrove grows closest to shore. It may have prop roots and/or pneumatophores, depending on conditions where it is growing. There is a fourth species called Buttonwood, which grows in shallow, brackish water or on dry land.

Mangroves are tropical plants, killed by freezing temperatures. Mangroves can survive along most of the length of the Florida peninsula because the winter climate is moderated by the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico on the west coast and the Gulf Stream on the east coast.

This system provides nursery grounds for young fish, crustaceans, and mollusks. Many fish feed in the mangrove forests, including snook, various types of snapper, tarpon, jack, sheepshead, and red drum, to name a few. An estimated 75% of the game fish and 90% of the commercial fish species in south Florida depend on the mangrove system. Shrimp and clams also feed in this ecosystem.

The branches of mangroves serve as roosts and rookeries for coastal and wading birds. Other animals that shelter in the mangroves are the American Crocodile, Bald Eagle, Peregrine Falcon, Eastern Diamondback Rattlesnake, Mangrove Snake and the Atlantic Saltmarsh Snake.

Above the water, mangroves also shelter and support snails, crabs spiders, bromeliads including Spanish moss and Reindeer lichen. Below the water's surface, often encrusted on the mangrove roots, are sponges, anemones, corals, oysters, tunicates, mussels, starfish, crabs, Florida Spiny Lobster and seagrass.
Intended Path: Covered most of this ;-)Right out of the gate, I was greeted by what appeared to be a dancing pelican. Turns out it just pooped.Having relieved itself, it posed pretty for me.Followed this beautiful Osprey for a bit, and while it's not great, this is the best shot I could get...it kept flying off.A look back at the Sebastian Inlet State Park Marina.Still very early on my way, this is a good perspective of how wide Indian River Lagoon is...the shore in the background is Indian River Drive as it joins US 1.This is how clear the water was...and how shallow in much of the Indian River Lagoon.Mangrove Row...it was about 63 degrees and the sun had not yet decided if it would visit for any length of time...water was like glass.Along the way, nature showed signs of human assault. In this case, there was at least the consolation of color to temper the intrusion.The natural architecture was a pleasure to observe.Mangroves are often in the company of oysters...it's all part of the ecosystem.And then there was the vibrant layering of algae to make my photos pop.I found the adaptation of nature to calamity (it was clear this limb was felled by some weather event) a particular point of interest.There were numerous little beaches along the course to my destination.This very cool hollow is actually the bottom of a felled tree.A great view of the many alcoves these mangroves offered for exploration.A typical end point of the mangrove alcoves...rich with life and color.Zigging and zagging through the mangroves is truly one of the best parts of this tour...you never know what you'll see.While it looks like a loose limb, this is attached to the mangrove bush at right, patiently making its way to the water to join the oysters.The landscape was breathtaking...and delightfully solitary...I was the only human in these groves.