Today the plan was to head up toward the Sebastian area, have lunch, and visit the Pelican Island National Wildlife Refuge. We headed north on US 1, stopped at Hale’s Groves for some citrus, then stopped at Rock City Gardens to look at the plants.
Lunch was at the Sand Bar at Captain Hiram’s. It was quite the laid back place, and we were tempted to get fruity rum drinks and just hang out all day, but we resisted.
From Sebastian we retraced our steps to Wabasso and crossed the Indian River onto North Hutchinson Island. Immediately across the river we turned north onto the historic Jungle Road. This was the first road to run along the island. It’s still preserved as a dirt road, and part of it runs through overhanging oaks and really gives one a “jungle” feel. The only bad part is that it also runs between developments with multi-million dollar homes. You can see the monstrosities poke their heads above the trees.
Finally we reached Pelican Island. Apparently this was the very first national wildlife refuge in the US, established by Teddy Roosevelt in 1903. There are several walking trails, and the refuge includes part of the Indian River. We selected a one-mile loop that led to an observation tower.
The site is so named because of the abundance of white pelicans that live in the area. We spotted a large group about a half-mile out into the river, as well as seeing large groups if ibis and other wading birds. My telephoto lens wasn’t quite long enough to get a good shot, so I tried holding my little Nikon up to the eyepiece of the spotting scope on the observation deck.
From Pelican Island we drove up to the Sebastian Inlet, saw that it was incredibly crowded on this warm day, and decided to head homeward. We drove along the island until we got to Vero Beach. Since we were fairly close to home and it was toward the end of our drive, we decided to stop at Riverside Grill and have one of the rum drinks we passed up at the Sand Bar.
Back at home I decided to go for one last late-afternoon paddle. The plan was to paddle out to the spoil island, circle it, then return while watching the sun set. I battled breezes and swells to get out to the island but I made it. The place was crowded with campers, so I did my circle and headed back. Once I got safely back to the homeward side of the channel I paused to watch the sunset.
It was at this time that I had my most dramatic wildlife encounter of the day. As I was taking the above photo a manatee popped up right near the boat and snorted. He/she/it showed lots of interest in the kayak and kept checking me out. Fortunately, I had the little Flip video running and was able to catch its head rising out of the water. This happens about 32 seconds into the video clip below:
It’s been a great trip for wildlife encounters, especially while paddling.