The History of Pelican Island

Around 4,000 BC the ocean around Florida began to rise, resulting in the creation of a newly formed shoreline. The shoreline became a beautiful home of biological diversity, and though it has evolved since, it is still one of the most unique and diverse places to visit in Florida. Pelican Island was the first National Wildlife Refuge in the United States. In it’s earlier history, Pelican Island’s bird population was under constant threat due to an increase in human population. There was an explosion in the fashion industry, and many of the exotic birds inhabiting the land were killed for clothing production. Theodore Roosevelt was the one who made Pelican Island a Wildlife Refuge and locals in the community committed to its protection.

Pelican Island Today

Pelican Island is a well known Wildlife Refuge and part of the Everglades Headwaters. It is located off the western coast of Orchid Island and lies within the Indian River Lagoon just east of Sebastian, Florida. There are over 5,000 acres of surrounding water and land that are also protected by the state of Florida. It is a beautiful subtropical experience with long summers and short winters and is home to hundreds of species of birds, plants, mammals, and fish. The wetlands of the island are a large ecological system, resulting in its rich biological diversity. If lucky, one may see turtles, dolphins, and manatees that occupy the lagoon. Pelican Island is accessible by taking a boat or a charter tour. Visitors can call ahead and schedule a free visit where wildlife volunteers show the refuge. Field guides supply visitors with binoculars.

Things to Do

While visiting Pelican Island, there are plenty of activities to participate in. Hike one of three trails including the Centennial Trail Pond, the National Wildlife Refuge Boardwalk, and the Observation Tower. You can also kayak through parts of the refuge and photograph rare wildlife. The observation platforms provide you with a birds-eye view of the island and lagoon. Fishing is also allowed in the sanctuary. You have the option to fish on the bank but will get the best results by boat. To increase and inspire awareness, there multiple opportunities for all ages to learn about the environment and its conservation.