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PARKS IN COCOA BEACH AND SURROUNDING AREAS
Parks in the Cocoa Beach area
From swimming in crystal clear waters at a pristine beach to touring a Civil War era sugar mill ruins, Cocoa Beach parks offer something for everyone. Swimming, hiking, camping, fishing, canoeing and picnicking are only some of the activities available to the park visitor. Each park showcases a unique and beautiful slice of the Cocoa Beach area.
Bulow Plantation Ruins Historic State Park
Major Charles Bulow founded Bulow Plantation on 4,675 acres in 1821. Using slave labor, 2,200 acres were cleared and planted with sugar cane, cotton, rice and indigo. After Major Bulow's death in 1823, his son John returned from Paris to manage the growing plantation. John made quite a success of the business until January 1836 when a band of Seminole Indians looted and burned the property during the Second Seminole War. The mill walls and chimneys, made of local "coquina" rock, survived the fire and stand to this day. The foundation of the original plantation house and some of the slave quarters are also still visible amidst the oak hammock that surrounds the original property. Signs amid the ruins and artifacts at the Interpretive Center recount the history of this once noble plantation.
For the hiker and history buff alike, a 6-mile hiking trail runs from the plantation ruins to nearby Bulow Creek State Park. The trail crosses open woods and then enters oak hammock where the shaded path winds around the massive trunks of live oaks. Camping is available, with a camping permit, at a primitive campsite located along the trail. There are no facilities and water and supplies must be packed in. Bulow Creek, a State Canoe Trail, offers the canoeist the chance to view breathtaking natural scenery and abundant wildlife. Bald eagles, swallow-tailed kites, and Florida manatees have all been seen in the park. A small picnic area located along the banks of Bulow Creek offers a beautiful setting for an open-air meal.
Erna Nixon Regional Park
Erna Nixon Park is a 53.93-acre natural Florida hammock and nature preserve located just south of Nasa Boulevard southwest of the Melbourne Airport. Although surrounded by a commercial district, it is home to many birds and small animals, including the protected gopher tortoise and Indigo snake.
A popular site for nature walks and outdoor festivals such as the annual Crackerfest held in October, the park features 2345' of elevated boardwalk and 640' of trail winding through three different ecosystems. Grand old live oaks festooned with moss and fern, an open wetland area, and a wild grape arbor highlight the tour. Using an informative booklet, visitors can experience the ancient Florida woodlands through self-guided tours or enjoy exhibits at the nature center which adjoins a small pavilion with picnic tables.
Throughout the year, free guided tours are conducted Saturdays and Sundays at 2 p.m. Group tours may also be scheduled. Nature Adventure programs for grades K-5 are presented during the school year at several South Area locations by Erna Nixon Interpretive Rangers, and outreach programs are available. Call for program details, or for information about volunteering and contributions to the park.
Tomoka State Park
Native Americans once lived off the fish-filled lagoons surrounding Tomoka State Park, and fishing remains one of the favorite activities for visitors to the park today. The Florida Marine Institute has identified 90 separate species of fish in the Tomoka River, and anglers will delight at catching red drum, black drum, sea trout, snook and tarpon, to name only a few. Manatees are seen in the river in spring and summer, and other residents of the park include river otter, alligator and the occasional bottlenose dolphin.
In addition to fishing, hikers find Tomoka State Park's trails among the best in the state. The park features trails ranging from easy ½ mile strolls to more arduous 6-mile treks. Along the Timucuan trail, visitors pass by the site of the ancient Indian village of Nocoroco, which was once a thriving community along the banks of the Tomoka River. Wildlife abounds in the park, creating great opportunities for nature study. Over 165 species of birds have been observed, including bald eagles, peregrine falcons, herons, wood stork and white ibis. Canoeing the rivers and tributaries in the park offers another great way to observe the varied bird and marine life. Canoe rentals are available from the ranger station on a first come, first served basis. Canoeists are advised not to venture into the Tomoka basin, as the water can get quite choppy on windy days.
Camping in the park offers a delightful retreat from a busy vacation
schedule. The campground features 100 combination tent and RV sites, each
with picnic table, grill and water. Sixty-four of the sites also have
electric hook-ups. In addition, five separate picnic areas are located
throughout the park, all with tables, grills and pavilions for larger