Centennial Trail, Pelican Island National Wildlife Refuge, Sebastian, Florida
Length: 0.75 miles, out and back
Width: 8 feet
Surface type: Asphalt and boardwalk
Typical grade: Low
Typical cross slope: Low
Use Fee required?: No
Accessible features: Restrooms, boardwalk, overlook tower, parking
Pelican Island is America’s first National Wildlife Refuge, and is located on Highway A1A just outside of Sebastian, Florida. To introduce the area, here is the description from the US Fish and Wildlife Service’s website:
“Near the Atlantic coastal community of Sebastian, Florida, lays a little island in the Indian River Lagoon, a dot on the map really but with a very large international footprint. This is Pelican Island, and its surrounding 5400+ acres of protected waters and lands, are known as the Pelican Island National Wildlife Refuge.” https://www.fws.gov/refuge/pelican_island/
To get there drive off A1A into a jungle-like setting on a level dirt road into the refuge. There are several parking lots with plenty of parking. All parking is level with dirt/gravel surface—easy for wheelchairs, walkers, canes.
First parking lot is a trail with access to bathrooms. Not sure if bathrooms are wheelchair accessible.
To access the Centennial Trail, keep on driving to second parking lot. This lot also dirt/gravel and easy use for wheelchair, walker, cane. This lot has one disabled parking spot, with plenty of easy-to-use parking.
Once out of lot, paved flat trail for approx. 3-4 blocks. Much signage throughout and can’t get lost. There is a dirt, grass trail off the paved trail that is also accessible. This grass trail is approx. a 1 mile loop with overlook area of a small pond.
The paved Centennial Trail passes a visitors area and butterfly garden, while looping around a small pond. The pond has much bird activity.
After the visitors area the paved trail passes two shaded sitting areas that have enough room to navigate a wheelchair, walker, or cane.
The paved trail then becomes a boardwalk for approx. 2 blocks. This is a gradual uphill boardwalk with a handrail. Please note that many of the boardwalk slats are slightly elevated—not an issue for a wheelchair, but a roller or cane user needs to make sure to pick up their feet! The boardwalk ends at an observation area that has beautiful views of the area. Downhill is gradual but take your time.
From parking lot to observation tower back to lot is approx. 1 mile.
Overall, easily accessible for people with disabilities. Trails are very nice and the views are excellent for a flat Florida. Watch out for the slats on the boardwalk if you’re walking. The preserve is beautiful and a real surprise for beach-focused Florida. I strongly recommend if you want to take a break from the ocean.
Submitted by Layne Oliff
Reviewed May 2021