Heading east brings you into some of the most popular beach territory on the Atlantic coast, but it is also where you can often see sharks of several different kinds, especially on the stretch between Ormond Beach and Melbourne. The Brevard Zoo is Melbourne’s other claim to wildlife fame, while the nearby Ritch Grissom Memorial Wetlands are a good place to spot gators and other local wildlife. Birders should definitely make a note of Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge, close to the Kennedy Space Center, which boasts an astounding variety of different types, including some of the big herons, egrets and storks, as well as the rarer roseate spoonbills, plus the inevitable gators. Just inland, Blue Spring State Park, which feeds in to the St Johns River, is a reliable place for manatee-spotting, as is Canaveral Lock, on the western edge of Port Canaveral.
Much of what applies to the Space Coast is also true for the Treasure Coast’s marine life, with more dolphins, manatees and sharks. For something more exotic, McCarthy’s Wildlife Sanctuary in West Palm Beach rescues various big cats (22 at the last count) and also acts as a rehabilitation centre for a variety of local wildlife, from sandhill cranes to foxes and bobcats. Just to the west, the hugely family-friendly Lion Country Safari offers more animal encounters, with a genuine safari experience transplanted direct from Africa, including the chance to feed giraffes and take a boat ride. By contrast, Grassy Waters Nature Preserve is a pleasant small-scale experience in Florida nature.