SEBASTIAN INLET STATE PARK
SEBASTIAN INLET STATE PARK
9700 South A1A
Melbourne Beach, Florida 32951
The premier saltwater fishing spot on Florida's east coast, this park is a favorite for anglers nationwide for catching snook, redfish, bluefish, and Spanish mackerel from its jetties. Surfing is also a popular recreation and several major competitions are held here every year. Two museums provide a history of the area. The McLarty Treasure Museum features the history of the 1715 Spanish treasure fleet; the Sebastian Fishing Museum tells the history of the area's fishing industry. Three miles of beautiful beaches provide opportunities for swimming, scuba diving, snorkeling, shelling, and sunbathing. Canoeing and kayaking in the Indian River Lagoon are also favorite pastimes. Visitors can relax with a stroll down the mile-long Hammock Trail. Waterfront pavilions and picnic areas are great for family outings. Full-facility campsites and a boat ramp are available. Located on State Road A1A 15 miles south of Melbourne Beach.
Sebastian Inlet State Park is a wonderful place to view wildlife. Located on the tip of two barrier islands and surrounded by water, birds flock to Sebastian Inlet State Park. Visitors have a chance to view over 180 species of birds during the course of a year. The Sebastian Inlet State Park is part of the Great Florida Birding Trail. Sebastian Inlet State Park and the surrounding beaches have the largest nesting assemblage of sea turtles in the United States. During June and July visitors have an opportunity to witness nesting loggerhead sea turtles on a ranger-led walk. Reservations for these tours are necessary. Juvenile green sea turtles feed in the seagrass beds of the Indian River Lagoon and can be seen on the reefs off of the McLarty Treasure Museum. In the water surrounding the park Atlantic bottlenose dolphins are commonly seen. Manatees inhabit these waters from March to October. The most endangered whale species in the world is the right whale, with a population of only 300. During the months of January and February, right whales can sometimes be observed traveling close to the coast. Raccoons, opossums, and many other small animals can be routinely observed. Bobcats, alligators, and river otters are occasionally seen.
The history of the Sebastian Inlet area goes back to the end of the last ice age. The barrier islands formed from sandbars off the coast of the mainland. As vegetation took hold on the sandbars, animals moved in, followed by the first human inhabitants, the Paleo hunters.
The Ais Indians were more recent inhabitants of the barrier islands. They were a tribe of hunters and gatherers who lived off the bounty of the land and sea. The Ais captured the English Quaker Jonathan Dickinson after his ship wrecked in 1696. Dickinson's descriptions of the Ais and their lifestyles are the best record we have of these people. By 1760, all of the Ais Indians were gone. Like the other natives of Florida, they succumbed to European diseases and mistreatment.
In 1715, eleven Spanish treasure galleons sank along the east central Florida coast. One of the survivors' campsites was located on the present day site of the McLarty Treasure Museum. Seven hundred people lost their lives in this disaster, while 1,500 people survived.
In 1872, Captain David P. Gibson promoted a movement to dig an inlet across a quarter mile strip of barrier island near present day Sebastian Inlet. The next attempt to dig an inlet was in 1881 by Thomas New. New's Cut was listed on the United States geological map of 1880. It was not until 1895 that water flowed for the first time between the Atlantic Ocean and the Indian River Lagoon at Gibson's Cut. This was a spot where the ocean frequently washed over the dunes. The inlet was quickly closed the same year by a storm and shifting sands.
Twenty-three years later in 1918, Roy D. Couch spearheaded a project using his own dredge to cut an inlet through the sandy banks and build a jetty to project the opening. This was the first time a dredge was used to cut through the barrier island. The cut was completed but a storm wrecked the project. The next attempt to open an inlet was in 1919 organized by commercial fishermen that wanted quick access to the ocean. Working with the Florida Legislature the Sebastian Inlet Tax District was created to build and maintain a permanent inlet. Roy Couch was elected as chairman and served at this post for 32 years.
In 1924, using funds from a $100,000.00 bond issue, the Sebastian Inlet Tax District re-cut the Sebastian Inlet 100 feet wide and 6 feet deep. A 400-foot long rock jetty was constructed to protect the new Sebastian Inlet. Between 1924 and 1941 the Sebastian Inlet was opened and closed as sand washed in from the ocean and men re-dug the narrow cut. In 1941, due to fear of German attack and wartime (WWII) lack of maintenance, a sandbar formed and closed the inlet. In 1947, after World War II was over, Sebastian Inlet was moved a little south and reopened to a width of 100 feet and a depth of 8 feet. In just a few months a storm closed the inlet again. On October 28, 1948, the inlet was reopened and has remained open ever since. The jetties were also strengthened and capped with concrete. In 1952, the north jetty was extended 300 feet. In 1955, the north jetty was extended another 250 feet. The south jetty was extended 175 feet. In 1959, Brevard and Indian River County residents voted to transfer three miles of barrier island south of Sebastian Inlet. This was done in exchange for Indian River County building a bridge across Sebastian Inlet and making a paved road from Wabasso to the inlet bridge.
FACILITIES AND ACTIVITIES OVERVIEW
The central location of Sebastian Inlet's Tent campground makes it a popular camping spot. It is a mere stone's throw from the inlet and a short stroll from the beach. All 51 campsites have water and electrical hook-ups, a fire ring with grill, and a picnic table. Also available are full restroom facilities (A.D.A. accessible), a dump station, laundry facilities, and pay phones. Reservations are offered up to 11 months in advance. Check-in time is from 8:00 a.m. until 10:00 p.m. Reservations for campsites may be made by contacting ReserveAmerica, toll-free, at 1-800 326-3521 (8:00 am to 8:00 pm), 1-888-433-0287 (TDD) (For Hearing Disabled). A.D.A. campsites may be requested. Sebastian Inlet State Park also offers the Bedtime Story Camper Lending Library of picture books for campers aged four to nine. From sea turtles to pirates, the Lending Library is a fun way to enhance your child's experience in the Real Florida. For a quiet afternoon or bedtime, share a story with your child to help explain the sights and sounds of Sebastian Inlet. Ask the Ranger Station to find out how to check out a book.
Swimming opportunities abound along the three miles of Sebastian Inlet State Park's Atlantic Ocean beaches. There is a section of beach that has lifeguard protection from Memorial Day weekend to Labor Day weekend. Beach wheelchair is available upon request. For those who prefer to play in the water but do not like waves, "The Cove" on the north side of Sebastian Inlet is ideal. The Cove is a protected area with a hard bottom and a gentle slope, making it a favorite locale for parents with kids wanting to splash and swim.
Canoes and kayaks can be paddled to islands and along the mangrove fringed shoreline of the Indian River Lagoon.
Three miles of Atlantic beach offer some of the best surfing on the East Coast. One of the most consistent surf breaks in Florida is Sebastian Inlet's first peak, located next to the north jetty. Another hot surf spot is Monster Hole--located about 1/3 mile off the beach, on the south side of Sebastian Inlet. The contour of the ocean floor rises up and when the surf is big, the waves form long lines, giving a long ride.
Boat ramps are located on both sides of Sebastian Inlet State Park. Boaters have access to the brackish waters of the Indian River Lagoon, the Intracoastal Waterway, the freshwater of the Sebastian River, and to the salty water of the Atlantic Ocean. The Gulf Stream is located about 25 to 30 miles east of Sebastian Inlet.
Boat launch ramps are available on both sides of Sebastian Inlet. The main boat launch facility with 4 boat ramps is located on the south side of Sebastian Inlet. It is open 24-hours, everyday. A mile north of Sebastian Inlet, the Inlet Marina boat ramp is open only during Inlet Marina business hours. Ramp docks are A.D.A. accessible.
A non-motorized boat launch is located on the south side of Sebastian Inlet at Coconut Point. Canoes, kayaks and sailboats are easily launched from this sandy, gentle sloping area.