I set out early for a ride on the A1A trail, parking at the North Spessard Holland Beach Park and crossing highway A1A to reach the trail, here a wide concrete sidewalk. In half a mile the surface changes to smooth asphalt, which continues for 16 miles down to Sebastian Inlet. It's unshaded, open to sun and wind, with numerous driveways and occasional cross streets. But it's the only long stretch of off-road trail in Brevard County, and maybe in the counties to the south. It lacks the seclusion of a rail trail, but has many points of interest along the way.
East coast Florida has few rail trails, partly because of the Florida East Coast Railroad. FEC doesn't like to abandon track- they just keep on using it. Say what you like about their union busting tactics, but they are survivors.
A1A trail doesn't stop in Brevard. If I crossed the bridge at the inlet, I could continue across Indian River County, through Wabasso and Vero Beach, on into St. Lucie County. Here Ft. Pierce inlet interrupts the barrier island, forcing the A1A trail inland to join US 1- fifty miles from the its nominal beginning at Ocean Avenue in Melbourne Beach. The highway also has bike lane or a fairly wide margin lane nearly all this distance, frequently ridden by faster-moving cyclists.
A long wooded stretch starts in Wabasso, shading the trail by mid-afternoon, though also channeling the wind north or south. There are connections to city bikeways in Melbourne and Vero Beach. South of Vero the woods thin out. Past Round Island Park, the trail has little or no shade. Highway traffic thins out in south Brevard and again in Indian River county south of Vero Beach.
Pedaling south from Melbourne Beach, I soon passed the Ponce de Leon landing site park, where an amateur historian claimed the European discovery of Florida actually happened. He studied de Leon's logbooks and attempted to replicate his voyage, making landfall near this park. (The accepted landing site is 150 miles north near St. Augustine.)
Florida Power was out early today, too, blocking half a dozen sections of the trail. But the flagmen were courteous and mindful of bicycles. One stopped oncoming traffic to let me pass; another waved me through inside his line of pylons.
Half a mile further on, the Archie Carr National Wildlife Refuge stretched across the barrier island, with entrances to the right and across A1A to the left. Professor Carr promoted sea turtle conservation and protection before the term "ecology" was coined.
Further on, signs pointed to the recently opened Indian River Lagoon Preserve State Park, off to the right on the lagoon side. I wasn't familiar with the preserve, but was watching for signs to Honest John's Fish Camp, where I used to take my daughter fishing decades ago. Had it been swallowed up in some new housing development?
I needn't have worried. Honest John's is still there, surrounded by a preserve which includes a broad swath of the barrier island as well as the archipelago of spoil islands where camp customers usually fish. It's a magical place early in the morning, with pelicans roosting high in the branches of the Australian pines.
South of the park, I turned back, still some miles north of the inlet. Between different rides, I've ridden most of the trail twice or more. Never crossed the Sebastian Inlet Bridge by bike, but it looks safe, with a narrow margin lane and a narrow concrete walkway. Traffic here is usually light.
South of the inlet park, the trail runs along the lagoon shore for two miles, passing a stretch of shallows favored by wade fishermen. As you enter the wooded area north of Wabasso, a sign points to the Pelican Island National Wildlife Refuge (the nation's oldest) and the northern end of the Historic Jungle Trail. This is an eight mile dirt road, mostly hard packed, close to the shore of the lagoon. The refuge has walking trails and an overlook for viewing Pelican Island.
Separated from the jungle trail by woods, A1A trail continues past scores of riverside developments, mostly fenced and gated, with tall trees and brush shading the trail to the west. There's a pretty public beach at Wabasso, beachside restaurants in Vero, and a pleasant stopping place at Round Island Park with beach access to the east and a riverside/island park on the west.
Six miles further south, A1A and the trail turn west toward the mainland, and Ft. Pierce Inlet State Park provides access to the inlet and the lagoon.
I haven't mentioned all the fourteen beach parks along A1A trail, nor all the seven parks and refuges on the lagoon side. The end points are arbitrary. You can bike north from Melbourne Beach along partly urban sidewalk on A1A as far as Patrick AFB. Or ride the bike lane, if you dare, in this heavily trafficked stretch. And there may be biking possibilities southward along US 1 in Ft. Pierce, where A1A crosses to the barrier island again.