St. Sebastian River at St. Sebastian River Preserve State Park
St. Sebastian River at St. Sebastian River Preserve State Park
Swamp at St. Sebastian River Preserve State Park

St. Sebastian River Preserve State Park offers something that once was common to most of Florida: open grassy forests of longleaf pine. But the pine flatwoods are really just a backdrop forscrubby flatwoods, sandhills, cypress domes and a strand swamp biological community. St. Sebastian River Preserve State Park is home to many native palnt and animal species, including more than 50 protected species.

For campers, St. Sebastian River Preserve State Park offers six primitive campsites, five of which can accommodate up to 20 campers each. Reservations are required and the fees are $5 per person per night. All sites are walk-in only and all vehicles parked in the parking areas overnight must have their license plates numbers on record. Four of the campsites are off County Road 512 in Indian River County. The other two are off County Road 507 in Brevard County. You'll need to bring everything, firewood included, but leave your pets at home.

There is a canoe landing at St. Sebastian River Preserve but no launching or pull-out is allowed. Instead, you need to launch your kayak or canoe upstream, float through the park (although you can stop at the landing and enjoy a picnic or hike) and then pull out of the river downstream. Fishing is allowed in the ponds on the property, along the shoreline of the C-54 canal and in the St. Sebastian River. The river water is brackish so you'll find both saltwater and freshwater species.

There are about 60 miles of trails on the property. The trails are designed such that day users might not be happy but horseback riders, mountain bikers and those folks interested in extended hikes are quite happy. The trails are of such composition that mountain bikers will really want to be riding on fat tires...

Picnic areas and restrooms are in short supply. There's one self-mulching toilet located on the north side of the park and one remote remote picnic area near Horseman's Headquarters. There's also one picnic table at the manatee viewing area in Brevard County.

Between October and May, the Environmental Learning Center (772-589-5050) offers guided hikes, wagon rides and "scrub jay encounters" on a limited basis. The C-54 canal is a place where West Indian manatees gather from November through March. The park offers a manatee viewing area at the eastern end of Buffer Preserve Drive. The C-54 Canal is also where you might see American alligators.

St. Sebastian River Preserve State Park is a prominent stop on the Great Florida Birding Trail, recognized as one of the top birding locations in the United States.

For day users, St. Sebastian River Preserve State Park is open from 8 am to sunset every day of the year. Campers who plan to arrive after 5 pm need to call the park on the day of arrival to get instructions and the gate combination. The visitor center is only open Friday, Saturday and Sunday from 10 am to 4:30 pm. Equestrians must carry proof of negative Coggins tests at all times.

To get there: get off Interstate 95 at County Road 514 to reach County Road 507. The north entrance and the visitor centerfrom CR 507. The south entrance is off County Road 512 (Fellsmere Road) about 1.8 miles east of Interstate 95.