Florida's Space Coast: fine beaches, food, surfing ... and close to Orlando
They call Florida’s Space Coast “Orlando’s Closest Beach.”
It’s rare for a tourism board to acknowledge a nearby rival, but in this case it makes perfect sense. You can’t possibly fight The Mouse, so you may as well hitch your wagon to Orlando’s broad shoulders.
The Space Coast, which reaches from just south of Daytona to Melbourne Beach, includes Cape Canaveral and Port Canaveral, which is much bigger and busier than I knew as it’s the departure point for Disney cruises.
“We are the closest beaches to Orlando,” he said. “Maybe a half hour or 45 minutes from the edge of town but more like an hour or so from Disney. Instead of staying in Orlando and driving to the beach, folks can stay on the beach and drive to Orlando.”
Personally I like the sound of that a lot more, as I’m definitely a beach guy. And the Space Coast appears to have a ton of beaches over 72 miles of coastline.
In the north, on Cape Canaveral proper, is the Canaveral National Seashore. Kaiman said there are no buildings or hotels or restaurants, just miles of sandy beach. Folks also can kayak in the poorly-named (for marketing anyway) Mosquito Lagoon or the Indian River, which is the name for the intracoastal waterway between the mainland and the Cape, which includes the Kennedy Space Center and, further south, Merritt Island.
The Canaveral seashore is a great area for birders as well as watching dolphins and manatees, Kaiman said.
Just south of the Cape Canaveral is renowned Cocoa Beach, home of good surfing and the see-those-ads-everywhere Ron Jon surf shop. It’s a great spot for young folks looking for that surf vibe and there are plenty of hotels and fun restaurants.
Then, further south, is Melbourne Beach, which is more of a family destination.
Which gives the Space Coast a pretty good array of options. And there’s also golf, boating on the St. John’s River and the Brevard Zoo, where you can kayak around some of the animal exhibits.
Of course, the Space Center remains a huge draw. The space shuttle program is no more, but that actually is good in some ways in that folks can see a lot more of the center than they could when more was going on. You now can see the assembly area and the launch area, for example.
And there still are rocket launches by NASA and private companies, including two this month; one on Oct. 4.
And starting next July the Space Shuttle Atlantis will be on display at the center for folks to come and check out in person.
Definitely sounds like an area worth checking out some time, whether you go to Orlando or not.