Huge clouds of billowing smoke overtake launch pads as the red glares from rockets being boldly thrust into outer space leave spectators wide-eyed and awestruck. Just beyond this larger-than-life spectacle lies the Atlantic Ocean where waves full of surfers lap gorgeous white-sand beaches, some full of lotion-covered sun worshipers, others not crowded at all.
There is only one place in the United States where all of this and so much more can be found. If your mind’s vision is already raising goosebumps, Florida’s space coast awaits your wildest dreams. Couples seeking a romantic getaway, minivans full of seatbelted children, and singles wanting to mingle, are missing out on the times of their lives if they don’t scurry to this area of the Sunshine State next time their vacation rolls around.
These visitor-friendly towns lie along the Space Coast’s 72-mile coastline: Cocoa Beach, Titusville, Melbourne, Port Canaveral, Viera, and Palm Bay. The idyllic-year-round temperatures draw visitors seeking refuge from the northland’s frozen tundra, and because each town is diverse in its own unique way, it’s important to know which one will best fulfill your desires.
Located only 45-miles east of Orlando, Cocoa Beach is the perfect spot for families wishing to tie in a trip to one of Orlando’s’ many theme parks. Singles and couples can sip Corona’s on the decks of one of this authentic beach town’s oceanfront bars while live acoustic music provides the perfect ambiance for the huge ball of fire gently setting over the water.
Kennedy Space Center is a mere half-hour drive and the monthly rocket launchings can be seen as clear as day from hotel room balconies. They can also be observed from Westgate Cocoa Beach Pier or any of the wide array of oceanfront restaurants.
Hosting world-renowned surfing competitions, Cocoa Beach is hailed as the surfing capital of America’s East Coast and is home to the famous Ron Jons Surf Shop and the Florida Surf Museum.
Titusville borders the Indian River Lagoon which is home to more endangered species than the combined total of all Florida refuge areas. During the winter months over 300 species of birds flap their way to the area, while sea turtles regurly nest on Titusville’s serene beaches.
The very last stretch of undeveloped beach runs 23-miles from Titusville to New Smyrna Beach, making it easy for beachgoers to find a spot for themselves. Couples on a romantic rendezvous find this particularly appealing.
Kayaking, canoeing, boating, fishing, sunbathing, surfing, strolling down the beach or enjoying a bbq at a riverside park are just some of the outdoor activities Titusville has to offer.
Spectacular sunsets can be seen from oceanfront restaurants such as Crackerjack’s Island Seafood and Tiki Bar. After dinner and a cocktail, the night heats up at Dave’s Downtown Lounge with live bands on the weekends.
Melbourne is a bit larger and more upscale, yet beach lovers will not be disappointed. It’s a family-friendly town and the locals, most of whom originated from other parts of the U.S., are warm and inviting.
Fine dining, as well as all-you-can-eat buffets, cater to a wide variety of visitors. Cute boutiques offering a spectrum of designer clothing, beachwear, handcrafted items, art supplies, assorted knick-knacks and all-around cool stuff, are located all over town. For those in the habit of forgetting their toothbrush, there’s also a Wal-Mart.
Since Melbourne is where folks in the area go for serious nighttime entertainment, there is no shortage of bars and lounges to suit everyone’s assorted tastes. Of course, daytimes are generally consumed by laying on a beach towel on Melbourne’s unspoiled beaches or attempting to stay upright on a surfboard.
For a unique adventure, try the Brevard Zoo’s kayak tour, where you can enjoy the Florida outdoors while viewing wild animal exhibits that include giraffes, rhinos, zebras and more. Other activities include airboat rides to observe bottle-nose dolphins and other species of wildlife, the haunted Rossetter House Museum & Gardens where ghost tours are given, two performing art theaters, galleries, and museums.
Ship ahoy! Port Canaveral is where cruise ships shove off to the Bahama’s and other Carribean destinations. The Port also offers world-class fishing charters and restaurants serving freshly caught seafood.
The Exploration Tower has seven floors of shopping, dining, historical displays and breathtaking panoramic views of Port Canaveral and Port Kennedy. With Florida being so flat the view goes on for miles, and miles, and miles…
The Cove is the shopping and entertainment district with several waterfront dining options. Restaurants with lounges stay open late and bring in live entertainment so not going down till the sun comes up is never a problem.
Grass sod farms and cattle ranches have given way to the newest town on Florida’s space coast, Viera. It’s a vibrant town with much to offer in the way of shopping, bird watching, dining, and sporting events.
The Space Coast Stadium is preparing to offer year-round youth sporting events as the future home of the United States Specialty Sports Association. Residents of the area have voted Duran Gold Club as the best world-class 18-hole championship course in the area.
The Avenue Viera is home to 70 stores from unique one-of-a-kind shops to major retailers such as Belks. There are 22 restaurants ranging from quick-service diners to specialty restaurants, and a 16-screen AMC Avenue movie theater.
The Rich Grissom Memorial Wetlands are accessible by car while the Viera Wetlands require hiking or a watercraft of some sort. Both are havens for bird watchers, eco-tourists, and photographers.
Palm Bay is the largest city on the space coast and is known as an active outdoor community. The city attracts nature lovers and anglers with its 29 parks full of rivers and marshes, including the 47,000-acre Three Forks marsh. Hiking trails and bike paths are everywhere so bird watchers and photographers have easy access to go as far into the marshes as they choose.
Flea markets abound making Palm Bay a shoppers dream. Outdoor activities of all sorts, including live bands and other types of entertainment, are always on the agenda. There is a paintball park, an aquatic center, a top-notch skate park, and a few natural beaches along the Indian River Lagoon.
Florida’s space coast has something for everyone. Pay any, or all, of these cities a visit and you’ll be wishing your vacation would never end.