Space Coast, Florida

  • 01 of 12

    Reasons to Visit

    Kennedy Space Center - Photo © Teresa Plowright.
    Replica of Space Shuttle Explorer, at the Kennedy Space Center-- you can tour inside. Photo © Teresa Plowright.

    Florida's "Space Coast" on the Atlantic ocean is a popular place for families, for several reasons:

    • miles of beaches
    • nature outings: mangroves, manatees
    • affordable prices
    • Kennedy Space Center
    • quaint towns
    Just a 45 minute drive west from Orlando, the Space Coast offers a very different type of getaway.

    - continue to Space Coast - Beaches and Nature (or mouseover the boxes for more choices)

    Continue to 2 of 12 below.
  • 02 of 12

    Nature plus Space-Age Attractions

    Beautiful beach on the Space Coast, Florida - Photo © Teresa Plowright.
    Photo © Teresa Plowright.
    Space Coast - Fast Facts:
    • The Space Coast is 35 miles from Walt Disney World
    • 72 miles of shore include saltwater estuaries and top-rated beaches
    • the area has 250 sq. miles of wildlife refuges
    • hotels are very affordable
    • most people visit as an add-on from Orlando or a cruise
    • Port Canaveral is the busiest cruise passenger port in America
    A Natural Blast

    Nature plus space-age attractions: that's the message for this stretch of Florida that includes Cocoa Beach, Cocoa, Cape Canaveral, and other communities.

    When I visited with two teens, we expected to visit the Kennedy Space Center and learn about space launches, and we also expected miles of beaches.

    What we didn't expect was a nature boat tour where we glided past mangroves and spotted the "footprint" of a manatee. In fact, the entire 700,000 acre Kennedy Space Center is in the midst of the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge.

    - continue to Kennedy Space Center

    Continue to 3 of 12 below.
  • 03 of 12

    Visit the Kennedy Space Center

    Kennedy Space Center - Saturn V moon rocket. Photo © Teresa Plowright.
    The 352-foot Saturn V moon rocket, at the Apollo/Saturn V Center.
    Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex:

    Allow a full day to visit: the 2-1/2 hour bus Tour of Restricted Areas --that takes you past giant launch pads and the "spacecrawler" -- is just the start.

    You'll also want time for the exhibits, I-Max and film experiences, and simulator training rides found at the Visitor Complex, at the Apollo/Saturn V Center and Astronaut Hall of Fame. Read more about visiting the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex.

    - continue to Airboat Rides

    Continue to 4 of 12 below.
  • 04 of 12

    Space Coast Airboat Rides

    Airboat ride - Photo © Teresa Plowright.
    Photo © Teresa Plowright.

    A quintessential Florida experience, airboat rides transport visitors into quiet wetlands-- with a lot of noise.

    Put on your ear-muffs, 'cause the decibals are high on an airboat ride. The propeller is at the rear, not in the water, meaning the boats can skim very shallow depths.

    We saw a few 'gators, but were equally intrigued by cows grazing in water that was shoulder-high.

    - continue to Airboat Ride - Restaurant

    Continue to 5 of 12 below.
  • 05 of 12

    Airboat Ride- Restaurant

    Space Coast - restaurant and airboat ride - Photo © Teresa Plowright.
    Photo © Teresa Plowright.

    Our tour started from a funky restaurant called funky restaurant called The Lone Cabbage, and afterward we returned to it, to eat the Lone Cabbage's deep-fried 'gator, catfish, and mozzarella sticks. Yet the name "Lone Cabbage" remained a mystery.

    - continue to Nature Outings on the Water

    Continue to 6 of 12 below.
  • 06 of 12

    Nature Outings on the Water

    Nature boat outing, Florida - Photo © Teresa Plowright.
    Photo © Teresa Plowright.

    A comfortable way to see the Space Coast's estuaries is by a guided boat tour.

    Island Boat Lines offers eco-tours with several departure points.

    Nature-lovers can also enjoy Sea Turtle Sightings. More than 6,000 loggerheads turtles, green seas and leatherbacks lay eggs in the sand on the Space Coast. From late May to early August, guided tours take small groups to the beach after sunset.

    - continue to Open Air Boat Tours

    Continue to 7 of 12 below.
  • 07 of 12

    Nature Outings: Boat Tour

    Space Coast - Open Air Tour Boat - Photo © Teresa Plowright.
    Photo © Teresa Plowright.

    From our open-air boat we saw anhingas and other birdlife, and the "footprints" (ripples at the water surface) of a couple of manatees.

    - continue to Kayaking

    Continue to 8 of 12 below.
  • 08 of 12

    Kayaking

    Space Coast - kayaking - Photo © Teresa Plowright.
    Photo © Teresa Plowright.

    Kayaking looked like a fun way to experience the coast. (Could be too hot in the daytime for children, though.)

    - continue to Town of Cocoa

    Continue to 9 of 12 below.
  • 09 of 12

    The Towns of Cocoa & Melbourne

    Town of Cocoa, Florida - Photo © Teresa Plowright.
    Town of Cocoa, Florida - Photo © Teresa Plowright.

    The Space Coast has some quaint town centers. Cocoa village -- not the same as Cocoa Beach -- is highly photogenic, with murals, brightly painted shops, street art, toy shop.

    - continue to Cocoa murals

    Continue to 10 of 12 below.
  • 10 of 12

    Town of Cocoa, Murals

    One of Cocoa's murals- Photo © Teresa Plowright.
    One of Cocoa's murals - Photo © Teresa Plowright.

    Cocoa, Florida has a quaint main street with some historic buildings and inviting shops. Kids will enjoy the murals and fun touches such as statues lounging on benches.

    - continue to Ron Jon's, and Cocoa Beach Pier

    Continue to 11 of 12 below.
  • 11 of 12

    Ron Jon's, and Cocoa Beach Pier...

    Cocoa Beach Pier - Photo © Teresa Plowright.
    Photo © Teresa Plowright.

    Other fun on the Space Coast includes:

    • Ron Jon's Surf Shop, the original location in Cocoa Beach, and a local legendary store of vast proportions
    • Cocoa Beach Pier: take a stroll on the pier, and watch the surfers; have a meal inside; then a double-scoop at Ricky's Ice Cream Parlor and Arcade.

    - continue to Hotels and Restaurants

    Continue to 12 of 12 below.
  • 12 of 12

    Space Coast Hotels and Restaurants

    Space Coast - Doubletree Cocoa Beach Oceanfront Hotel
    Photo © Teresa Plowright.
    Florida's Space Coast gives good value for your money, and is known as a affordable destination. Family-friendly properties include:
    • the Doubletree Cocoa Beach Oceanfront Hotel (pool pictured above)
    • the Hilton Cocoa Beach Oceanfront
    Seafood is especially good in this area, though meat is always on the menu too.