Really. I know what I'm talking about. This post comes from over a decade of visiting Florida's Atlantic shoreline, including vacations in Ormond Beach, Daytona Beach, Cocoa Beach, and Melbourne. Are you picking up on a theme here? You shouldn't be. There is more to do on Florida's Space Coast than visit the beach. If you guessed NASA is on the list, you are on the right track.
Don't get me wrong. The beach is pretty darned cool too, just not for the reasons you might think.
Have you ever visited a surfing contest? I can honestly say I have. Cocoa Beach has been home to one of the most highly acclaimed surfing contests in the world. Unfortunately, the event has been reorganized, so you may not be able to attend. But - the conditions that make Cocoa Beach a surfing capital didn't go away when the event did. I can't count the number of hours I've sat on my rental condo porch watching the surfers.
Free. Entertaining. And something you can't watch or do in Midwest, which makes this a winner in my book.
Since I'm talking about Cocoa Beach, this is a great time to talk about the Space Coast beach line in general. Do you like hanging out on the beach? Cool. You can do that here. Daytona Beach is one of the few places in North America where you can drive on beach. It's not free, but hey, when in Rome...
Other free activities in the Space Coast region include strolling along the Daytona Beach Boardwalk and checking out the scenery, shops, and beverage establishments located in both the Daytona Beach Pier and Cocoa Beach Pier.
If that's not your cup of tea, hang out at the end of the pier and fish, or just watch the boats glide by. Feeling the salty breeze in your hair while sitting at the end of the pier is pure freedom.
Visit Ron Jons. Yeah, I know. Why am I advising you to visit a store? Because it is a Cocoa Beach staple. Ron Jons is a way of life. Strolling through the store is like stepping into a totally different lifestyle. A lifestyle that screams vacation. And I will always recommend a free activity that screams vacation. If you choose to purchase something, cool. If not, soak up the environment. Ron Jons really is a treat.
Melbourne offers lots of activities too. Stick with me here. I thought this one was a little hokey at first, but it ended up being a really nice afternoon. Papa Joe and I were looking for a non-beach activity one afternoon in Melbourne that didn't break our budget. We came across a recommendation for Turkey Creek Sanctuary Park.
Turkey Creek Sanctuary is actually listed as a hike, and I think that is giving it too much credit. But, if you enjoy outdoor activities that offer lots of shade, paved paths, and educational signs about local flora and fauna, Turkey Creek Sanctuary may be an answer for you. I was rather surprised later when I found it as one of the top 10 recommended activities on the Space Coast. I'm not sure I would place it in the top 10 because let's face it, I like the sun. But it was absolutely a welcome break and deserves a spot in our favorite free Space Coast Activities.
If Turkey Creek Sanctuary isn't your speed, Orlando is less than an hour away and has tons of activities.
Have you ever visited NASA's Kennedy Space Center? If you have a scientist in the making. Or a kid who loves tinkering. Maybe you just need a safe place for the kids to run and play. If any of these describe your family, NASA's Kennedy Space Center may be your answer.
The Rocket Garden located just inside the NASA Kennedy Space Center is an absolute treat for young explorers that are full of energy. If you notice, there aren't fences around the rockets. People are encouraged to touch these real-life rockets from America's early space era. If your imagination doesn't go wild when you see the astronaut's seat in the capsule, your child's will.
Have you ever witnessed a space shuttle or rocket launch? Thanks to SpaceX, witnessing one of these fantastic launches from NASA's Kennedy Space Center is relatively easy. Pick a spot on the beach. At your favorite amusement park. On a swing set at Lori Wilson Park in Cocoa Beach or in one of Melbourne's many city parks. Wherever you are, cop a squat and watch the space shuttle's tail streak across the sky.
I'm not a big NASA girl, but I still got a tingle watching my first space shuttle launch. Don't knock it if you haven't tried it.
Now, if you read my blog, you know I like motorcycles. Especially the Harley Davidson breed. And Harley Davidson doesn't get any better than Daytona Bike Week. On our first visit to Daytona Beach, Papa Joe and I either timed our visit really well or absolutely awful. We visited the week between the Daytona 500 and Daytona Bike Week.
The upside is that we were able to visit the sand sculptures at Daytona International Speedway and catch the very beginning of Daytona Bike Week. Any real biker knows the event starts the week before the real-deal and lasts after the event ends. Regardless, when we returned later with extended family, our timing was much better. From visiting the festivities at Bruce Rossmeyer's Harley Davidson in Daytona Beach to hanging out at the Iron Horse, we got to enjoy Bike Week. Any biker knows this is a must-do.
Don't get me wrong. The Daytona International Speedway was pretty cool too. For a racing enthusiast, there are lots of activities at the speedway. Take a tour of the speedway, dine at the 4th Turn Grill, explore the Walk of Fame, or check out the merch. Most of all, have a blast!
Maybe you are a cruise enthusiast and Port Canaveral is more your speed.
I have never visited Port Canaveral, but from what I understand, it is worth a visit. Watch the cruise ships come in or enjoy seeing manatees and dolphins swim by. Or just enjoy the amazing scenery. Either way, Port Canaveral is worth a visit.
If you get the opportunity, camp in one of the local RV resorts. Talk about combining the best of all worlds!
You might ask what is special about Space Coast food. Honestly, I have to admit I couldn't write a story that only featured food along Florida's Space Coast. What I will tell you, however, is the same advice I give people at any destination. Talk to the locals and find out where they eat. We found the coolest dive joint in Cocoa Beach, and return there every time we visit. Can I give you the name of it? Nope. Just look for the restaurant on the southern end of town where the road splits.
In Melbourne, we found the coolest ice cream joint, just by driving around and stopping where the most cars were at. Actually, Melbourne was a bit of a closet foodie haven. Breakfast at Melbourne's Blueberry Muffin was a pleasant surprise. You can't go wrong by stopping at a restaurant full of cars with local license plates.
In Cocoa Beach, we look for the busiest spots on the beach. The beverages were expensive, but the ambiance was amazing. The food was good, and there was even the promise of live music. Winner winner chicken dinner. Well, not really. It was gator dinner, but you get my drift.
Try your hand at fishing if you get the chance. Deep-sea fishing can be found in Melbourne and Daytona Beach.
Pick a spot and watch a sunset. I don't care if you are in Daytona Beach, Cocoa Beach, Ormond Beach, Titusville, or Melbourne. Truth be told, sunsets over the ocean while a storm is brewing? You can't beat it. Free. Easily available, and worth a thousand words. Catch the sunset and let its brilliant colors be a reminder of how much fun the day held for you!
The Florida Keys hold many natural treasures with a day trip that will give you an introduction to the most fragile ecosystems in the world and many endangered species. This one focuses on the coral reef and mangrove island habitat, which are disappearing fast as development continues to put huge stresses on the limited natural and human resources