Playalinda Beach, in Titusville, is housed within a natural reserve, the Canaveral National Seashore. It is also known for its private, nude beach (around parking lot 13, the farthest pier). The people here tend to keep to themselves, so don't worry if that's not your thing. Enjoy 24 miles of protected coastline, including four miles of drivable beach, for a scenic driving tour of the area. Playalinda is a quiet beach, a hidden gem among local surfers, located on a thin barrier island also on the Indian River. The sand is rarely busy. Pack flip-flops because some patches of sand are a bit rough with seashells – but shell collectors and kids can find plenty of treasures here. Along with the undeveloped beauty of Playalinda, there are also not many amenities. Parking is limited, so prepare to walk. Park accordingly.
Recommended for Beaches because: Playalinda Beach offers 24 miles of unspoiled coastline, including a stretch of sand known to attract nudists.
Aimee's expert tip: Parking is limited, so prepare to walk, and pack accordingly.
Port Canaveral is one of the busiest cruise ports in the world. Even though millions of cruise passengers pass through her every year, the atmosphere remains relaxed. Located off A1A in Cape Canaveral, Port Canaveral serves as an industrial, commercial and luxury transportation hub by connecting land, sea, air and space travel. In addition to its daily import/export schedule, seven of the finest cruise terminals in the world are located here. Deep sea fishing and boat rental are also available. The Cove at Port Canaveral is a waterfront recreational area that's home to several restaurants, shops, charter boats and attractions.
Recommended for Beaches because: Experience a different side of the beach, where the water is a busy transportation hub.
Aimee's expert tip: You don't have to go on a cruise to enjoy the port. Go deep sea fishing or charter a boat.
The refuge is 140,000 acres (or 22 square miles) of wetlands inhabited by more than 1,500 types of plants and animals, including more than 300 species of birds, ghost crabs, loggerhead and green sea turtles, reptiles, raccoons and bobcats. NASA owns and maintains this treasure and offers the public many ways to experience it. Join in a guided tour or explore four different hiking trails that range from 0.25 mile to five miles long. Boating, canoeing, a manatee observation deck (with informational panels about this endangered species), coastal dunes, saltwater estuaries, fishing and nature photography make this a complete wildlife experience.
Recommended for Beaches because: This massive refuge is home to 1,500 different types of plants and animals.
Aimee's expert tip: Try kayaking or canoeing at Eddy Creek or Turnbull Creek.
Canova Beach Park is a 9-acre beach park that is best known for attracting four-legged surfers. Canova is Brevard County's only dog-friendly beach. This small but sweet stretch of beach always seems to be full of dogs catching balls on the sand and catching waves in the Atlantic. Bring your pups with their current license and vaccinations, a leash and some waste bags; the beach enforces rules to keep this beach clean and safe. You do need to keep your pets on leash, so they can't run freely without you. After splashing in the waves, grill dinner, eat under the pavilion, relax on a bench and watch your furry babies enjoy the Florida sunshine. Take advantage of the outdoor shower area, where you can rinse the salt water off your dog.
Recommended for Beaches because: Canova Beach is Brevard County's only dog-friendly beach, and it's free and open to the public.
Aimee's expert tip: Bring a water bowl for your dog and fill it up in the cool drinking fountain.
Melbourne Beach stretches across 33 miles of gorgeous, undeveloped sand, perfect for a walk walks or a jog along the water. The waves here offer nice surfing and snorkeling, and the bars regularly bounce with live music. Melbourne is a family-friendly community, with plenty of great shopping (check out Strawbridge and New Haven avenues), delicious local restaurants, high-quality theater performances and quirky art. You can often find street parties, vendor booths, bands and festivals, including the world-famous Melbourne Art Festival, the Independent Filmmaker's Festival, Aviation Day and annual Oktoberfest. This makes Melbourne Beach more than just soft sand and waves; it's an exciting destination for outdoor entertainment, too. Nearby, go golfing, fishing, boating camping and more.
Recommended for Beaches because: Melbourne Beach offers miles and miles of undeveloped beaches right next to some of the Space Coast's best shopping.
Aimee's expert tip: Check out the world-famous Melbourne Art Festival. Look for a bed and breakfast or hotel on the beach.
Satellite Beach is perhaps most known for its surfing, in particular the north dune crossover, where several of the most famous surfers have learned how to surf. Satellite Beach's sand is not known for its peaceful privacy, but it's still laid back and a great place to meet friendly locals. One of the most popular parks at Satellite Beach is the recently renovated Pelican Beach Park. This stretch of beach offers weekly sea turtle "talks 'n' walks," where you can learn all about sea turtles. Satellite Beach is especially family-friendly, and even pet-friendly. If you are traveling with Fido, swing by the Satellite Beach dog park. It's also a great stopping point along A1A, which winds through some of the Space Coast's best beach towns.
Recommended for Beaches because: Satellite Beach is a great place to surf and explore wildlife, especially sea turtles.
Aimee's expert tip: Pelican Beach Park is so popular in the summer that you need to reserve a pavilion well in advance if you want to have a shady picnic.
Indian Harbour Beach is a small beachside community – only two square miles big – between the ocean and the Indian River Lagoon. Although primarily residential, it's worth a visit to walk through the 27-acre Gleason Park or have a picnic at one of Indian Harbor's beachside parks. Indian Harbour Beach has four community parks: Bicentennial Park and Millennium Park are both on the beach. At Bicentennial Park, go surfing, stretch out in the sun, build a sand castle, walk out on the boardwalk and get shade underneath a picnic table pavilion. Millennium Park is another great place for a picnic, a stroll along the beach and great views of the ocean.
Recommended for Beaches because: Indian Harbour Beach is small, but has multiple beachside parks.
Aimee's expert tip: The Millennium Park is a wonderful destination for families, because it has a large wooden playground near the beach.
Located midway down the Florida east coast between New Smyrna Beach and Titusville, the 24 miles of park is home to over 1,000 species of plants and 300 species of birds, including 14 threatened or endangered species. Sea turtles nest here. This is Florida, in nature. Wild and untouched. Visitors enjoy camping (with permit), ocean beaches, surfing, fishing, boating and hunting. Rangers facilitate programs year-round on such topics as canoeing and sea turtle nesting. Take a self-guided tour along Black Point Wildlife Drive, through the marsh. Restrooms and a small bookstore also available, but don't expect picnic benches, phones, drinking fountains or stores. This is an escape from all of that.
Recommended for Beaches because: This is the longest stretch of undeveloped beach on the east coast.
Aimee's expert tip: Consider this a warning or a tip, depending on how you roll: The last pier (No. 13) of the Playalinda Beach welcomes nude sunbathers. But if you have young kids, don't be afraid; the first 12 piers are plenty of sand.
Jetty Park is one of the Space Coast's best beaches, and a great place to go camping and fishing, too. With many campsites (for different types of camping, from rugged to RV), picnic tables, laundry facilities, hot showers and toilets, electric hook-ups, a playground, a small beach bar and a small shop, Jetty Park is an outdoor adventure destination – the perfect vacation within a vacation, if you're looking for a relaxing experience in Florida's natural habitat. The beach here is pristine, accented by the Jetty Park pier – a fishing hub. This is an ideal area for families, because it even offers security and lifeguards at the beach. The water is calmer than some of the other Space Coast beaches, so children enjoy playing here. Watch for dolphins and manatees.
Recommended for Beaches because: Jetty Park is a clean, family-friendly beach with great camping.
Aimee's expert tip: Consider renting a cabin, and ask about the specials. Sometimes you can get the fourth night free.
The Space Coast boasts more than 70 miles of sand – most of which are free and open to the public. Build a sand castle, cool off in the waves and enjoy the sunshine, all without needing to drop a penny. Toss out a fishing line and maybe you can even catch dinner for free. One of the area's best beaches is Cocoa Beach; it was even voted one of the top 10 Best Beach Towns in Florida by USA Today. But beware: It can get excruciatingly hot and humid, so it's best to do your beaching early morning or late afternoon.
Recommended for Beaches because: Cocoa Beach has great surfing, great views, a great pier, a great downtown – it has everything.
Aimee's expert tip: Grab a beach blanket and watch a rocket launch from the sand for free.