Best Outdoor Activities on the Space Coast: From Beaches to Camping



With sunshine nearly every day on the Space Coast, Florida, you won't need (or want) to spend much time under a roof. Get outside and explore the various bodies of water, powdery beaches, winding paths and exciting wildlife that abounds here. 

The Canaveral National Seashore is one of the most expansive places on the Space Coast to surround yourself with nature and stunning views. And of course, there are the Space Coast's dreamy beaches. A tourist fave is Cocoa Beach (fish off the pier or watch surfers and stand-up paddleboarders try to master the waves). For a quieter destination with softer sand, we love Melbourne Beach and Playalinda Beach. 

Beyond the beaches, ask any local where to hang out and they're sure to recommend Wickham Park. Bring a tent and go camping here, fish the lake, play disc golf, walk the paths – even bring your furry friend to the dog park here. Wickham Park is like many parks all in one. 

The Brevard Zoo is well-known for its unique attractions, such as night hikes and kayaking through the property. Or for something a little wilder, look for dolphins at the port or manatees at the park or drifting underneath canals. 

Here are our favorite 10 ways to enjoy the Space Coast's wonderful outdoors. 



10
Merritt Island
Banana River
Photo courtesy of Leonard J. DeFrancisci/Wikimedia Commons


 

The Banana River is a 31-mile-long lagoon stretching between Cape Canaveral and Merritt Island. It's the home to many marine critters, such as dolphins, manatees and stingrays, as well as plenty of waterfowl. Birdwatchers will be excited to see the occasional bald eagle, little blue heron, pelican or white ibis. It's also an excellent fishing destination, the home to everything from snappers to sea trouts to flounders. Find sizable game fish in the shallow seagrass beds. Or if you'd rather, go kayaking, duck-hunting, sailboarding, hiking along the trails and boating. The river spans swamps, oyster bars, salt marshes and 55 different spoil islands.


9
Jetty Park Beach and Campground
Photo courtesy of Bradley Buhro


 

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.


8
Manatee Sanctuary Park
Photo courtesy of U.S. Geological Survey


 

The Manatee Sanctuary Park in Cape Canaveral is one of the best, most peaceful places near the port to enjoy the outdoors. This park spans more than 10 acres of nature on the Banana River. Plan a day excursion here. Talk the half-mile trail (and even try out the exercise stations, if you want to get in an outdoor workout); walk the riverside boardwalk; pack lunch and eat it under the covered pavilion; challenge your friends to a game of horseshoes; and best of all, watch for manatees, dolphins, osprey, waterfowl, fish and more. Tip: For nearly guaranteed manatee sightings, locals head to the corner of Berkley and St. Patrick streets. The canal under the bridge is a manatee superhighway!


7
Playalinda Beach
Photo courtesy of Flickr user brownpau


 

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.


6
Port Canaveral
Port Canaveral
Photo courtesy of Flickr user tomsaint


 

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.


5
Wickham Road
Brevard Zoo
Photo courtesy of Flickr user cyanocorax


 

The only zoo in the U.S. to offer onsite kayaking tours, Brevard Zoo features over 880 animals from around the world. Get up close and personal with a white rhino during a Rhino Encounter from noon to 1 p.m., ride the Cape to Cairo express train, feed cockatiels and lorikeets in a free flight aviary, visit with the residents at the petting zoo and splash around in the Paws On Play lagoon. Free parking, on-site cafe and gift shop, educational programs, overnight adventures, camps and the option to rent the Nyami Nyami River Lodge for special events are all offered. So if you've never seen a meerkat, tapir, siamang, jaguar, cassowary or come face to face with a giraffe, check out Brevard Zoo open daily from 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Last admission is 4:15 p.m.


4
The Cocoa Beach Pier
Photo courtesy of Flickr user RyanCrierie


 

Half a mile north of 520, off A1A, you'll find The Pier, an exciting extension of the city of Cocoa Beach and the Space Coast. Take in live music (the pier has welcomed the bands such as the Beach Boys and UB40) as you dine several hundred feet above the Atlantic Ocean at Oh Shucks. Or walk down to the end of the pier for classic seafood at Marlins. The Boardwalk and Atlantic Ocean Grille offer great selections, as well. There are also gift shops, volleyball courts and fishing sites. This historical, 800-foot-long landmark is excellent for fishing, as well as playing beach volleyball and some of the best surfing in the area.


3
Melbourne Beach
Melbourne Beach
Photo courtesy of Flickr user Ricardo Mangual


 

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.


2
Melbourne
Wickham Park
Photo courtesy of Flickr user grendelkhan


 

Wickham Park is our favorite, off-the-beaten-path, non-touristy attraction on the Space Coast. This is a hotspot for college students, located adjacent to the Eastern Florida State College Melbourne campus, which means plenty of events, from a medieval festival to multicultural celebrations. Friday night is food truck night. Grab a meal to go and head for the beach, where you can spot dolphins. Wickham Park offers a ton of fun features, including but not limited to: camping (with electrical hookups), a plethora of trails, swimming, a pavilion, horse stables, multiple lakes, disc golf, volleyball, soccer fields, a dog park, amphitheater and more.


1
Canaveral National Seashore


 

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.


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Meet Aimee Heckel

Aimee Heckel’s passion for storytelling has brought her around the world as a journalist, writing award-winning articles about Haiti and Uganda. Aimee studied international journalism at the...  More About Aimee

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