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 Romantic Things to Do because: This seashore is wild Florida, untouched and full of animals. Go camping and rent a canoe.
Aimee's expert tip: Take a self-guided tour along Black Point Wildlife Drive.
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 Romantic Things to Do because: Walk the boardwalk and have a romantic picnic in this tiny beach community.
Aimee's expert tip: The Millennium Park is a wonderful destination for families, because it has a large wooden playground near the beach.
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.
Recommended for Romantic Things to Do because: Float along the Banana River lagoon at sunset and watch for dolphins, bald eagles and manatees. Try sailboarding!
Aimee's expert tip: Fish in the shallow seagrass beds for the biggest game fish.
Whether you're an experienced kayaker or you've never sat in a boat before, a guided kayaking tour through the Space Coast's beautiful and interesting Thousand Islands Conservation Area in the Indian River Lagoon is an active way to see Cocoa Beach from a different perspective. Although there are many guided river boating outfitters, Cocoa Beach Kayaking is highly rated by participants and respected in the region. This locally owned and operated eco-tour company sets it all up and provides everything guests need to have fun on the lagoon. Kayak, paddle life jacket – even sunscreen, water, hats and polarized sunglasses are provided (not that they're easy to forget in this near-equator weather).
Recommended for Romantic Things to Do because: Kayak through the island-dotted conservation area in the lagoon for an active and peaceful date.
Aimee's expert tip: Pack snacks in a small cooler or backpack. You can work up an appetite paddling in the sun.
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 Romantic Things to Do because: This wildlife refuge is a peaceful and romantic date with your loved one and Mother Earth. Go on a hike or canoe through the estuaries.
Aimee's expert tip: Try kayaking or canoeing at Eddy Creek or Turnbull Creek.
One of the best views in Florida is from the new Exploration Tower in Port Canaveral, on the Space Coast. This seven-story tower, which opened late 2013, boasts stellar views of the stunning ocean and port. The Observation Tower features two decks with unique, panoramic views of the coast and the famous Kennedy Space Center. For a romantic date, enjoy food in the cafe and then plan on staying late. Use high-end telescopes to watch the stars. Spend your evening on the seventh-floor outdoor deck surrounded nearly on all sides by water in this unique, glowing tower. Don't forget your camera.
Recommended for Romantic Things to Do because: Plan on staying late to star-gaze through high-end telescopes on the outdoor deck.
Aimee's expert tip: Try to schedule your visit so you can watch a rocket blast into space from the deck.
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 Romantic Things to Do because: Many romantic expeditions launch from here, whether on board a luxurious cruise ship or a chartered boat.
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.
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 Romantic Things to Do because: Stay in a cabin on this pristine beach, with a romantic pier, calm water and dolphins.
Aimee's expert tip: Consider renting a cabin, and ask about the specials. Sometimes you can get the fourth night free.
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 Romantic Things to Do because: Playalinda Beach is a quiet, private stretch of sand that also happens to be home to a nude beach.
Aimee's expert tip: Parking is limited, so prepare to walk, and pack accordingly.
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.
Recommended for Romantic Things to Do because: Walk down the boardwalk to the sound of live music and seal the evening with a kiss at the end of this 800-foot-long pier.
Aimee's expert tip: The local shops here, like Oceanotions, are a great place to get souvenirs of the area.