Most of the travelers to Florida’s Space Coast focus their itineraries on the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex, particularly the month of July 2019, as the United States marks the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 mission which landed the first humans on the moon. However, this stretch of over seventy miles of Atlantic coastline, east of Orlando, offers stellar experiences beyond Cape Canaveral.
“It’s a water world along the Space Coast”, according to Charlie Mars, a Chief NASA Engineer for the Apollo moon landing. “It’s a place of real natural beauty that’s been this way forever. The space business itself, since the 1950s, has had a number of ups and downs”, according to Mars, “but now that there’s commercial launches, it’s beginning to really take hold once more. Folks simply wish to see people being launched into space”, according to Mars.
Come for a rocket lift-off, then remain for far more. The Space Coast is loaded with moments that make the spirit soar, from walking a riverside collection of space-mission monuments to looking at nesting sea turtles on a night time beach.
Moonlight Drive-in, Titusville, Fl.
Across the Indian river from the Kennedy space Center, this circa 1964 burger joint sports the same signage that used to attract space employees throughout the Apollo days for a hearty, car hop delivered meal.
One of the last remaining businesses from that time, the Moonlight Drive-in was named to honor the Apollo missions and is presently open only a couple of days a week so call before going. People come back for the retro atmosphere and comfort foods like deep-fried shrimp platters, chili dogs, and hand-dipped shakes.
American Space Museum and Space Walk of Fame, Titusville, Fl.
The Titusville museum founded in 2001 displays consoles from the shuttle era mission launch control room that launched Columbia, training suits used for Apollo and shuttle missions, as well as an exhibit dedicated to female astronauts, all of which are among the many donated artifacts at this downtown Titusville museum.
Mars, who is chairman of the board for the museum, states that “We are and have been for quite a while preserving the space history that occurred right here on the coast. We emphasize the employees too, the guys and gals that were within the trenches. The cafeteria employees, janitors, and others who worked for the space program, not simply the folks in the control room.”
Space View Park Monuments, Titusville, Fl.
It takes about ten minutes to walk east from the American Space Museum to this pretty park with views of the Indian River, home to monuments to the Mercury, Gemini, Apollo, and Shuttle space programs.
Place your palms in the bronze hand prints of renowned astronauts like John Young and Alan Bartlett Shepard, Jr., among several others. Space View Park is one of the Space Coast’s most well liked launch-viewing sites, since it’s right across the river from Cape Canaveral.
Canaveral National Seashore, U.S. National Park, Fl.
If paradise to you is an uncrowded stretch of oceanfront, pack a beach bag for the day and make for the Canaveral National Seashore. Florida’s longest undeveloped East Coast beach, it stretches for some twenty-four miles north of Titusville.
Throughout June and July, sign up for the ranger-led Turtle Watch programs to see loggerheads, green ocean turtles, and other species lumbering onto land to lay eggs on beaches utterly free of light pollution.
“We have about two hundred nests an evening during this period, thus our success rate is about eighty percent that you’ll see a turtle,” says Laura Henning, Chief of Interpretation and Visitor Use for Canaveral National Seashore. “The south end of the national seashore is about as close as the public will get for viewing a daytime rocket launch”, says Tom Bartosek, of Florida’s Space Coast Office of tourism. “When you’re that close, not only does one see and listen to it, but you are feeling the launch too,” he says.
Cocoa Beach Pier, Cocoa Beach, Fl.
After spending time dreaming about the celebs, you’ll end up wanting one thing more down to earth.
Unwind at Cocoa Beach Pier’s Rikki Tikki Tavern, an outdoor tiki bar at the end of the 800 foot-long pier, overlooking breakers full of surfers. Enjoy the view with a Sunshine State Florida Lager on tap, brewed in Cape Canaveral by Florida Beer Company.