In addition to the attractions in this guide, Brevard College's Astronaut Memorial Planetarium and Observatory, 1519 Clearlake Rd., Cocoa Beach (tel. 321/634-3732; www.brevardcc.edu/planet), south of Florida 528, has its own International Hall of Space Explorers, but its big draw are sound-and-light shows in the planetarium. Call or check the website for schedules and prices.
Beaches & Wildlife Refuges
To the north of the Kennedy Space Center, Canaveral National Seashore is a protected 13-mile stretch of barrier-island beach backed by cabbage palms, sea grapes, palmettos, marshes, and Mosquito Lagoon. This is a great area for watching herons, egrets, ibises, willets, sanderlings, turnstones, terns, and other birds. You might also glimpse dolphins and manatees in Mosquito Lagoon. Canoeists can paddle along a marked trail through the marshes of Shipyard Island, and backcountry camping is possible November through April (permits required).
The main visitor center is at 7611 S. Atlantic Ave., New Smyrna Beach, FL 32169 (tel. 321/867-4077, or 321/867-0677 for recorded information; www.nps.gov/cana), on Apollo Beach, at the north end of the island. The southern access gate to the island is 8 miles east of Titusville on Florida 402, just east of Florida 3. A paved road leads from the gate to undeveloped Playalinda Beach, one of Florida's most beautiful. Though illegal, nude sunbathing has long been a tradition here (at least, for those willing to walk a few miles to the more deserted areas). The beach has toilets, but no running water or other amenities, so bring everything you'll need. There's also a pontoon boat tour of the Indian River Lagoon for $20 per person and a turtle-watch program for $14 per person. For those looking for a little more history, The Eldora Statehouse is a step back in time, a well-preserved example of earlier life along Mosquito Lagoon. It is in Canaveral National Seashore's Apollo district, and is open year-round. The seashore is open daily from 6am to 8pm during daylight saving time, daily from 6am to 6pm during standard time. Entry fees are $3 per person. National Park Service passports are accepted. Backcountry camping permits cost $10 for up to six people per day and $20 for more than six people per day, and must be obtained from the New Smyrna Beach visitor center (tel. 386/428-3384, ext. 10). For single-day access to backcountry beaches between Playalinda and Apollo beaches, it's $2 per day. For advance information, contact the seashore headquarters at 308 Julia St., Titusville, FL 32796 (tel. 321/867-4077 or 321/267-1110; www.nps.gov/cana).
Canaveral National Seashore's neighbor to the south and west is the 140,000-acre Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge, home to hundreds of species of shorebirds, waterfowl, reptiles, alligators, and mammals, many of them endangered. Pick up a map and other information at the visitor center, on Florida 402 about 4 miles east of Titusville (it's on the way to Playalinda Beach). The center has a quarter-mile boardwalk along the edge of the marsh. Displays show the animals you may spot from 6-mile Black Point Wildlife Drive or from one of the nature trails through the hammocks and marshes. The visitor center is open Monday through Friday from 8am to 4:30pm, Saturday and Sunday from 9am to 5pm (closed Sun Apr-Oct). Entry is free. For more information and a schedule of programs, contact the refuge at P.O. Box 6504, Titusville, FL 32782 (tel. 321/861-0667; www.nbbd.com/godo/minwr).
Note: Parts of the national seashore near the Kennedy Space Center and all of the refuge close 4 days before a shuttle launch and usually reopen the day after.
Another good beach area is Lori Wilson Park, on Atlantic Avenue at Antigua Drive in Cocoa Beach (tel. 321/868-1123), which preserves a stretch of sand backed by a forest of live oaks. It's home to a small but interesting nature center, and restrooms are available. The park is open daily from sunrise to sunset; the nature center, Monday through Friday from 1 to 4pm.
The beach at Cocoa Beach Pier, on Meade Avenue east of A1A (tel. 321/783-7549), is a popular spot with surfers, who consider it the East Coast's surfing capital. The rustic pier was built in 1962 and has 842 feet of fishing, shopping, and dining overlooking a wide, sandy beach. Because this is not a public park, there are no restrooms other than the ones in restaurants on the pier.
Jetty Park, 400 E. Jetty Rd., at the south entry to Port Canaveral (tel. 321/783-7111; www.jettypark.org), has lifeguards, a fishing pier with bait shop, a playground, a volleyball court, a horseshoe pit, picnic tables, a snack bar, a grocery store, restrooms, changing facilities, and the area's only campground. From here, you can watch the big cruise ships as they enter and leave the port's narrow passage. The park is open daily from 7:30am to dusk; the pier is open 24 hours for fishing. Admission is $10 per car for nonresidents of Brevard County ($5 for residents), $15 per RV. The 150 tent and RV campsites (some of them shady, most with hookups) cost $25 to $47 a night, depending on the location and time of year. Properly immunized pets are allowed in some areas of the park.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.