Based on my social media check-ins over the last few years, you’d think I was an official part-time resident of Brevard County, also known as Florida’s Space Coast. Why? Because I’m a space nut and I’ve been shuttling over to Florida’s East Coast frequently since 2011 as part of NASA’s social media community.
Brevard Zoo Offers Serious Bragging Rights
Space exploration and ecotourism are weaved into the fabric of Brevard County and during a fall visit I discovered there’s more to love about this beach destination beyond rocket launches. A highlight was kayaking alongside giraffes at the Brevard Zoo. Yup, you read that right. I’m told it’s the only zoo in the U.S. where visitors can kayak alongside the residents. Pretty cool, right?
More than 16,000 volunteers came together between 1992 and 1994 to build the 75-acre facility, making it the country’s largest community-built zoo. This gem is home to 730 animals and houses Treetop Trek Aerial Adventures with zip lining, canopy walks and ropes courses. Ecotourism matters at the Brevard Zoo. Last summer, the zoo was designated as an Ethical Ecotour Operator by the Florida Society of Ethical Ecotourism.
Stay Where They Treat You Like Family
I’m planning a return visit this summer with hopes of viewing some sort of sea turtle nesting action. My home base will be Tuckaway Shores Resort. The property is a member of Florida Superior Small Lodging and is located on the beach in Indialantic. It’s a sweet, boutique resort with a manager, Jacqui McPhillips, who believes in the Golden Rule of “treating people how you want to be treated.” Two-room suites with kitchenettes provide easy access to the beach making it easier to roll out of bed and see the sunrise over the Atlantic Ocean.
They also have these Big Green Egg Grills available on property for guests to use. During my visit, some “EGGheads” – people who are devout fans of the egg-shaped grills – prepared a very delish dinner from appetizers of satay to entrees which included grilled meats and casseroles to dessert, all made in one of these grills.
Florida’s Space Coast, Naturally.
I met with the Sea Turtle Preservation Society who told me the Space Coast is the second most important place in the world for sea turtle nesting. Unfortunately, only about one out of 1,000 sea turtle hatchlings will survive, which makes witnessing this extremely special.
Other natural attractions in Brevard County include the stunning Canaveral National Seashore, the 470-acre Enchanted Forest Nature Sanctuary which was the first property in the Brevard County Environmental Endangered Lands Program and Jetty Park, one of the area’s most popular recreational areas.
Fun, History and Culture in Exploration Tower at Port Canaveral
Here’s an interesting bit of trivia, the Space Coast’s Port Canaveral is the world’s third-busiest cruise port. Find a nifty collection of restaurants, shops and the seven-story architectural gem, Exploration Tower.
The building looks like a ship’s sail and honestly, I just thought it was a funky office building. Turns out it’s a museum housing area history of space exploration, surfing and cruising and serves as an event venue. Exploration Tower houses seven floors of exhibits and interactive play including indoor and outdoor observation decks overlooking the port. Visible is NASA’s Vehicle Assembly Building and launch pad making this an ideal place to watch a rocket launch.
A piece of art called “Embrace” by Sayaka Ganz caught my eye because it depicts sea life and is made with discarded objects such as plastic toys, utensils and bottle tops. Seeing that was worth the cost of the minimal admission.
Hang 10, Dude!
No visit to the Space Coast would be complete without seeing two things. First is world’s largest Ron Jon Surf Shop in Cocoa Beach. Browsing through the flagship of the Ron Jon franchise had me singing Beach Boys tunes as spied everything from ukulele to surfboards and skateboards to apparel. Dude, it was awesome.
Beyond Rocket Launches at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex
The next must is the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex. KSC embraces space exploration history through exhibits and displays and inspires us to achieve our dreams. It was my third visit in the Space Shuttle Atlantis exhibit and I still cried after with the unveiling of the shuttle.
You Won’t Go Hungry on Florida’s Space Coast
As for dining, there’s a nice selection of independently-owned eateries. My choices include Sand on the Beach for breakfast (try the spicy Shrimp & Crab Wicked Breakfast Waffle), lunch at Rusty’s Seafood & Oyster Bar at Port Canaveral (save room for key lime pie), and dinner at Dixie Crossroads. For a sweet treat, head to Del’s Freez for a Boston shake. It’s part shake, part sundae. Yum!
For additional information on planning your visit to Florida’s Space Coast check out VisitSpaceCoast.com.
Disclosure: During my visit, I was a guest of Tuckaway Shores Resort, VISIT FLORIDA and Florida’s Space Coast Office of Tourism. Opinions are my own and this post has not been reviewed by any of the entities mentioned in it. As a point of disclosure, I’m a former VISIT FLORIDA employee and currently serve on one of their committees, which had no impact in my participation on this trip.