Faced with economic challenges with the end of the shuttle program, Brevard County government and businesses are looking towards eco-tourism as one avenue to create jobs and boost tourism, according to an article in the Orlando Sentinel.
Eco-tourism opportunities abound along the Space Coast, from Mosquito Lagoon and Canaveral National Seashore, through the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge into the Indian River Lagoon, and west to the edge of the Orlando metro area.
This stretch of Florida’s east coast boasts 72 miles of beautiful beaches with some of the best surf breaks in the state, making it a mecca for surfers. No visit is complete without a visit to the world’s largest surf shop, Ron Jon’s, which is open 24/7.
And, of course, the Kennedy Space Center will still be there, and although the shuttle is gone, NASA will continue to launch rockets to the outer limits.
The Space Coast is a natural side trip for visitors to Disney World and Universal Studios, offering the nearest beaches to the Orlando metro area, close enough to include in your itinerary.
Here’s a summary of information about outdoor recreation in the area with links:
Eerie night kayak on Mosquito Lagoon — The water glows at night during August as leaping mullet stir up bioluminescence plankton below the surface of Mosquito Lagoon. Read this article on FloridaRambler.com.
Canaveral National Seashore – Located on a barrier island encompassing Mosquito Lagoon and the Kennedy Space Center, this sprawling national park features some of the finest beaches and paddling opportunities that can be found anywhere along the Atlantic Seaboard. Read this article on FloridaRambler.com about Apollo Beach.
Link to Orlando Sentinel archive with articles about Cape Canaveral.
Link to National Park Service web site: www.nps.gov/cana/
Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge – This 140,000-acre wildlife refuge was created in the early 1960s in conjunction with the nearby Kennedy Space Center and hosts more than 500 species of wildlife and 1,000 species of plants. Recreation activities include hiking, kayaking and canoeing.
Link to Orlando Sentinel archive with articles about the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge.
Link to the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service page on Merritt Island: www.fws.gov/merrittisland
Link to Trails.com description of Merritt Island hiking: www.trails.com
Enchanted Forest Nature Sanctuary – This 470-acre forest in Titusville is part of Brevard County’s Environmentally Endangered Lands program and features birdwatching, nature photography and nearly three miles of nature trails for hiking in several loops through five natural habitats.
Sebastian Inlet and the Indian River Lagoon – The Indian River Lagoon, which empties into the Atlantic through Sebastian Inlet at the southern end of Brevard County, is one of the most ecologically important regions of Florida, a breeding ground for hundreds of species of sportfish, birds and other wildlife and home to a half-dozen wildlife refuges. Recreation opportunities include kayaking, canoeing, motorboating, sailing, fishing, camping, beaches, swimming, diving, snorkeling and shelling.
Pelican Island: Oldest bird sanctuary in the U.S. from FloridaRambler.com
Sebastian Inlet: Two great campgrounds from FloridaRambler.com
Roughing it: St. Sebastian River State Park from FloridaRambler.com
Blue Spring State Park – A haven in nearby Volusia County on the eastern edge of a vast basin of preserved lands – state parks, wildlife refuges and water management preserves – that protect the watershed of the north-flowing St. John’s River. Recreation opportunities include kayaking, canoeing, boating, fishing, hiking, bicycling, camping, swimming, springs diving and snorkeling.
Brevard County Parks and Recreation – The county manages 108 parks, three campgrounds, three golf courses, six nature centers, 42 beach access sites and more than 17,000 acres of environmentally endangered lands. Visit www.brevardparks.com/visittheparks
Official Space Coast tourism site: www.space-coast.com
Cocoa Beach Pier surf report and web cam: www.surfguru.com