The Space Coast: Stellar Things to Do in Cape Canaveral, Florida

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Planning a trip to Cape Canaveral, Florida? There are so many things to do that are out of this world! The Space Coast of Florida, famous for being the home base of NASA, has so much more to offer families who travel there. Kayaking thru a galaxy sounds insane, but we have the details of how your family can experience that and other unique things during a visit to the Space Coast of Florida.

This article includes:
Visiting the Space Coast
Things to Do in Cocoa Beach
More Things to Do: Space Coast of FL
Places to Eat: Space Coast of FL

Visiting The Space Coast Of Florida

For all of the time I lived in Florida, my exploration was contained to the Tampa Bay Area, Orlando, and Miami. I’ll admit, I’ve probably explored more things in Florida now as a non-resident than I did in the 20 years I called the Sunshine State home.

Until 2021, I hadn’t so much as driven thru the area referred to as the Space Coast. This includes everything on the coast between Titusville and Palm Bay. The thing most synonymous with the area is The Kennedy Space Center. While this is an amazing place to visit, the Space Coast has so much more to offer visitors, including some experiences you’ll push right to the top of your bucket list.

Where We Stayed While Visiting The Space Coast of Florida

Proximity is everything when you’re staying somewhere new while on vacation. In my youth, I made the mistake several times of not doing my research, and I wound up miles away from anything I wanted to do while on my trip.

With the Space Coast covering such a large area, it helps to know what you want to do, and where it is BEFORE you book your accommodations. That seems counter-intuitive since usually the activities are planned after the trip – but it definitely helps when we are talking about a place that covers over 70 miles of coastline. We stayed right in the middle of all the action, and central to the things we wanted to see and do.

Staying at the Hampton Inn in Cocoa Beach, Florida

Through an affiliate relationship with STAY22, Kidding Around earns when you book through this link.

Hampton Inn – Cape Canaveral/ Cocoa Beach, Florida

Traveling has made me appreciate well-run hotels all the more since the pandemic. When we arrived at the Hampton Inn after a trip across the state and a lunch stop in Orlando, my son and I were greeted with free coffee and warm cookies. The staff members we encountered during our stay were super accommodating and very helpful. Our room was spotless, the beds were super comfortable, and the bathrooms were spacious and modern.

Each room in the hotel has a balcony looking out to the ocean. Enjoying morning coffee, as you listen to the waves and watch the sunrise is so relaxing. You can then head down to the lobby to enjoy a full breakfast that is included with your stay. One of the most frustrating things is when a hotel offers you a free breakfast but then offers it at obscenely early hours. I usually miss out on the free breakfast at places like that. That is one more reason I loved our stay here. They don’t make you get up early while on vacation to eat the most important meal of the day. Not to worry if you do sleep in a little later and you need more of a brunch-type meal. The neighboring Courtyard by Marriott has a full-service restaurant and offers room service as well.

The hotel amenities also include a pool, a poolside Tiki bar, free WIFI, a fitness center, free parking, beach access, and each room has a mini-fridge, microwave, and single-serve coffee maker.

Exploring the Space Coast: Cocoa Beach, Merritt Island, and Cape Canaveral

The east coast of Florida has so many spectacular things to do, Space Coast exploration being one of them. The area is mostly known for spaceships and spring breakers. Even as a former resident, this was a mistake that was embedded in my head. I set out to dispel that idea for myself and Kidding Around readers. Florida’s Space Coast has so many adventures that we weren’t able to get to a fraction of them in the three days we were there. I’m excited to return again soon to continue our Space Coast adventures.

Surfboards at Ron Jon Surf Shop in Cocoa Beach, Florida

Things to Do in Cocoa Beach

Learning To Surf And Looking The Part With Help From Ron Jon Surf Shops

I’m not sure if this was a regional thing, or kid’s everywhere in the 90s had a Ron Jon Surf Shop sticker adorning one or more of their belongings. I distinctly remember having one, and thinking I was the coolest middle schooler in the world.

The flagship Ron Jon store is huge and probably the largest surf shop ever. It has every surf brand item you can think of, making it one of the top cocoa beach attractions. Ron Jon’s a great place to get functional souvenirs (hat, skimboard, beach towel, etc.) and that obligatory Ron Jon Surf Shop sticker to up the cool factor of the family van.

Ron Jon Surf Shop  
4151 North Atlantic Avenue,  Cocoa Beach, FL

Ron Jon Surf Shop doesn’t just sell you surfwear, and surfboards. You can sign-up for surf lessons, rent surfboards, and more while you are visiting Cocoa Beach. This is going to be at the top of my to-do list next time we visit. If you already know how to hang ten and want to head out to grab some killer waves, check out this Surf Report before heading out into the Atlantic Ocean.

Ron Jon Surf School
150 East Columbia Lane, Cocoa Beach, FL

Kayaking through the Brevard Zoo in Florida.
Brevard Zoo

The Brevard Zoo

Once you’ve seen a zebra or giraffe in a zoo, it’s not much different from the next. It’s the unique differences that make them worthy of a visit while you are on vacation and time is precious. A huge fan of kayaking and paddle sports, I was pleasantly surprised to learn that The Brevard Zoo had two different opportunities to join a kayak tour through the exhibits. That definitely falls under the unique category.

Adventure packages will save you money if you plan on doing any of the add-on activities, and be sure you head straight to the kayaking reservation spots to snag your time slot before they are all taken, or they are booking out past the time when you had planned to be at the zoo. After you have a return time, you can tour the zoo at your leisure.

The Ring-tailed Lemur viewing platform is a great spot to escape the sun and rest while you try and find the stars of the Madagascar animated show living their best life on an island in the middle of the river that is part of the kayak tour. There are several opportunities to get up close and personal with the animals starting at just $2.

The Brevard Zoo also includes a small children’s splash area, so be sure to pack bathing suits and towels for the little ones. If you want to grab a birds-eye view of the animals, there is also a Treetop zipline attraction that includes zipping over parts of the zoo, for a separate fee.

  • Children’s Ticket (ages 3-11) Starting at $24.95
  • Adult & Teen’s Ticket $Starting at $39.95
  • Kayaking (ages 5+) $9.95

The Brevard Zoo 8225 North Wickham Road, Melbourne, FL

biolum jellyfish

Bioluminescent Kayaking With BK Adventures

Experiencing this is totally worth planning a trip around. In order to see the organisms best, you should plan to book your trip during a new moon (the less moon the better). This gives the little glowing creatures center stage and you the best view possible. Check your calendar, and then head to this Moon Cycle Calendar to plan your trip.

  • Bioluminescent Tours $60 – $85

manatee sign and wildlife preserve
Merritt Island Wildlife Refuge

Things to do in Cape Canaveral, FL

Explore the Merritt Island Wildlife Refuge

Merritt Island Refuge includes 140,000 acres of land in the area north of Cape Canaveral’s Kennedy Space Center. It provides a haven and protected habitat for more than 1,500 species of plants and animals. This includes supporting the highest number of (registered endangered species of any other national refuge park.

The Sea Turtle Watch is something that if you can include in your trip, I encourage you to. Having witnessed the miracle of an erupting sea turtle nest in college, I can assure you it is something you won’t ever forget. The ranger-led walks fill quickly, so check the availability as soon as you start to plan your trip. Sea turtle season runs from May through October. Several different organizations are permitted to guide the turtle walks along the Space Coast.

The Manatee Observation Deck is a great spot within the refuge to look for migrating manatees. They are most commonly seen here during the transitional months of Spring and Fall but can be seen in Florida waters any time of year.

Black Point Wildlife Drive is a great way to see some wildlife from the safety of your car. It is not a drive-thru safari-type experience, as the animals are not captive. Instead, you will be driving through a 7-mile loop area that is their natural habitat.

The Visitor Center offers educational exhibits, movies, and programs, plus access to drinking water, restrooms, and a bookstore. In addition, maps and information are always available throughout the refuge from self-service kiosks.
Open Tuesday through Saturday, 8 am to 4 pm
Closed on Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s Day, Sunday, and Monday

Merritt Island Refuge
GPS coordinates for the Visitor Center:
28.641467 and -80.735842 or Latitude 28 38′ 29.28″ N, Longitude 80 44′ 9.03″ W

Protected sea turtle nest in a roped off section of Merritt Island Wildlife Refuge

Canaveral National Seashore

Head out to this National park for some fun in the sun! Grab your surfboard, and head out to the coastline that is part of the 58k acres that makes up this National Park. You can also hike to the Mosquito Lagoon on the Castle Windy Trail where the Bioluminescent tour takes place.

Make sure you grab one of the Junior Ranger Activity books while you are there! It’s educational, a free souvenir, and something to keep kids ages 5-12 occupied in the car.

  • Daily Pass $20 per vehicle
  • Annual Pass $40 (if you plan on visiting this beach for more than two days during your stay, this will save you money)
  • Free Admission for 4th Graders and their family with the Kid In Every Park Free National Parks Pass.

Canaveral National Seashore
GPS for Playalinda Beach Entrance Station:
28.6450, -80.6834

A sign from visitor center at Kennedy Space Center

The Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex

There’s so much to see and do and learn about at the Kennedy Space Center. Tour the launch pad areas, see the massive Saturn V rocket, learn about the history of the space program, and about the exciting future of space travel in this country.

  • Children’s Ticket (ages 3-11) $47
  • Adult & Teen’s Ticket $57
  • Parking $10 per vehicle

The Cocoa beach pier and a gopher tortoise pen

Other Fun Things To Do: Space Coast of Florida

We can’t wait to head back to the Space Coast to add to this list of things to see and do!


  • Manatee Sanctuary Park
    This park is named Manatee Sanctuary due to its proximity to the Banana River, which serves as a protected Manatee habitat. While it is not guaranteed that you will see manatees in the water here, it’s a beautiful park to visit.
  • Exploration Tower at Port Canaveral
    Check out the interactive exhibits, sculptures, and a panoramic view of the Kennedy Space Center and the port. Maybe you’ll get lucky and gate a rocket launch.
  • Port Canaveral: Jetty Park Beach and Pier
    If you are wanting to spend some time on the beach while in the area, head to Jetty Park, you can even camp here.

Cocoa Beach

  • Kiwanis Island Park
    The park has a picnic area, and spots to fish the bay from. If you time your trip just right, it’s also a great spot to view bioluminescent waters from.
  • Historic Cocoa Beach Pier
    Managed by Westgate Resorts, the Cocoa Beach Pier offers visitors half a dozen dining options, as well as live entertainment and more.
  • Lori Wilson Park
    This park is great for picnics, dunes to admire, free parking, and lifeguards on duty.


Deciding Where To Eat While Visiting The Space Coast of Florida

Navigating meals in a highly trafficked tourism area can be a daunting task. The places highly trafficked may not always be good, they are just being supported by a ton of one-visit tourists. Growing up in a tourism hot spot taught me that at a young age. So what does one do when they don’t have friends or family locally to ask? Head to social media and seek out a local foodie.

So, that’s just what I did. The Space Coast Foodies page on Instagram won me over with all of the local street taco spots she had posted to her page. Summer and Tyler are parents to three young children and after moving to the Space Coast from (drum roll) CLEMSON, they weren’t thrilled with the food options and made a hobby of seeking out the hidden gems.

All of that eating and delicious research was put to work benefiting others with the quiz they posted in their bio link. I took it, and you will never guess where it said I should eat. Space Coast Foodies was spot on!
They also told me that any place with the word “Fat” in the name is a sure bet.

I also asked some local Upstate foodie friends for suggestions, and although I didn’t get a chance to try them during this trip, I have every confidence in their suggestions, as they have never steered me wrong.

About the Author
Melanie is a native New Yorker, who landed in the Upstate by way of Florida. She is the mom of two awesome kids, and the three of them love going on adventures!

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