Canaveral National Seashore Overview
This national seashore boasts 24 miles of undeveloped beach on Barite Island off the coast of central Florida. The semitropical paradise lures sea lovers and sun worshippers alike with an average year-round air temperature of 79 degrees and 295 days of sunshine. Sunbathers can sprawl out on three immaculate beaches: Playalinda, Klondike, and Apollo. And while Playalinda and Apollo are accessible by car, Klondike is reserved exclusively for hikers.
The seashore dunes are sandy oases for tenacious plants like bayonet-leafed yuccas, prickly pear cactus, and saw palmetto—while the salt marshes shelter shoulder-high grasses teeming with herons and egrets, not to mention nesting bald eagles, brown pelicans, mottled ducks, and wood storks.
Central Florida's Atlantic coast is also called the "Space Coast": the seashore shares its southern border with the Kennedy Space Center. One of the space-shuttle launchpads sits in plain view and can be seen from within the seashore's southernmost boundary. As you ponder the launchpad amidst alligators and lily pads, consider the irony in the proximity of Florida's last wild frontier to this portal into deep space.
How do you get there from here? The nearest major airport is in Orlando, which is about 45 miles southwest of the seashore. The seashore is also accessible via Interstate 95 (exits 80 and 84), US 1, State Road 404/406, and State Road 44. The south beaches are closed three days prior to a scheduled shuttle launch, so keep track of the space program.
Discover Atlantic Coastal Wildlife
Alligators, lots of 'em, inhabit the murky swamps, marshes, canals, and lagoons of the seashore. Did you know that the largest recorded American alligator measured 19 feet in length? But wait, there's more: In the sand dunes, you'll find armadillos and masked bandits like the raccoon that steal sea-turtle eggs. Explore the 92,000-acre Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge. The semitropical salt marsh of small ponds and hammocks shelters bald eagles, manatees, peregrine falcons, gopher tortoises, osprey, and five species of marine turtles. The refuge is easily the best wintering waterfowl habitat on Florida's east coast. Birders will want to visit the refuge between the months of November and March.
Hike to Turtle Mound
A quarter-mile trail leads to Turtle Mound, an ancient hillock of shells left by the oyster-shucking Timucuan Indians between A.D. 600 and 1200. Archaeologists theorize that the Indians may have used the area as high-ground refuge during hurricanes. If you're feeling a little crabby, bring along some twine, a few sinkers, a couple chicken heads, and a long-handled net: A popular activity near the Turtle Mound is catching blue crabs. The trailhead is located seven miles south of New Smyrna Beach on A1A in the North District.
Surf Cast the Breakers
Surf cast the breakers for bluefish, scrappy, whiting, and pompano. If calmer waters sooth your soul, fish Mosquito Lake and Indian River for redfish, mullet, and trout. If it's bigger fish you seek, try high-speed trolling the Gulf Stream for sailfish, marlin, tuna, wahoo, and mahi mahi. Charter boats will take you to the many wrecks and reefs offshore where you can live bait fish for amberjack, snapper, and grouper.
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication
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