Updated March 2, 2021
Canaveral National Seashore is where I go to take a trip back in time to the Old Florida I miss so much. I consider it the best beach in Florida.
The beach is located between Kennedy Space Center and New Smyrna Beach.
The Space Coast and New Smyrna have miles of developed beach with high rise condominiums casting their shadows over State Road A1A.
You will see none of that at Canaveral National Seashore. There's no other place on the state's Atlantic coast that has 24 miles of continuous undeveloped white sand beach on an unspoiled barrier island.
It's the way Florida used to be before wall to wall oceanfront condominiums and beach houses.
I was living in Orlando in 1969 and working on the construction of Walt Disney World. I dreamed of buying an oceanfront lot in New Smyrna Beach.
One day I drove to the end of State Road A1A south of New Smyrna. The road dead ended in fenced property that was the northern limit of Kennedy Space Center.
A1A was undeveloped for miles north of the Space Center. There was nothing along the highway but sand dunes covered with sea oats and sea grapes.
The quiet beaches were a favorite jogging place for the astronauts. They still are the destination for thousands of sea turtles who come each year to lay their eggs.
I found two lots for sale down there. One was for $8,000 and the other was $10,000. I couldn't afford either one.
There are few remaining vacant lots. In 2019 I saw a 0.28 acre lot for sale for $895,000 in the same neighborhood. I can't afford that either.
That's the sad story of my Florida land investing success.
But at least I can still visit Canaveral National Seashore. I have an annual pass that I bought years ago from the National Park Service that gets me into any of our National Parks in the United States.
There are two entrances to the seashore:
1. The north side about 8 miles south of New Smyrna beach, and
2. The south closer to the heart of the Kennedy Space Center.
The north and south entrances are independent of each other. If you come into the seashore from the north you must exit from the north.
If you come in from the south, you have to exit there.
There is a section between the north and south beaches known as Klondike Beach where there is no road access.
The beach that you can access from the north is Apollo Beach. You get there by driving through New Smyrna Beach on State Road A1A.
There is a toll both at this entrance, along with a visitor center.
Canaveral National Seashore's Visitor Center is located in the Apollo District at 7611 S. Atlantic Ave, New Smyrna Beach, FL 32169.
You can watch a short film about the park, pick up brochures and activity schedules, tide charts, and souvenirs.
For more information call 386-428-3384 extension 0.
The Visitor Center is open daily from 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM.
There are five parking areas on the ocean and four others within the coastal hammock.
Once you leave the visitor center and travel south, there are four more parking areas along Apollo Beach.
Each parking area has a ramp down to the beach. You can take steps or walk on a gently sloping wheel chair accessible ramp.
The paved portion of South Atlantic Avenue (SR-A1A) ends at the last ramp on the south in a turn around loop.
Playalinda Beach is reached from the south access by taking CR402 from Titusville east to the beach. You will travel through a portion of the giant Merritt Island Wildlife Refuge.
Since you are immediately north of busy Kennedy Space Center, you will see the huge Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB) looming in the near distance off to your right and some rocket launch towers.
There is no visitor center at this entrance, but you will soon come to a ranger in a toll booth.
After passing through the toll booth, you will drive for a couple of miles north along a paved road that looks like A1A did many years ago.
You will see no structures, only sand dunes, sea oats and sea grapes.
There are more parking areas at Playalinda Beach than at Apollo. There are 14 of them. Please be advised that nude bathers are quite often seen at the beaches adjacent to Parking areas 12, 13, and 14.
These are the northernmost parking spots at the north end of the paved road.
Most of the parking areas have masonry outhouses known as rest rooms.
These structures do not have running water. They are about as modern as the facilities your great grand parents used; primitive but better than outdoors.
There are also no showers or places to wash the sand off your feet.
These are minor things that are far outweighed by the joy of having 24 miles of unspoiled beach beneath your bare feet.
Hermit crabs, sand crabs, and small birds will scurry out of your way as you stroll along the shoreline. Pelicans and seagulls will soar over the nearby surf looking for their next meal.
The variety of bird species you see may also include anhinga and plovers.
Among the natural activities you can enjoy are catching sand crabs and taking them home with you to make sand crab soup as described in Florida Cracker Recipes.
Klondike Beach is a true wilderness beach that stretches for more than 10 miles and is just north of Playalinda Beach between it and Apollo Beach.
It is at the northernmost tip of Brevard County, and is part of what is known as Backcountry at Canaveral National Seashore.
Backcountry is - generally speaking - the center of the barrier island between Apollo Beach on the north and Playalinda Beach on the south.
Permits are required to hike the trails or Klondike beach. A $2 Backcountry permit is required to explore Klondike Beach.
Access to Klondike Beach is only available on foot from the northern reaches of Playalinda Beach.
Backcountry camping is only allowed during the period November through April. A permit is required for camping.
One of the interesting things to see on the north end of the Seashore is Turtle Mound. You reach it from a board walk that starts from the paved road not far after you enter the park.
This mound is an archaeological site that dates back to prerecorded history. It is one of the largest shell middens anywhere in Florida.
The mound is about 50 feet tall and is made up mostly of oyster shells remaining from the main food for the Timucuan. The tribe lived in Florida hundreds of years before the Spanish showed up.
Ancient sailors along the Atlantic coast used Turtle Mound as a navigation aid. It can be seen from seven miles at sea.
Turtle Mound can be climbed using a wooden boardwalk that has gentle ramps and is wheelchair accessible. You will be going through some beautiful coastal hammock vegetation.
The view from the top is fantastic. You can see both the Atlantic Ocean on the east and the Mosquito Lagoon on the west. The Mosquito Lagoon is the northern part of the Indian River Lagoon system.
Turtle Mound is open daily from 6:00AM to 7:00PM in the summer, but closes at 5:00PM in the winter.
Eldora was a community settled in 1876 that was home to ancient Native Americans and some pioneer settlers. It was a steamboat stop on the Mosquito Lagoon.
In the first part of the twentieth century, the village shifted from agriculture to tourism and "gentleman farming". The little community became more accessible because the railroad came to the mainland across Mosquito Lagoon.
The last remaining home of this community is the Eldora State House. It was built in 1913. This historic home has been restored and is open to the public. There is a small museum with artifacts and photos.
You can even sit in a rocking chair on the front porch and enjoy the peace and quiet of the surrounding live oaks.
Seminole Rest is a pre-historical and historical interpretive park located across the Mosquito Lagoon on the mainland at Oak Hill, Florida. It contains several prehistoric shell mounds dating from 2,000 BC to 1565 AD.
The National Park Service preserves the site. You can learn more about it at the Canaveral National Seashore Visitor Information Center.
Fees as of January 1, 2020
Pedestrian or Bicycle: $10.00
Valid for 7 days
Vehicle Entrance Fee: $20.00 per vehicle.
Day Fee for cars, minivans,etc. valid for 7 days.
Motorcycles: $15.00. Day fee for motorcycles.
Valid for 7 days.
Commercial Tour Vehicles: $100.00. This is defined as one or more persons traveling on an itinerary that has been packaged, priced or sold for leisure or recreational purposes by an organization that realizes financial gain through providing the service. Cost varies depending on design capacity of vehicle.
You can also do as I have and buy either an annual or lifetime pass. An annual pass for the Canaveral National Seashore is $40 for one year. You can also buy passes for other National Parks, Wildlife Preserves, and more at the seashore headquarters near the north entrance.
The park is open in the winter months from 6:00 AM to 6:00 PM. It is open in the summer from 6:00 AM to 8:00 PM.
The administrative office is open Monday through Friday from 8:00 AM to 4:30 PM.
Park service staff is patrolling the park during the hours it is open.
This article tells you something about this wonderful park. There is a lot more to do, including hiking, nature exhibits, and more.
Check out the website at Canaveral National Seashore.