and Port Canaveral

By  Mike Miller  Updated June 10, 2024

Cape Canaveral, Florida Things To Do, Lodging, Dining, & Real Estate At End Of Article

Cape Canaveral Florida can describe a promontory of land jutting eastward into the Atlantic Ocean, or a nearby city. 

This article talks a bit about both, but mostly the City of Cape Canaveral.

Cape Canaveral NASA Aerial Photograph 1991Cape Canaveral NASA Aerial Photograph 1991

The City of Cape Canaveral is south of and adjacent to the major cruise destination of Port Canaveral and nearby Kennedy Space Center 

The city has a population of 10,377 and is immediately north of Cocoa Beach on State Road A1A and shares much history and culture with its neighbor.


Native Americans were the first to live in the area of Cape Canaveral, going back at least 12,000 years.

Later tribes came to the area, including the Ais, and their people lived mainly on fish, clams, and gathered palmetto, cocoplum, and seagrape berries.

In the early 1500s the cape was noted on Spanish maps as "Cabo Caneveral", with the first name meaning cape and the second meaning "reed bed" or "sugarcane plantation."

The area began to attract settlers after the Spanish colonial period ended and Florida became a United States territory in 1821.

Cape Canaveral Lighthouse, by Paul BradleyCape Canaveral Lighthouse, by Paul Bradley
Collection of Florida Lighthouse Association

The Cape Canaveral Lighthouse was built in 1848 to warn ships of the dangerous currents and shoals off the cape.  Mills O. Burnham became the second lighthouse keeper in 1853.

He held that job for 30 years and was also a member of the Florida House of Representatives.

A huge tidal wave in 1885 nearly destroyed Cape Canaveral homes and buildings, and the lighthouse had to be moved almost one mile inward from the ocean.


Canaveral Club Lodge
Photo From North Brevard Historical Society

Not much happened in the area after that huge tidal wave until 1920.

That's the year when a group of wealthy Harvard University alumni founded the "Canaveral Club."

This group bought 18,000 acres of land for about $1.00 per acre.

Beach on Atlantic Ocean in FloridaBeach on Atlantic Ocean in Florida

The land included miles of beachfront on the Atlantic Ocean and shorelines along the Banana River and Indian River.

The club built a three story lodge with 22 rooms on some high ground not far from the ocean. 

The Harvard men along with prominent people in the social, business, and political world used the club.

U.S. Presidents Benjamin Harrison and Grover Cleveland were among the dignitary guests of the club.

The Canaveral Club had several nicknames including "Harvard Club" and "Boston Club."

Read more about the Canaveral Club and its interesting history.

Several small communities sprang up in the area around the club including Canaveral, Canaveral Harbor, Artesia, and DeSoto Beach.

The area relied on commercial fishing and farming for its economic sustenance.

The area did not grow much during the Great Depression from 1929 on into World War Two, even though Congress had authorized a deep water port here in 1929.

It wasn't until 1950 that Port Canaveral was started and completed in 1953. 

The space program also began at what is now Kennedy Space Center in the 1950s.

Many space shuttles were launched and landed at the space center.  Cape Canaveral was, and still is, one of the best places to watch rocket launches heading for space exploration.

Cape Kennedy Rocket Launch with Canaveral LighthouseCape Kennedy Rocket Launch with Canaveral Lighthouse

The busy port and the space program resulted in rapid growth of the area south of the port.

There was a decade after President John F. Kennedy was assassinated in 1963 when historic Cape Canaveral was renamed Cape Kennedy.  

That is also when the space center was renamed Kennedy Space Center.

Astronaut John Glenn Jogging on BeachAstronaut John Glenn Jogging on Beach

The name of the actual cape reverted back to the original name in 1973, but the former president is still honored by Kennedy Space Center.

A committee was formed in 1961 to incorporate the area south of Port Canaveral and the space center into a new city, the City of Cape Canaveral.

Incorporation became final in 1963.


Even though the City of Cape Canaveral is not quite 60 years old, it has become well organized and popular over the years both with residents and tourists.

Cape Canaveral City HallCape Canaveral City Hall

The city has a good mix of residential and commercial neighborhoods, with most of the businesses being located along State Road A1A.

Condominium on Ocean at Cape CanaveralCondominium on Ocean at Cape Canaveral

There are several city owned parks that provide many recreational opportunities. 

These include Banana River Park, Canaveral City Park, Manatee Sanctuary Park, and Veterans Memorial Park.

City of Cape Canaveral View to NorthCity of Cape Canaveral View to North

The beachfront is lined with residential condominiums, but most are mid rise rather than high rise.  There are also several low rise residential subdivisions.

There is also a large mandatory setback between the buildings and the dune line.

Beach Access at Cherie Down ParkBeach Access at Cherie Down Park

Because of these factors, Cape Canaveral's beachfront does not seem so much of a concrete canyon as does much of Florida.

There are also oceanfront access points and parks along the beach and elsewhere in the city.  A popular beachfront park operated by Brevard County is Cherie Down Park.


Although not in the city limits, Port Canaveral has become a major cruise ship port and entertainment district immediately north of the city.

Cruise Ships at Port CanaveralCruise Ships at Port Canaveral

Port Canaveral is currently ranked second among the world's sea ports for cruises that are of multi-day duration.

Even if you are not going on a cruise, it is a great place to spend a full day.

Port Canaveral Exploration TowerPort Canaveral Exploration Tower

The success of the port inspired the construction of Exploration Tower.  It has seven floors of exhibits and interactive activities.

The tower has indoor and outdoor observation decks, a theater, cafe, gift shop, and rest areas.

It is sometimes available for watching rocket launches from nearby Kennedy Space Center.

Map of Port CanaveralMap of Port Canaveral

There are several shops and restaurants in what the port calls The Cove. 

Several marinas on port property cater to private boats for wet and dry storage.

There is also a small fleet of commercial shrimp and fishing boats.  Port Canaveral obviously has some fresh seafood.

Learn more about Port Canaveral.


Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex - State Road 405, Kennedy Space Center, FL 32899 - This is a must-visit destination for anyone interested in space exploration. The complex offers exhibits, displays, and interactive experiences related to NASA's history and current missions.

Jetty Park - 400 Jetty Park Rd, Cape Canaveral, FL 32920 - This beautiful park is situated on the beach and features a fishing pier, playgrounds, and picnic areas. It's a great place to relax and enjoy the ocean views.

Exploration Tower - 670 Dave Nisbet Dr, Cape Canaveral, FL 32920 - This seven-story tower offers panoramic views of Port Canaveral and the surrounding area. It also features exhibits on the history of the port and its importance to the local economy.

Manatee Sanctuary Park - 701 Thurm Blvd, Cape Canaveral, FL 32920 - This park is home to a population of manatees that can often be seen swimming in the waters nearby. The park also features walking trails, a playground, and picnic areas.

Cape Canaveral Lighthouse - 8940 N Atlantic Ave, Cape Canaveral, FL 32920 - This historic lighthouse has been in operation since 1848 and is open for tours. Visitors can climb to the top for stunning views of the surrounding area.

Victory Casino Cruises - 180 Christopher Columbus Dr, Cape Canaveral, FL 32920 - This casino cruise ship offers a variety of games and entertainment options, including live music and comedy shows. Guests can also enjoy a buffet and drinks while they play.

Cocoa Beach Pier - 401 Meade Ave, Cocoa Beach, FL 32931 - While not technically in Cape Canaveral, this iconic pier is just a few miles away and offers shopping, dining, and entertainment options. It's a great place to catch a sunset or watch surfers in action.

Canaveral National Seashore - 212 S Washington Ave, Titusville, FL 32796 - This national park is located just north of Cape Canaveral and features over 24 miles of pristine beach and natural habitats. Visitors can swim, hike, and watch for wildlife.

Space Coast Segway Tours - 6729 N Atlantic Ave, Cape Canaveral, FL 32920 - This tour company offers guided Segway tours of the area, including stops at the beach, port, and other local attractions. It's a fun and unique way to explore the city.

Ron Jon Surf Shop - 4151 N Atlantic Ave, Cocoa Beach, FL 32931 - Another nearby attraction, this iconic surf shop is a must-visit for anyone interested in surfing or beach culture. It's the largest surf shop in the world and offers a huge selection of merchandise.


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