Been to Cape Canveral before? Looking for something low key to do? Cape Canaveral is working to add attractions for visitors. Just added is the $23 Million dollar Exploration Tower. The Tower is located on the port's south side and allows a birds eye view of the launch pad located at NASA. Although Space Shuttle launches are not occuring, Space-X and other contractors continue to launch unmanned payloads into orbit from the NASA Facility. In addition to the view, the 22,000 Square foot facility, The first 6 floors are full of port history, interactive displays and installations that give visitors ideas for things to do in Central Florida. There is a 13-minute video on the port. A simulator allow guests to play pilot by brining a vessel into port under 3 different scenarios. The second floor has an exhitbit on Premier Cruises which started multi-day cruises from Port Canaveral in 1984. Included are scale models of the StarShip Royale as well as other ships of the original Premier Fleet. There is also an entire floor dedicated to the space center and it's history. The Exploration Tower is located on the opposite side of port as the cruise terminals but Port Canaveral has expansion plans anticipated for the south side of the channel including new cruise ship piers and faciilities. Shopping Area, Hotel complex, a 5,000 seat amphitheater and more. Once these facilities are in place, some cruise passengers will be able to walk to the Exploration Tower.
PORT CANAVERAL GENERAL:
Port Canaveral / Cape Canaveral, Florida is centrally located to many of Florida's main attractions. The popular cruise port provides cruise passengers access to many of Florida Theme Parks. Fifty-five miles from Orlando, Florida, Disney, Universal Studios, SeaWorld and other Orlando attractions are within striking distance. Many cruise lines offer excursions which include transportation and/or admission to the theme parks. These excursions are available at an added price. Many cruise lines have their shore excursion selection listed on their websites which explain the attractions, what's included and the price.
For passengers looking for activities closer to the ship. There are tours to the NASA Space Center - located a short distance from the pier by taxi or ship excursion. Start your exploration adventure at the only place in America that blasts man into space, NASA's Kennedy Space Center. Tour the Apollo/Saturn V Center that showcases the tense moments of placing the first men on the lunar surface. The Launch Complex Observation Gantry gives you a birds-eye view of the space shuttle launch pads and the International Space Station Center is where you'll see the actual hardware being readied for placement into orbit around Earth.
For those looking to enjoy the beach, there is Jetty Park which offers swimming and is very close to the ship terminal. Depending on the pier, the beach is a walkable distance. Jetty Park is a family beach with showers and changing facilities, a concession stand, a boardwalk, a nature trail, a playground, and picnic grounds with barbecue grills. The endless beaches are tempting year round with warm Southern waters and an average daytime temperature of 73°F. Fishing is available from the 1200-foot recreational pier equipped with fish cleaning tables and lighting for nighttime use. As an added bonus, you may be able to see a rocket or shuttle launch. The pier is the closest public viewing point for unmanned rocket launches and one of the most popular vantage points for witnessing spectacular space shuttle launches.
Other parks include Ports End Park and Freddie Patrick Park. Ports End Park is a popular shore fishing spot and features an observation tower where you can take in all the fascinating views of the harbor, including occasional manatee gatherings. Both Ports End and Freddie Patrick parks feature covered picnic tables and restrooms.
From the ship, you can take a ride into Cocoa Beach (approx 30 minutes), home of 'I Dream of Jeannie' and the surfing capital of the world. Here, you'll be able to enjoy the beach or walk to area restaurants, bars and shopping. Visit the world-famous Ron Jon Surf Shop just a few yards from the beach. No visit to Cocoa Beach is complete without a stop at this local landmark. Ron Jon Surf Shop is a 52,000-square-foot complex which offers a huge variety of items to help you live the surfer or beach lifestyle. The Space Coast is home to over 100 of the best surf spots on the East Coast.
The Space Coast offers more than 250 square miles of protected wildlife refuges with spectacular landscapes and a rich diversity of rare and endangered plants and animals. The Southern Bald Eagle, West Indian Manatee, Wood Stork, White Pelican, Atlantic Bottlenose Dolphin and Roseate Spoonbill represent just some of the more than 20 rare and threatened species listed for protection, and the beaches of the Space Coast are some of the most abundant sea turtle nesting areas in the world.
From May through August, the Space Coast is home to the largest sea turtle nesting area in the United States. The 72-mile stretch of sun-bronzed Space Coast shore offers solitude-seeking sea turtles a place to hatch their offspring. Although not an excursion available to cruise passengers - the Cape Canaveral area, also referred to as the Space Coast, plays home to over 6,000 endangered and threatened loggerheads, green and leatherback turtles that swarm the beaches including Canaveral National Seashore, Indian Harbor Beach, Melbourne beaches and Sebastian Inlet to lay up to 125 leathery eggs in each nest. Nature lovers gather to witness these endangered 300+ pound animals, nest during guided tours. The nightly tours are carefully guided by environmental experts who point out the beauty of these marvelous creatures and the dangers facing them. For more information on guided tours: Sea Turtle Sighting (321) 676-1701/321)589-2147. Sea Turtle Preservation Society seaturtlespacecoast.org (321) 676-1701, Sebastian Inlet State Recreation Area floridastateparks.org (321) 984-4852
For the Nature minded take a guided two-person ocean kayak through Cocoa Beach's Thousand Islands endangered estuary. birds, manatees, bottlenose dolphins and outrageous plants surround you. Enjoy a short nature walk too.
For information on eco-tourism natural adventures around the Space Coast, contact Florida's Space Coast Office of Tourism at (800) USA-1969
Sources: www.NCL.com and www.space-coast.com