Visit Florida’s Space Coast

The billionaire space race has reignited public interest in space exploration and travel, an interest not seen since millions watched Neil Armstrong make one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind.

It’s easy to forget that space travel was the dream of one man. In 1961 John F. Kennedy asked America to commit to sending men to the moon “before this decade is out.” Sadly President Kennedy did not live to see his dream come true.

JFK at Kennedy Space Center
JFK at Kennedy Space Center

When the space program began, NASA chose Merritt Island, Florida for two reasons: the launch would occur over unpopulated areas and an east coast location meant rockets leaving Earth would get a boost from the Earth’s rotation.

Explore Kennedy Space Center main gate
Explore Kennedy Space Center main gate

If you’re interested in space travel and the science of space exploration,  a visit to the Kennedy Space Center on Florida’s Space Coast is probably on your bucket list.

Top Tips for Kennedy Space Center Visitors

First time visitor? KSC is overwhelming. Will you have time to see everything? What should you see first? Start early and make use of the helpful concierge at the information center.

They can plan out a visit based on what you most want to see and your time available. The free map has good must see suggestions. A multi day ticket is also available – good for multiple admissions within one year.

Tip #1. 

My suggestion: Start where it all began – take the bus ride from KSC to Launch pad A. The world’s fascination with space travel was ignited by Apollo 11, the first crewed mission to land on the Moon, on July 2oth 1969.

Apollo 11 Control Room, KSC
Apollo 11 Control Room, KSC

See the actual control room, not a replica but the control room used for the first moon landing in 1969. These computers cost $3.5 million a piece and were the size of a car. Now your smartphone is millions of times more powerful than the Apollo 11 guidance computers. You can walk under a gigantic Saturn V rocket and touch a moon rock, which unremarkably feels just like an earth rock.

Saturn V Rocket at Kennedy Space Center
Saturn V Rocket at Kennedy Space Center

Looking like a model kit built by giants, the Saturn V rocket fills the room. The three-stage liquid-propellant reliable, but non-recyclable Saturn V was the NASA rocket that launched humans to the moon.

Tip #2. 

After you return, join the timed entry for space shuttle Atlantis. Choose your KSC visit partner carefully. This is not the time to have the argument that space travel is a waste of government money – money better spent improving lives on earth. That may be true but it’s a total buzz kill.

Tip #3.

After all that time on your feet, you’re ready to sit down. Visit the Imax Theaters for a film. When you visit the IMAX theater, take the stairs to the very back – the experience will be more immersive.  Also families with fidgety, coughing children will stay together on the first level by the entry doors.

While the Kennedy Space Center is the feature attraction of Florida’s Space Coast, there are plenty of other places and attractions to visit. Cities in the area include Titusville, Cocoa, Rockledge, Cape Canaveral, Merritt Island (unincorporated), Cocoa Beach, Melbourne, Indialantic, Palm Bay, and Viera.

Cocoa Beach, south of Cape Canaveral, is known for its beach and surf breaks. Inside a surf shop, the Florida Surf Museum traces the sport’s local history. Nearby Cocoa Beach Pier has eateries and shops. The maritime forest at oceanfront Lori Wilson Park attracts birdlife. If you’re looking for unique crafts and curiosities or vintage clothes, check out Historic Cocoa Village.

Duran Golf Club
Duran Golf Club

Viera’s Duran Golf Club features a championship 18-hole links-style Florida golf course which plays 7151 yards from the tips. Designed by Chip Powell, Duran opened to the public in 2005.

The par-4  18th is the signature hole at Duran. This long, sweeping dogleg left wraps around a large lake, a challenging finale to your round.

Duran Golf Club Invitational annually hosts top women’s college golf teams from Louisville, Florida, Florida State and UCF,South Carolina, LSU, and Auburn.

Where to Stay on Florida’s Space Coast

Just steps from the Atlantic, the pet-friendly Windemere Inn by the Sea is situated on a barrier island with the Atlantic Ocean to the east and the Indian River to the west, located on A1A, in Indialantic, Florida. 

Windemere Inn by the Sea
Windemere Inn by the Sea

The Windemere Inn B&B features eleven comfortable guest-rooms. 

Pet-friendly Windemere Inn
Pet-friendly Windemere Inn

Tesla and Universal/J1772 charging stations are provided as well as parking.  Pets travelling with their owners are welcome in the secluded English Garden and the Windsong rooms.

Guests have the choice to swim in the ocean or the heated pool. Beach towels, umbrellas and beach chairs are all available to take to the nearby beach. 

Windemere Inn by the Sea
Windemere Inn by the Sea

We enjoyed comparing notes with other travellers over delicious homemade complimentary breakfasts and our genial host had great suggestions for local bars and restaurants including Meg O’Malley’s Irish bar in downtown Melbourne. Try the famous 18-cent bean soup and the best Guiness ever – in Florida!

Explore Canada’s Rideau Waterway on Le Boat

Explore Canada’s scenic and historically significant Rideau Waterway with Le Boat,  the largest operator of self-drive boating holidays in Europe. As the captain of your own boat, you  cruise in your own time and stop at your leisure. 

Le Boat docked at twilight
Le Boat docked at twilight photo credit: Sherel Purcell

Depending upon the model, Le Boat accommodates between two and 12 passengers. All regular berths come with ensuite baths making Le Boat the perfect economic option for families and small groups traveling together.

Le Boat Interior cabin
Le Boat Interior cabin photo credit: Sherel Purcell

These custom contemporary styled craft offer a natural, light-filled kitchen/dining area and a spacious top deck for maximum cruising and viewing pleasure.

From Canada’s capital, Ottawa to her former capital, Kingston, the 125-mile (202 kilometers) route traverses forests, wetlands, the rocky Canadian Shield and the famous locks system – a technology dating from the 1830s earning the waterway a UNESCO World Heritage Site designation.

The cities and towns abutting the Rideau Waterway where boaters dock at marinas and lock sites are well worth a visit. Ottawa, the largest city on the watery route, offers docking near the downtown area. Highlights include the National Gallery of Canada, the Ottawa Art Gallery, the Museum of Nature, the parliament buildings and the selfie – worthy Ottawa sign-sculpture on the edge of the Byward Market.

Smith Falls Golf and Country Club
Smith Falls Golf and Country Club photo credit: Sherel Purcell

Heading west on the Rideau, the happening town of Smith Falls is served by Via Rail and is home to Canadian golf sensation, Brooke Henderson and her sister-caddy, Brittany. Their home course, The Smith Falls Golf and Country Club allows visitors to play at reasonable rates for a pretty course in excellent condition.

Tweed, a new cannabis operation occupying 1,000,000 square feet offers tours of this highly scientific venture focusing on recreational and medicinal products that seeks to provide beverages to rival the alcohol market with a new emphasis on flavor. In homage to the former Hershey factory’s roots they’ve started producing chocolate and post tour samples are available as is their excellent coffee.

Eastern Canada’s only railway museum and a heritage museum that focuses on the old and the new are worth a visit. A good dining option, the Axe and Arrow offers tasty fish, seafood and local specials along with products from the excellent Perth Brewery.

A few hours sail away – Le Boat caps the speed at 10 kilometers an hour (6 miles) – sits the town of Perth, famous for its sizeable collection of limestone buildings and a main street built over the waterway. Quality local goods, new restaurants, cafes, a cheese shop and an English garden complete the pretty picture. The Rocky River cafe offers high-end pub food and healthier options in an attractive indoor/outdoor setting with excellent local brews.

Town of Westport Ontario
Town of Westport Ontario photo credit: Sherel Purcell

Another worthwhile stop, Westport, is home to the Scheuermann Winery whose folks will transport boaters to the scenic, six-acre vineyard and cafe above the water amidst rolling hills. Oven-fired pizza, inventive salads and tasty varietals top off a perfect day of boating.

The Westport Brewing Company occupies an intimate, contemporary-styled pub with a patio overlooking the waterway and serves tasting flights of their pale and darker brews.

Chaffey’s Lock, along with the usual waterside picnic and barbeque sites and friendly, helpful Parks Canada Lockmasters, offers good access to the 104-kilometer Cataraqui recreational trail – perfect for the folding bikes that can be rented from Le Boat to accompany your trip.The Lockmaster’s House Museum, an art gallery and the excellent cuisine of the Opinicon Resort all warrant a visit.

Previously published on USA Today

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