Stretching for 72 miles of sandy shore east of Orlando and southward to Melbourne, Florida's "Space Coast" is a homogeneous blend of nature and technology. This Atlantic Ocean-edged region embraces sights like the Kennedy Space Center in Titusville; launch pads, rockets and ocean liners in Cape Canaveral; Patrick Air Force Base in Cocoa Beach; and wildlife preserves, rivers, the Intracoastal Waterway and shimmering sands from Satellite Beach through Indialantic and onward to Melbourne.
Marked by clusters of townships separated by miles of open space, Route A1A is the main thoroughfare, running along the ocean from beach to area attraction and back (though there are a number of places to rent and ride bicycles, this stretch of Florida is best explored by motorized vehicle). There are also a number of regional highways that run inland to Interstate 95 and destinations farther west, readily linking travelers to Orlando and the Florida's Turnpike.
Whatever your approach, there's activity enough in this area to keep sight-seers of all ages occupied. The Kennedy Space Center (Titusville) boasts an exceptional visitors complex with exhibits of actual rockets and hands-on demonstrations. Cape Canaveral, home to the Space Shuttle, is also a port of call to large ocean liners en route to the Caribbean. Parks and trails are abundant, the latter winding through cedar forests, mangrove marshes, coastal dunes, swamps and palmetto thickets, but for perspective on Florida's wilder side it's hard to beat a paddle out to spots where manatee sitings are common - local outfitters can arrange the kayak and guide as needed.
Neither are golfers neglected - well-kept greens like Turtle Creek in Rockledge ( one of Golf Digest's best picks for the past decade) are legion, many of them public. One of the fastest growing "sports" in the area, however, is bird watching, and Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge is one of the best birding sites in the world. Not surprisingly (considering the Space Coast's seaside location), fishing is similarly popular; charter trips regularly ply the waters a ways out, though there are also angling opportunities to be found from piers, along the Intracoastal Waterway or in foamy Atlantic surf.
With more than 40 parks and 220 square miles of wildlife refuges in addition to wining, dining, museums and miles of sand, plan for a Space Coast sojurn that runs from rocket launches to Royal terns via barrier island beach.