Brevard County, Florida, is home to many beaches from Cocoa Beach to Melbourne, as well as more than 200 state and county parks. The region also boasts the Kennedy Space Center and Patrick Air Force Base and a refuge for the largest collection of endangered wildlife species and plants in the continental United States. Brevard County provides a year-round temperate climate, enabling plenty of free outdoor recreational activities for you and your children.
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Take a Hike
In the northern end of the Brevard County in Titusville lies the 140,000-acre Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge. Enter the refuge via State Road 406 and travel east over the Max Brewer Causeway Bridge. Enjoy bird watching with the kids and keep your eye out for endangered species, including peregrine falcons and wood storks. Drive down Black Point Wildlife Drive, a 6-mile unpaved road, and stop to watch alligators and manatees in their natural habitat. Hiking trails begin off Black Point Wildlife Drive, including Cruickshank Trail, Palm Hammock Trail and Oak Hammock Trail. All three trails are each less than 5 miles long and suitable for children. Along the way, stop at the observation tower and enjoy panoramic views of the Indian River. Admission is free.
South of Melbourne in the town of Grant-Valkaria is an idyllic location for an afternoon of fishing and picnicking with the kids. Fisherman’s Landing, a 7-acre community river park, features a 200-foot fishing deck jutting out into the Indian River plus a 630-foot-long river boardwalk. Relax as you watch the kids catch pompano, jack, bluefish and snapper. The park also houses the Grant Historical House, the first house erected in the town of Grant, in 1916. The park is open daily from 7 a.m. until dark.
Nothing says surfing like Cocoa Beach. Kids can grab their surfboards and boogie boards and head out to this surfing mecca. Home of the famed Ron Jon's Surf Shop and just an hour's drive east of Orlando, Cocoa Beach is one of the best areas in the world to catch your first waves. After the kids are tired out, relax or build sandcastles on one of the most popular beaches in Florida.
Another free Brevard County Park is 15 minutes north of Melbourne in the town of Eau Gallie. The riverfront 10-acre Ballard Park features a large fenced playground, basketball courts and two lighted tennis courts. The park provides picnic tables and barbecue grills and a large open area designated for golf practice. Watch dolphins and manatee drift by and an occasional mullet jump out of the water for no particular reason. The park is open daily.
Grab a Bike
Sebastian Inlet State Park spans almost 600 acres and is situated along state Highway A1A, 15 miles south of Melbourne Beach. The park features a 40-mile multi-use paved path that runs parallel to Highway A1A and, in places, parallel to the Indian River. The park also offers three mountain bike trails that are a combination of sandy, swampy, off-road challenges and paved courses. All three trails begin and end at the State Park Inlet Marina. Check with Inlet Marina staff before venturing out on any trail.
If you schedule your trip around a NASA space shuttle or rocket launch, you have several free viewing options. From Titusville, directly across the Indian River from the Kennedy Space Center, you can see the shuttle launch. Space View Park at the northern end of Titusville, also is home of the Astronaut Walk of Fame. A good viewing area for Atlas and Delta rocket launches is at the 1,200-foot launch viewing pier at Jetty Park, just south of Cape Canaveral Air Force Station and less than 3 miles from the rocket launch pads. Both the shuttle and rocket launches can also be viewed from the beaches and along Highway A1A.