Many cruise enthusiasts look for cruise hotels near Port Canaveral that are part of a specific hotel group. They do this to either earn frequent stay points or redeem those points for free stays or room upgrades.
Here are the most popular hotel groups and their hotels near Port Canaveral.
The Kennedy Space Center (KSC) is highly recommend for cruisers and/or visitors to the Port Canaveral area! With opening hours between 9am and 6pm (sometimes 7pm or even 8pm) and located only 30 minutes away, it is a perfect shore trip!
DISCLAIMER – This article is for visiting cruisers with limited time at the Kennedy Space Center. We mean no disrespect when we suggest to skip some exhibits. It is done purely to allow for more time at the most important and unique (in our opinion) displays.
The map below shows the important sights to see. To see the Legend, click on the small window icon at the top left of the map header:
If your ship arrives before 9am and departs after 5pm then you can see most if not all the attractions! Please read our “Itinerary Section” below.
But is it feasible for half-day visits? Let’s take a look:
1pm to 9pm – typical for Norwegian Breakaway & Norwegian Gem
noon to 9:30pm – typical for Anthem of the Seas
10:30am to 9pm – typical for Grandeur of the Seas
The first passengers typically depart a ship about 30 minutes to 45 minutes after docking. Those booked on cruise line shore trips may get priority disembark privileges. This means if you dock at 1pm and can hopefully depart the terminal before 2pm, you will reach KSC before 2:30pm – giving you at least 3.5 hours to explore. If you arrive at the Port at noon, enjoy the extra hour at KSC!
On Your Own or Ship Excursion?
There are 3 types of visits:
Post Cruise – About 6 hours or less. These are tours to the KSC and back to the airport
AM Tours – Your ship arrives early and you will be at KSC at opening time (9am) before departing around 3pm.
PM Tours – Your ship arrives around noon and you can visit KSC until closing time (6pm on most days)
Normally we suggest you avoid overpaying for ship excursions but you can actually save time if you do the following:
Decide how serious your family is about the Space Program. The Guided Ship Tours will cost a hefty sum for a larger family because it packs a lot in a few hours and include close-up experiences. If you just want to see the basics like the Space Shuttle and moon landing vehicles, book an “Express Tour” instead and save $$$.
Your excursion is probably managed by Sunward Tours on behalf of your cruise line.
Call your cruise line or Sunward (be persistent and ask for someone who actually knows) and ask if your shore excursion will take you direct from the ship to see the launch pads and Apollo/Saturn V Center. These are often called “VIP” or “Guided Tours”.
If YES, this means you will save A LOT OF TIME by bypassing the general entrance area lines. Assuming you are serious about Space, go ahead and BOOK THE EXCURSION! Please know Guided Tours usually include either the Explore or Launch Control Tour that cost $25 per person in addition to the general admission. You may also get priority debarkation, priority entry at some exhibits and an after-hours IMAX showing.
If NO, then the tour is unguided (also known as an “Express Tour” – meaning you will be taken by bus to the entrance, then tour on your own and meet a return bus at a given time at the end of the day). Unguided is a bit of a misnomer because your admission ticket includes a 1-hour narrated bus tour around the KSC Complex! Your driver works for the KSC and will tell you a lot about the launch pads and space shuttle and wildlife while driving.
“Express Tours” may cost more than needed and you will save money by booking KSC online and taking Uber – especially of you have a family of 3 or more.
TIP – Should you decide to arrange the KSC visit on your own, forget about renting a car for AM and PM visits because you will just waste time shuttling to the rental office. Use Uber or a taxi. And do your best to be one of the first off the ship!
FOOD TIP – Please know food is expensive. You are not allowed to bring food so to save money it is best to eat a good meal BEFORE leaving your ship!
The Must-see Attractions
Here are the two most interesting attractions with suggested visiting times (if your ship arrives at 1pm). If your ship arrives at noon, then you get an extra hour to add to this timeline (at the end) for other attractions:
Kennedy Space Center Bus Tour (included with your ticket) – this attraction requires about 2 to 2.5 hours with buses departing every 15 minutes starting at 10am. The last bus of the day departs the center 2.5 hours before closing (3:30pm for 6pm)! You will spend 45 minutes driving out to the Saturn/Apollo V Center and 15 minutes driving back – meaning you will arrive at the Saturn Center at 4:15pm – giving you 1h15 minutes to explore before returning on the 5:30pm bus back to the visitor center (arriving as the Center is closing).
Space Shuttle Atlantis – this attraction requires at minimum an hour but your kids may not want to leave the complex – it is very kid-friendly with exciting things to do!
Do consider that you will arrive with busloads of other passengers (sometimes 10 or more buses from 1 or 2 other ships) thereby increasing the wait times in line for both attractions.
So, can you actually experience both attractions (and nothing else) if your ship arrives at 1pm? Yes, but only if you manage to do the following:
If self-guided, buy KSC tickets online before your cruise
Get off your ship fast and in your taxi/Uber between 1:30pm and 2pm so you can get ahead of the tour buses.
Assume you arrive at the Visitor Center between 2pm and 2:30pm. Pick a fast line through security then scan your ticket!
Rush over to the Bus Tour Departure lines and do your best to get on a bus departing earlier but no later than 3pm. Grab a seat in front and to your left as you enter the bus.
Arrive at the Saturn/Apollo V Center no later than 3:45pm
Depart Saturn/Apollo V Center no later than 4:30pm
Arrive back at the Visitor Center no later than 4:45pm. Rush over to the Space Shuttle Atlantis line nearby.
Exit the Atlantis display just before closure time and catch your ride back to the Port at 6:15pm.
It is DOABLE to experience both attractions but you will see nothing else and you have to watch the clock very closely! This rushed tour is not for everyone and it will be frustrating if the lines are long.
You also have to consider the ages of your children and their interest in space travel. Younger children may find the bus tour rather boring (except for the occasional alligator/pig sightings) and it may be best to focus on the main Visitor Center instead of bus tours.
In addition, many of the displays at the Kennedy Space Center are noisy because rockets are loud. Babies often cry for the duration of the video presentations and displays! Please consider the age of your child and how crying affect the experience for you and others nearby.
Tip from a local – We suggest you skip the Kennedy Space Center Bus Tour if you arrive after 2:30pm. Instead, focus on the Space Shuttle Atlantis and other attractions at a more relaxed pace.
ANOTHER INSIDER TIP – Please know many of the displays have a preamble video presentation to add suspense and enhance the experience. If you are delayed and short on time you can skip the presentations by entering via the gift shops and other doors.But please do not do this for Space Shuttle Atlantis because the presentation part is breathtaking!
Directions and Map of the Complex
KSC is only 18 miles from Port Canaveral – an easy 25 to 30 minute drive and no traffic to worry about!
UberX – $29 +$5 (port pickup fee) = $34 one way. If Uber is not your thing, try Space Port Transport for $50 one way (up to 4 people) or 888-transport (taxi at terminal but ask for a fixed rate, not metered).
Here is our detailed Google map of the Complexand the drive route from the cruise terminals. Please know the greater complex is an active launch area and bus routes may change to accommodate launch schedules. For example, SpaceX is now using launch pad 39A so you may not get to circle it during your tour.
Tickets are currently set at $57 per adult plus taxes. Various upgrade packages are available.
Those looking for ticket discounts will not have much luck. You can look for coupons in discount booklets found at local gas stations, tourist offices and restaurants but generally you will only save $2.50 to $5 per ticket and you have to read the small print carefully! For example, try SpaceCoastFunGuide.com and print the coupons under Fun Things To Do.
A better discount option is membership in incentive-based programs offered by large companies. Ask your human resources department if your company participate in Tickets At Work for example – see website.
Parking is $10.
The Players at Kennedy Space Center
During your visit to the KSC you will hear about NASA, SpaceX, Boeing, Blue Origin and United Launch Alliance. Their launch sites are shown on the map above.
To understand the differences between these organizations it is most important to know that the future of USA Space Travel is divided into two objectives:
Deep Space Exploration – This is NASA’s world; at the KSC you will learn about deploying more advanced telescopes to better understand the galaxies and landing a human on Mars. Other countries and commercial companies such as SpaceX may have the same aspirations to build settlements on planets such as Mars but for now at least, NASA is leading the way and the KSC is the place to watch the excitement unfold.
Sub-Orbital and Orbital Exploration – Where private corporations compete for contracts to deploy/maintain satellites, to deliver supplies and astronauts to the International Space Station (ISS) and to fly tourists into space. Some, like SpaceX, also plan to fly tourists to the moon and back. At the KSC you will learn about the history of the ISS and the moon flights – the historic missions by NASA that made future commercial flights possible.
Blue Origin (Jeff Bezos of Amazon) has two space vehicle systems in development.
The New Shepard system will take 6 tourists into space and then land the capsule using traditional parachutes. The vehicle will launch in West Texas and therefor it is irrelevant to KSC visitors.
New Glenn Orbital Vehicles – will be built at Exploration Park next to the KSC. This facility under construction will also acceptance-test the BE-4 engines (to power both New Glenn and United Launch Alliance Vulcan rockets). The New Glenn system will orbit the earth and be capable of deploying satellites and delivering cargo and astronauts to the ISS.
At Cape Canaveral, Blue Origin will use Launch Complex 36 (last used in 2005) so you may see a Blue Origin New Glenn launch during a visit to the Space Coast starting in 2020 or so.
United Launch Alliance
United Launch Alliance (ULA) is a joint venture between Boeing and Lockheed Martin to launch Government (military, NASA and others) missions from Cape Canaveral. As can be expected, ULA is experiencing intense competition from commercial companies (SpaceX in particular) who are bidding similar services usually at much lower costs but perhaps the Government thinks their top-secret payloads are more secure with ULA. Who knows!
ULA has four space vehicle systems in development.
Atlas V – will carry the manned Boeing Starliner Capsule (mid 2019) to the ISS
Delta II – rarely launch from Cape Canaveral
Vulcan Centaur (in development)
At Cape Canaveral, United Launch Alliance uses Launch Complex 41 for Atlas V and Launch Complex 37B for Delta IV so you may see a ULA launch during a visit to the Space Coast!
Boeing has several projects in development that are of interest to KSC visitors:
It is under contract to help NASA develop its Space Launch System (SLS) – a rocket for flights into deep space (Mars for example).
CST-100 Starlight – A capsule for transporting up to 7 astronauts and/or payload to the ISS – one of two official transportation capsules selected by NASA (SpaceX Dragon V2 is the other). It is compatible to launch on top of several vehicles including Atlas V, Delta IV, Falcon 9 and Vulcan.
At Cape Canaveral, Starlight to the ISS will initially ride atop the ULA Atlas V vehicle from Launch Complex 41 starting in mid 2019.
SpaceX has several projects in development that are of interest to KSC visitors:
Falcon 9 Launch Vehicle – The current reusable system is flying the Dragon cargo capsule to the ISS. Stage 1 of the vehicle actually returns to Cape Canaveral Landing Zone 1 or barge after each launch!
Falcon 9 Heavy Launch Vehicle – The next generation vehicle designed to carry Dragon and Dragon 2 capsules to the ISS or to deep space (Mars).
Dragon and Dragon 2 – A capsule for transporting up to 7 astronauts (Dragon 2) and/or payload to the ISS – one of two official transportation capsules selected by NASA (Boeing CST-100 Starlight is the other). It is compatible to launch on top of the Falcon vehicles.
At Cape Canaveral, Dragon is already delivering payload to the ISS from Launch Complex 39A atop Falcon 9 while the Stage 1 vehicle is returning to either Landing Zone 1 (near the lighthouse) or on a barge in the ocean. Launch Complex 40 is being repaired after a Falcon 9 explosion in September 2016.
We all know about the history of NASA and the KSC is where it all comes alive! You can learn about the early days of space flight, the moon landing missions and the awe-inspiring space shuttle.
But NASA has many projects in current development that are of interest to KSC visitors:
International Space Station – NASA astronauts continue to conduct scientific experiments aboard the ISS as they prepare for the Journey To Mars. You can learn more about the ISS in the Atlantis building.
Space Telescopes – A full scale replica of the Hubble Space Telescope and a scale model of the new James Webb Space Telescope are on display in the Atlantis building.
Mission to Mars – You can see Mars Rover Vehicles and learn about the Mission to Mars in the Journey to Mars building.
Space Launch System (SLS) – The next generation rocket for carrying crews and payload into deep space is in development.
Orion – A capsule for transporting up to 4 astronauts and/or payload to Mars (and to the ISS if needed) using the SLS launch vehicle.
Occasionally there are launches at Cape Canaveral from relatively unknown companies. These are mostly military related.
One such Launch System is Minotaur IV from Orbital ATK using Launch Complex 46 starting in 2017.
Kennedy Space Center Attractions
The Kennedy Space Center covers a large area because the attractions extend beyond the main Visitor Complex. It is easy to feel a bit overwhelmed and unsure about what to see and do and in which order.
We like to separate the Complex into 7 different experiences:
The IMAX movies – Space-related films on a huge screen shown mostly in 3D
The History of Space Flight – The heroes and vehicles of the early days
The Future of Space Exploration – Deep Space including The Proving Ground and Mars
The International Space Station and Shuttle Flights – Atlantis is the main attraction
The Space Telescopes – Hubble and James Webb
The Moon Landings – Saturn and Apollo
The Launch Areas and Space Operations – Where rockets are being built and the launch/landing pads
TIP: Always pick up a daily schedule of activities at the entrance!
The 3D IMAX Movies
Shown in two adjacent theaters, these are fabulous visual and sensory 3D experiences of earth from space or life in space. The films are about 40 – 50 minutes long.
The theaters are big and you can almost always get a seat but crowds begin to line up about 15 minutes before show time. There is a pop corn and snack station in the waiting area!
TIP – Take note of the IMAX show times on your daily schedule pamphlet as soon as you enter the KSC and plan your day accordingly.
The History of Space and Flight
The history of NASA is on display at various locations throughout the KSC Complex. As explained above, while meaning no disrespect to our space heroes, you can skip all the exhibits in this section if you are short on time.
The most visual exhibit is the Rocket Garden that is seen as soon as you enter through the ticketing gates. You can walk through the garden or join a 20-minute guided tour (5 times per day as per your daily schedule).
The Heroes & Legends building is immediately to the left of the Space Garden. You line up outside, pick up your 3D glasses and enter a round room for the first of two video presentations. The first presentation is a 5 minute testimonial from various people (famous and not) who talk about their heroes. TIP: Walk to the middle of the room and stand at the center piece while facing ahead and slightly to your right. You then enter a room with 3 levels to watch a 10 minute 3D presentation of the experiences of 4 pioneers such as Jim Lovell who talk about the moments that define their lives in space. This presentation is actually very well done and the special effects are top-notch. TIP: For the most immersive experience walk to the right and stand on the lower (front) section facing the wall.
The Nature & Technology building is across from the Rocket Garden. Here you learn a little about the Merritt Island National Wildlife Reserve that host the growing KSC! It has a small diorama of the fauna and flora of the area and a bit of history of the native people. Honestly, this exhibit appears to be a bit of an afterthought and seems out of place.
The Astronaut Memorial is at the back of the Visitor Complex. It is a solemn place that all should visit to pay respect to our space heroes but it is a bit of a walk out there and since most cruisers are pressed for time, it cannot be a priority. Again, no disrespect meant.
The Air Force Space and Missile Museum is not at the KSC Complex but you can visit it on your own or as part of a Cape Canaveral Then & Now Bus Tour. Do this only if you want to revisit the days of Mercury and Gemini and the history of the launch pads! The museum is near cruise terminal 5 at Port Canaveral and it is easier (but not as interesting) to visit it from that side using Uber or a taxi.
The Future of Space Exploration
The future of Space Exploration is represented by several exhibits across the Complex.
Nothing says “future” quite like seeing modern rockets on the Launch Pads! To experience this you have to take a bus tour. We discuss the bus tours below in the Launch Areas section.
Mission Status Briefings are given by experts in the Astronaut Encounter Theater and these 20 minute sessions will update you on current NASA space happenings as well as future plans. Afterwards you normally stay in your seat for a 30 minute Astronaut Encounter with a current or retired Astronaut! It is fun to hear from a real person about their space experiences. You can ask questions and take selfies!
Journey To Mars: Explorers Wanted is a 30 minute session with an expert who is trying to recruit future astronauts in a fun and informative presentation! The exhibits surrounding the stage are all about Mars and you learn about the challenges of colonizing the red planet. There are simulators to play with and several interactive displays with buttons to push, levers to pull and knobs to turn! Do not miss the Mars rover displays! Who does not love a 4WD space vehicle!
The International Space Station and Shuttle Flights
This is a MUST-SEE exhibit at the KSC! While it can be seen in about an hour, it is deserving of at least 2 hours because of all the fun things to do beyond the Space Shuttle!
Without letting the cat of of the bag, we want to tell you that the multi-media build-up to the reveal of the Space shuttle Atlantis is one of the most dramatic and heart-warming events you will ever witness. Yes, it is a very popular exhibit and the line can be long at times but it is well worth the wait.
The building is next to the drop-off area of the tour buses so it makes sense to visit the space shuttle AFTER the free bus tour to the Saturn/Apollo Exhibit.
The building is home to four different experiences:
The Space Shuttle Atlantis and the Shuttle Missions History,
The Space Telescopes (discussed in the next section),
The International Space Station (ISS) and
Very cool simulators and educational stations for kids of all ages including grandpa!
The large Atlantis vehicle is presented on 3 levels so you can photograph it from the side, front, back and below! It is best photographed with a panorama setting on your camera/phone as seen below.
After you’ve seen the vehicle, you can immerse yourself into the many multi-media exhibits that explain the Missions and how the Space Shuttle was built, mounted on its rockets, delivered to the launch pad, flown into space, docked to the ISS, emptied its cargo bays, and returned to earth. You can even train like an astronaut to perform many of the most important space tasks in various simulators on the ground floor, including a slide to simulate the landing G-forces!
Another ground-floor highlight of this visit is the Shuttle Launch Experience – a wild and loud simulator ride into space in a Space Shuttle! It is simply the best experience at the KSC!
Finally, do not miss the International Space Station exhibits. The ISS was the reason why the Space Shuttles were build and it still plays a very important role as NASA prepares for deep space exploration and a Mars landing.
As you walk away from the Atlantis, you will notice a small ISS exhibit in the corner on your right. An expert will be on hand to show you a multi-media presentation of the ISS.
A bit further down the hallway on your left, you will notice a scale version of the ISS that is large enough for to crawl through (no shoes please)!
On the ground floor you can learn more about the ISS such as how the toilets work, where the astronauts sleep and more.
The Space Telescopes
These are not major exhibits at the KSC but we feel it is important to take a look at NASA’s eyes into deep space!
The Hubble Space Telescope exhibit is easily missed because it is overshadowed by the presence of Atlantis nearby! As you exit the Atlantis multi-media presentation, look to your right and you will see Hubble hanging from the roof! It is about the size of a school bus! You are looking at a full-size replica of the telescope – known to many only because of its multiple problems since deployment in 1990! After 9 years of tuning and servicing, the Hubble is operational and will be until 2040 if all goes well.
The successor to the Hubble is in development and could be deployed in 2018. A scale replica of the James Webb Space Telescope (using infrared technology) is on display on the ground floor of the Atlantis building.
To learn about the differences between these two telescopes in image quality, richness and reach into the dark universe, attend the Eye on the Universe 3D multimedia show (20 minutes) in the Astronaut Encounter theater. Show times are listed on your schedule and doors open 10 minutes earlier. An expert will lead the presentation that shows images of deep space with special focus on the remote galaxies.
The Moon Landings – Saturn and Apollo
While the Space Shuttle to the ISS was a modern flying marvel, the achievements of the moon program can never be over-appreciated! Those were the early days of the American space program with very limited computing power and strong competition from the Russians! For many older folks, the first manned mission to land on the moon in 1969 was a defining moment in their lives that they will never forget.
Fortunately, KSC does a marvelous job of capturing the highs and lows of that turbulent yet successful time in NASA’s history. To experience this, you have to board a bus and travel to the Apollo/Saturn V Center – a 45 minute drive that is part of a tour (the tour is discussed below). Together, the tour and Apollo/Saturn Center will take at least 2 hours.
At the Apollo/Saturn V Center you will experience the following:
As you walk away from you bus you will enter the first of two multimedia presentations. “We Choose To Go To The Moon” shows the struggles and failures of NASA’s early attempts to be the first in space. The Russian space program were way ahead and video does a great job of capturing the exploding rockets and disappointed faces of those trying to get America into space. Then President Kennedy made his famous speech directing the space program to put a man on the moon and to return him safely back to earth. Finally, things began to fall into place and in 1968 the Apollo 8 was ready to take off on a manned journey to orbit the moon.
The presentation then shifts to a different theater – the actual Apollo Firing (Launch Control) Room as it was on December 21, 1968 when Apollo 8 started its countdown from launch pad 39A! In a nail-biting show, anticipation builds as the system checks are completed and the Saturn V rocket with its precious human cargo takes off on its historic journey to the moon! It is simply a magnificent moment when the doors open and you find yourself standing underneath a huge Saturn V vehicle.
The exhibit hall is a large rectangular building. The horizontal Atlas V rocket fills the center and you start at the engines then walk towards to the Apollo Spacecraft (the front or top of the rocket). It is best to walk on the far side (the restaurant side) so you can read the displays that explain each important stage of the rocket. There is also a scale model of the rocket so you can see the inside of each stage. Stages 1, 2 and 3 of the rocket will all be jettisoned before the actual moon landing so you can move fast until you reach the restaurant.
When you reach the Moon Rock Cafe, you are at the most interesting modules – the Apollo Spacecraft stage containing the Lunar Module (LM), the Service Module (SM) and the Command Module (CM).
If you look up you can see a real Lunar Module (used until Apollo 14). The Service Module is shown in detail near the very front (top) of the rocket and you can see the Command Module elsewhere on the floor.
The Lunar Module landed on the moon and was crashed on the moon after the astronauts returned to the Spacecraft
The Service Module propelled the Spacecraft and was jettisoned just before the Command Module’s earth re-entry
The Command Module is where the astronauts lived during the launch and when they returned to earth
As you reach the end of the hall, you will see an exhibition that pays Tribute to the Apollo 1 Crew who perished in their Command Module Capsule during a test in 1967. You will learn about the three astronauts and see the photos from that fateful day.
When you exit the exhibit you walk over the service arm that the Apollo 11 crew used to enter their Command Module more than 300 feet above the ground! You will also get a good look at the inside of the CM!
The Lunar Theater shows a wonderful 20-minute presentation of the Apollo 11 Lunar Module’s landing on the moon. Called the “Eagle”, the landing was plagued with technical issues but Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin used their piloting skills to overcome every issue! Not to be missed!
The rest of the displays on the exit side of the building cover more moon landing events. You will see a Moon Rover, actual moon walk space suits, you can touch a moon rock , see the actual Apollo 14 Command Module Capsule and learn about the different Apollo missions!
You exit the hall via the gift shop to catch a bus for the 15 minute drive back to the Visitor Complex.
The Launch Areas and NASA Operations
Our maps shows the active launch pads marked in purple. While the public does not have access to any of these pads, you can get relatively close by taking a bus tour.
There are THREE bus tours to choose from and they all end at the Apollo/Saturn V Center plus Astronaut and Simulation Experiences:
(FREE) The Kennedy Space Center Bus Tour is included in your admission and the route is shown in YELLOW on our map
The Explore Bus Tour is very similar to the free tour but you stop at 2 locations to get a closer look at the launch pads and you stop near the Assembly Building (but you do not enter it). You can see the tour route if you enable the Explore Tour section in our map above.
The Cape Canaveral Early Space Tour takes in the historic launch sites and the Air Force Space and Missile Museum
Lunch or Dinner with an Astronaut – listen to an experienced astronaut while eating.
Mars Experiences – designed to immerse you in the world of space exploration with a focus on the manned mission to Mars. There are 3 experiences to choose from.
Space Walk Experience – learn how to prepare for a space walk!
Are these guided bus tours worth it?
First, the Kennedy Space Center Bus Tour is FREE and included in your ticket so from that point of view it is a MUST-DO!
The other three cost $25 per person extra.
You will get slightly closer to the launch pad on the paid tours but not by much.
The paid tours have a separate VIP line and benches at the bus loading zone at the Visitor Center. This means you do not have to stand in line and you can save time.
The paid tours use guides that offer more in-depth narration of the sights and points of interest along the tour route.
The paid tours operate at scheduled times. You pick a time while booking online.
Generally speaking, we suggest that the paid tours are for serious space enthusiasts only unless you just want to skip the lines and pay extra for the Explore Bus Tour!
Walt Disney World and Disney Springs – Shore Trip or Pre/Post Cruise Visit
Everything you need to know about visiting Walt Disney World (and Disney Springs) as a shore trip or excursion from Port Canaveral. It is about 65 miles (depending on the attraction) and should take less than 75 minutes from the Port.
Walt Disney World (click to enlarge)
Cruisers visit the Disney World area as follows:
Full Day Shore Trip when ship arrives before 8am
Half-day Shore Trip when ship arrives around noon
Partial-day Post-cruise visit when flight home departs in the late afternoon or evening
Driving Directions to Walt Disney World/Disney Springs and back to Orlando Airport
Exit the Port and head West on FL-528. It is a toll road – pay $1.50 + $1.00 = $2.50 (change available).
Take exit for I-417 West towards Disney World. It is a toll road – pay $1.75 + $1.75 = $3.50 (change available).
Take exit 6 toward Epcot/Disney Springs even if going to the Magic Kingdom! (the signs say use exit 3 for Magic Kingdom but we prefer exit 6)
Follow the signs to your attraction of choice. Buena Vista Drive takes you to/from Disney Springs!
Afterwards – Retrace your route to return to Port Canaveral and the Airport. Simply follow the Airport Signs back to I-417 and look for the airport exit after the 2nd toll booth or continue straight for the Port.
UberX costs about $95 +$5 (port pickup fee) = $100 for one-way from the Port to the Disney area.
Disney Springs Parking
Below is an image of the approach road to Disney Springs as you arrive from the port via toll road 417. The signs are very clear; once on Buena Vista Dr look for either the Orange or Lime parking garage unless you have an over-sized vehicle.
There are several parking areas as shown below. Lime Garage is most central and places you closest to the action. As you approach the garage keep to the right because you want to park on Level 2 if you can for the fastest access to the shopping areas.
BUT – Please note it is easier to park in the Orange Garage when drving this route because left turns are not allowed! This means you cannot turn left into Roange or left into Lime. For Orange you have to bear right then turn left onto an overpass and into the garage! For Lime you have to make a u-turn further down the road then turn right into the garage.
TIP – We prefer to park in the open lot (the first lot you see to the left). This makes for a much faster exit after your visit. The garages are often full and very busy and slow upon exit.
If you have an over-sized vehicle, you have to park in the surface lot (Strawberry) which is the first one you will encounter when approaching Disney Springs.
The Magic Kingdom Parking
Below is an image of the parking lots at the Magic Kingdom. Upon arrival you will be directed to an available lot – the later you arrive the further away the parking! But no worries, you will hop on a tram to the ticket center and will not have to walk far. As you step off the tram, you have to get in line for the security check and then you line up for the ticket booths! From here you have to decide if you want to ride the Monorail or the Ferry to the Magic Kingdom.
You can see there are two trams. Basically the parking lot is split into two sections – HEROES and VILLIANS. After you parked, make sure you make note of your section and lot (for example, you parked in HEROES – PETER PAN). When you return after a day in the Kingdom you hop on the HEROES tram and get off at the PETER PAN stop. Very easy.
How long does take?From the moment you drive underneath the Magic Kingdom Arch just before the parking pay booth until you step foot inside the Kingdom – plan on at least ONE HOUR.
TIP – The best route back from the Magic Kingdom to Port Canaveral or Orlando Airport is to follow the Airport Sign until you are back on Toll Road 417! If you follow the airport signs you cannot get lost.
Disney Springs – The Perfect Starting Point For Exploring WDW Beyond The Parks
Unless you have dinner/resort reservations, it is not possible to park at Disney Resort hotels! So Disney Springs is a great FREE PARKING option from where to explore the Resorts and attractions. However – PLEASE DO NOT PARK AT DISNEY SPRINGS IF YOU ARE VISITING A PARK. It is a very cumbersome way of doing things due to the transportation timetables, it is taboo and it is frowned upon. If you are visiting a Park, drive up and pay for parking – as simple as that.
Once you parked at Disney Springs, you have many options to choose from! Where to go and what to see!!
First, you have to understand the Disney Transportation system from/to Disney Springs.
Taxis and Uber – available and very efficient. The pick up areas are on the edges of Disney Springs as shown on the parking map above.
Water Taxis – The most fun way to get around but service is limited to just a few resorts as described below.
Disney Buses – The most popular way to get around (when no monorail is available!).
Disney Minnie Van – Disneys version of Ridesharing!
Disney Water Taxis
Few things feel “Disney” as much as the boats sailing the waters around WDW! In the midst of all the buzzing and craziness, the boats offer a few moments of quiet bliss!
At Disney Springs, you can use water taxis to get around the shopping areas or you can travel beyond the Springs to 5 beautiful Resorts.
NOTE- these are NOT sightseeing boats. You are expected to ride only from point A to Point B and get off at your stop. During busy hours the captains will ask you to exit the boat if they suspect you are just touring around in a circle! No worries, you can get back on but you have to go to the back of the waiting line on the dock.
Take a look at the map and pictures of the boats below. You will notice there are 3 docks at Disney Springs.
The West Side Dock is home to the RED FLAG boats that circle anti-clockwise as follows: WEST SIDE – THE LANDING – THE MARKETPLACE and straight back to WEST SIDE. You use this RED FLAG boat to explore Disney Springs. It saves you from walking all the way between the west and east sides of the Springs.
The Landing Dock is home to two different boats: The BLUE FLAG boats that circle to Saratoga Springs Resort (5 minutes) and back. Please note, if you are going to the Treehouse Villas you must change boats at Saratoga Springs. The GREEN FLAG boats circle to Old Key West Resort (15 minutes) and back.
The Marketplace Dock is home to the YELLOW FLAG boats that circle to PORT ORLEANS (Riverside) Resort (22 minutes) and the PURPLE FLAG boats that circle to the French Quarter Resort.
Disney Springs Boats – Blue Flag and Yellow Flag (CLICK FOR A LARGER IMAGE)
Disney Springs Marketplace Dock
The comprehensive Disney bus system can be frustrating at times but the air-conditioned rides are a great relief from the Florida summer heat! WDW is a large place and some rides are well over 30 minutes long so do factor in the wait times, etc. when planning a day from Disney Springs.
The schedules are a bit crazy too because these change during the day based on traffic. Disney expect most visitors will be inside the Parks between 11am and 2pm and they schedule the buses accordingly (more or less). We’ve seen many bloggers and websites trying to publish time tables but those are mostly inaccurate because of the daily changes and “real-time” adjustments by transportation control. In addition, buses lose time due to the many strollers and folks struggling to park mobility scooters securely inside the packed buses.
TIP – The rule of thumb is to give yourself enough time – if you are in a hurry then take taxis or Uber!
In the image below (and on the map above) you can see the bus terminals at Disney Springs. The buses drop off to the left (next to the Lime Garage). To board a bus you walk to the right and follow the signs to the gate for your bus.
So how do you know which bus to board? There are signboards posted at the bus stop to the gates. Just pick your resort as shown below!
NOTE- Some resort buses begin early each day (between 9am and 10am) whereas others start later around 11am (Grand Floridian, etc.) Disney is trying to prevent folks from getting to the Parks early when parked at Disney Springs. Please do not park at Disney Springs when going to the Parks.
Once at a Resort, the bus stops have signs (most have arrival times indicated on electronic boards) to help you find the correct bus back to Disney Springs!
Riding the Monorail!
Few things create magic like riding the monorail at Disney World! It is more than just a transportation system; the ride is a rite of passage!
Please look at the map below to see the routes of the three monorail lines and their stations. Click on the lines or icons for more information:
The Magic Kingdom Express Line (pink color) – counter-clockwise – 4 minutes from TTC to MK (the only two stops)
The Magic Kingdom All-Stations Line (pink color) – clockwise – 5 stops
The EPCOT line (lilac color) – clockwise – 12 minutes from TTC to EPCOT (the only two stops)
Note: the Magic Kingdom Monorails run on two parallel tracks in opposite directions. Express goes counter-clockwise, all-stops goes clockwise. This is important, for example, if you are at the Contemporary Resort the line to MK will stop 4 times!
How do you get from Disney Springs to the Monorails?
Pick which monorail you want to ride first
Take a bus (or Uber) to any resort with a monorail station (shown on the map). If you are too early for a specific resort bus, ride to another resort in the same direction, then change buses to reach the TTC at Magic Kingdom or EPCOT.
After the rides, return to a resort with a monorail station and take a bus back to Disney Springs
Port Canaveral and Cocoa Beach Beaches – A Guide for Cruisers and Visitors
If you are looking for a beach you came to the right place! You have beach all the way from Port Canaveral down to Miami and beyond. Near the Port, we suggest you visit one of four beach areas depending on your interests and budget. While it is tempting to swim anywhere, please consider this tip from us:
TIP – even when the waves do not look that big, the ocean here is deceiving with dangerous rip currents and the (very) rare shark attack. For these reason I suggest you ALWAYS swim near a lifeguard station. You also want restrooms and on-site beach toy rentals! And lifeguards will warn visitors when painful man ‘o war are present (see picture)
TIP – Upon arrival at Port Canaveral, all cruisers should use their smart phones or tablets to browse to our LIVE Google map. There are no apps to install. Your position will be shown on our map in relation to the beaches mentioned here. With our map you cannot get lost and you do not have to be worried about making your way around the area.
There are four year round lifeguard towers near Port Canaveral as shown on our map:
Jetty Park – closest to the cruise ships with a shop/cafe/beach rentals/restrooms. The cafe opening times vary during the year.
Cocoa Beach Pier – the busiest beach with everything you need nearby as well as bars, restaurants and shops
Alan Shepard Park – popular with cruise ship shore excursions and always busy when the ships are in. Ron Jon surf shop, bars, restaurants, beach rentals and restrooms
Lori Wilson Park – fewest people and the furthest away from the port therefor not for everyone. Restrooms and rentals but no restaurants or bars nearby except at the Hilton and International Palms
Getting to the Beaches from the Port, and Back
Your options depend on your cruise terminal.
If you dock at Terminal 1 or Terminal 3:
You can walk to Jetty Park Beach. The beach is 1.5 miles from Terminal 1 and 0.5 miles from Terminal 3 and the walk is clearly marked in green on our map. You will walk on a wide side-walk shared with cyclists. It is flat, safe and easy walking.
You can take the SCAT bus ($1.50 per person each way) to Cocoa Beach Pier Beach, Alan Shepard Park Beach and Lori Wilson Park Beach. We show you exactly how to use the SCAT bus in another section – Using the SCAT Bus.
Options from any Terminal:
a] Cruise line Shore Excursions to the Beach
Travel time – It takes about 15-20 minutes from the Port to Alan Shepard Park or the Sheraton Four Points Hotel from where it is a very short walk to the beach (east) and the famous Ron Jon Surf Shop (south).
Frequency – The buses run every 30 minutes or so and the last shuttle is usually 3 hours prior to ship sailing time from both pick up and drop off location.
Costs – Average $15 to $19 per adult for the round-trip usually including 15% shopping discount vouchers but this depends on the cruise line.
Description – This is a cruise line bus service running continually throughout the day during your cruise ship visit. You will travel to Alan Shepard Park in a large air-conditioned bus or smaller vans.
Negatives – While convenient, it can get expensive if you have more than 2 people in your group. UberX will cost between $25 and $35 per car round-trip (maximum 4 adults). Also, you do not get to choose which beach you want to visit – it will be Alan Shepard Park Beach and that’s it. And you will have lines as shown in the pictures below!
NOTE – In 2018 we are seeing most cruise lines drop passengers at the Sheraton Four Points across the street from Ron Jon, instead of Shepard Beach. It may be a better option in Summer because of the heat and lack of shade/shelter at Shepard Beach.
Please also note – there are no bathrooms at the beach if you walk directly east from the Sheraton. The nearest bathrooms are at the hotel or a block or two north at Shepard Beach.
Here are photos of the cruise line buses at Shepard Beach and vans at the Sheraton Four Points. Note the stop is under cover at the Sheraton and in the open at Shepard Beach:
b] Uber and Taxi Services
While 888-Transportation taxis will be waiting outside your terminal, those are metered therefor we recommend Uber because traffic can slow you down as you near the Cocoa Beach area. As stated above, expect to pay between $25 and $35 per car round-trip (maximum 4 adults) to Alan Shepard Beach but cheaper to the others. With Uber and Taxis you have flexibility and can choose your beach.
c] Rental Cars
It is wonderful to have your own transportation and the area is extremely easy to navigate. You can explore the beaches mentioned above or venture to others further away from the crowds.
Parking, however, can be a challenge unless you are willing to pay. Rates are shown below for each beach.
This area is perfect for bike enthusiasts. It is flat with bike lanes and sidewalks everywhere. You can also ride on the beach (weather and tides permitting). Several of the rental companies will deliver your bikes to a predetermined location and arrange for convenient drop-offs. Please read our page Dedicated to Bike Rentals!
Jetty Park Beach
The best beach is Jetty Park because it is near the Port, it is far less commercial, the sand is wide with some wave action and there are life guards on duty. You can also walk out on the long fishing pier for a close-up look at the entrance of Port Canaveral!
However, if you are looking for bars and restaurants and shops, it is best to head further south to Cocoa Beach Pier or Alan Shepard Park.
If you enjoy walking you can easily walk the 3 miles from Jetty Park to Cocoa Beach Pier along the beach (easier at low tide).
Parking/Entry Costs – $15 per car. Walking and cycling are free
Beach Rentals –
Shops – The campground has a small shop but the gates are often locked. The beach Pavilion Store is open from 7:00am – 7:00pm if you want sodas, chips, etc.
Food/drinks – Fishlips Restaurant is the concessionaire for a good selection of hot meals. Hours are 7:00am – 7:00 pm.
Restrooms – yes with a water fountain
Cocoa Beach Pier Beach
If you want to go to the beach near restaurants or bars where surfers play, then the Cocoa Beach Pier beach area is just what you need! It is always busy but rarely overcrowded. If you want fewer people around you, just walk a few hundred yards to the north or south.
To see real-time beach conditions, here is a webcam of Cocoa Beach Pier:
The pier is fun but you either have to pay $2 to walk beyond the restaurants or buy a drink inside and keep the receipt! When paying you get a $2 discount token to be used when ordering drinks at the tiki bar!
Parking/entry Costs – $10 – $20 per car (including the $2 pier entry fee) but free after 4pm. Metered parking is also available.
Beach Rentals – You will find stations on the beach to the south and to the north to rent umbrellas, chairs, boogie boards and surfboards. The stations on the north side are slightly cheaper. Expect to pay $20 – $25 per day for an umbrella and 2 chairs. You can also rent bikes at Trader Ricks and Island Watercraft (on the beach in front of La Quinta Hotel).
Shops – Not a major shopping area (Publix groceries is the major business here) but the Pier has two shops for beach wear.
Food/drinks – Several bars and restaurants either on the pier or two blocks to the west. We recommend you hang out at the Pier.
Restrooms – Yes
Alan Shepard Park Beach
Cruise ship shore excursions go to Shepard beach (near Ron Jon) with several restaurants/bars nearby but do not go there if you want to avoid crowds during cruise visits.
NOTE – In 2018 we notice the cruise ships are dropping passengers at the Sheraton Four Points Hotel just a block or two south. As a result Shepard Beach is now less crowded when the ships are in!
Parking/entry Costs – $15 per car but metered parking is also available.
Beach Rentals – You will find stations on the beach to rent umbrellas, chairs, boogie boards and surfboards. Expect to pay $30 per day for an umbrella and 2 chairs.
Shops – Two blocks away you will find several beach shops including the famous Ron Jon a bit further south.
Food/drinks – Several bars and restaurants with Sandbar being the most popular. There is a 7-Eleven to buy snacks but you can also buy water, sodas and snacks from the vending machines at the beach (credit cards and cash accepted)
Restrooms – Yes
Lori Wilson Park Beach
To escape the crowds you can travel further south to Lori Wilson Park Beach. It located next to the Hilton Hotel.
Parking/entry Costs – free with plenty of parking
Beach Rentals – You will find stations on the beach to rent umbrellas, chairs, boogie boards and surfboards. Expect to pay $20 per day for an umbrella and 2 chairs.
Shops – No
Food/drinks – You can walk to nearby Hilton Hotel or International Palms for restaurants. There is usually a food truck at the park.
Bicycle Rentals at Port Canaveral – A Shore Trip guide
Whether you are arriving by ship for a day visit to Port Canaveral, or spending a night in the area before or after your cruise, bicycle rental is an excellent way to explore the area.
Several, if not all, the rental companies will deliver bikes to your location (hotels & cruise terminals 1 or 3 in particular) but it is best to arrange this before your cruise.
Here is what you need to know about bicycle rentals!
IMPORTANT – watch our map LIVE while pedaling to establish your position. Just open your phone browser and go to our Bicycle Map
Bicycle Rental Map of Cape Canaveral and Cocoa Beach
These two areas are very bicycle friendly and streets have either designated bike lanes or dual-purpose sidewalks. Locals use mostly the sidewalks for safety reasons and you can do the same – just remember pedestrians have right-of-way!
We cover three loop routes that are very popular with cruisers and visitors as well as a all-encompassing one-way route :
Port Canaveral to Cocoa Beach Pier – 16 mile loop. At least 2.5 hours in the saddle. Highlights include the popular hotels near the Port, the Canaveral Lock, Exploration Tower, Cove Restaurant area, Jetty Park with its long pier, local dive bars, the long white beach and the Cocoa Beach Pier
Cocoa Beach Pier to Ron Jon Surf Shop – 2.75 miles loop. A short loop for those with time constraints. It can easily be combined with the other two loops if time allows. Highlights include the Cocoa Beach Pier, the Ron Jon Surf Shop, local beach bars, the Banana River (for boat tours) and the Dinosaur Shop
The Barmuda Triangle near Coconuts-on-the-Beach – 5.6 miles loop. Highlights include various coffee shops, shops, dive bars and beach bars including the popular Coconuts on the Beach.
One-way from Port Canaveral to Coconuts on the Beach – Highlights include all of the above but you can do and see more in less time. Your rental company will deliver your bikes to the Port area and pick them up at Coconuts when you are done.
About beach riding. The local beach is seemingly endless and perfect for cycling. However, it is best during low tide when the sand is firm and damp! At high tide you will battle soft sand and this can be exhausting. Fortunately, you can access the beach from almost any beach road! We recommend you try short sections of the beach to see if you are OK with the conditions. If not, return to the paved sidewalks!
The Jetty Park Beach area is great for beach riding. The 1.2 mile stretch of beach between Jetty Park and Cherie Down Park is perhaps the best for beginners. Elsewhere the beach gets steeper and softer and the crowds are larger making the ride somewhat more challenging.
NOTE – We do not provide a comprehensive restaurant list on the map. Most of the bars listed are actually restaurants (Grills for example) but we assume that cruise ship visitors will eat on their ships and not sit down for major meals while on shore trips. While biking it is often more convenient and faster to eat bar food or order take-outs from fast-food places to eat on the beach or in parks with beach views. We list all the restaurants in a different section of this web site!
Bicycle Rental Companies
You will find several white-colored bikes at special rental stations in the area. To rent these, you need to join the national company Zagster by installing an App on your phone and booking online. Hourly rates are $3 with discounts for monthly and annual plans if you travel nation-wide while using the App.
The companies mentioned below are well-established with good reviews online. We see their bikes on the streets all the time and you will be in good hands when renting from any of them.
If you plan to spend the day at the beach, you can also rent bikes from several beach rental kiosks such as Island Watercraft. A few local hotels partner with rental companies and will also have bikes on-site.
On average expect to pay between $10 and $20 per day (meaning from open to close)
Most people rent “Beach Cruisers“, allowing them to ride on the beach or street. These have simple (or single) gear systems and wider tires for soft sand riding. Many come with baskets or racks to hold your stuff.
Various kinds of bikes are available from electric bikes to fat wheels and tandems! Just ask when you call!
TIP – The established rental companies have the largest inventory of rental bikes and their rates tend to be the lowest. Cocoa Beach Rentals, Ron Jon and Matt’s are very competitively priced with A1A Beach Rentals and Cocoa Beach Surf Company slightly more expensive.
Despite the popularity of cycling in the area with bike lanes and sidewalks, one still has to be careful for several reasons.
Being on the beach, our area gets a steady influx of visitors who are not used to sharing the roads with cyclists. They tend to turn without looking at the sidewalks, bike lanes or even the crossing lights. Pedestrians are not expecting cyclists either and may suddenly step in front of you.
Many visitors driving rental cars are from overseas and not used to driving on the “wrong” side of the roads! These drivers are often lost and not aware of pedestrians and cyclists.
Drunk driving is a constant problem but fortunately most offenses happen at night.
These are also retirement communities and our older drivers have a reputation for doing the unexpected at times!
We feel safer when cycling on the sidewalks while facing the oncoming road traffic. At first this may sound not right but this way we can see the intentions of the vehicles coming towards us as opposed to looking back at every intersection to see if someone is going to turn right (without looking) and hit us in the crossing.
Most local cruising cyclists do not wear helmets because they pedal at low speed on the sidewalks or on the beach and not in traffic. A helmet is ALWAYS recommended and provided by the rental companies but the ultimate decision is yours.
Our best advice is:
During the day, ride facing the oncoming traffic (while on the sidewalks)
Expect that you are not seen by motorists, so look around and stay vigilant
Be respectful to pedestrians and do not startle them. Gently call out that you will pass them to the left or right.
Ride on the sidewalks along the busy A1A and not in the road. Choose either the sidewalks or bike lanes along other streets.
Drinking and cycling do not match. While we recommend you visit a few of our favorite bars during your ride, please drink moderately and rehydrate with water and/or sports drinks.
Wear a hat, sun glasses and sun protection. Even in winter our area gets hot and humid. Be prepared to sweat and a sweatband is recommended to protect your eyes.
Insects can be a problem. Some are the biting kind (mosquitoes and no-see-ums) and you should spray your legs with repellent. We also have tiny black swarming flies that usually appear after rain spells. These do not bite but riding into a swarm is very annoying. They cover your hair, nostrils, eyes, mouth and clothes. We recommend you bring a bandanna to cover your mouth and nose in case you encounter a swarm.
In this section we will cover popular bike tours – marked in green on the MAP (just click on the trail and icons for more information). Each tour is discussed in sections to help you plan your day.
You can combine the individual circuits and tours into custom trips based on your fitness level and available time.
Tour 1 – Port Canaveral to Cocoa Beach Pier Loop – 16 miles at least 2.5 hours in the saddle
Section A – Port Canaveral Cove Loop – 1.3 miles
This tour starts and stops at the Exploration Tower at Port Canaveral. You will spend about 12 minutes in the saddle.
This short section is more about visiting the Exploration Tower than riding but if you have not seen the Cove area at the Port it is great fun to bike near the restaurants you read so much about on cruise forums!
Simply use the sidewalks to make your way over to the Cove just a short distance from the Tower.
Exploration Tower with its viewing deck on the 6th floor. Every floor is educational with different themes. Highly recommended.
Finally, make a right turn next to cruise terminal one and return to the Exploration Tower.
Section B – Port Canaveral Lock Loop – 4.2 miles
This tour starts and stops at the Exploration Tower at Port Canaveral. You will spend about 35 minutes in the saddle.
Cycling west, stay on the wide bike path along the fence past National Car Rental until you reach the Draw Bridge. Then ride on the road to the lock and back. Once past the bridge turn left on Scallop Dr and follow it back to the Exploration Tower.
Rodney Ketchum Park – nice views of the draw bridge, Port and cruise ships at Terminals 8 and 10. In addition to boat-launch ramps this park features covered picnic tables, fish cleaning stations, free parking and fully functional restrooms.
Port Canaveral Lock – the water lever difference is not major (3-4 feet) but it is fun to watch the boats tie up and cruise through. Manatees, dolphins and birds are often seen.
Section C – Port Canaveral to Jetty Park (One Way) – 2.6 miles (4.5 miles loop)
This tour starts at the Exploration Tower at Port Canaveral. You will spend about 35 minutes in the saddle (one-way).
The route takes you west along George King Blvd on a wide bike path. To save time, you may choose to ride straight to Jetty Park but we enjoy the short detour to Freddie Patrick Park where you can watch the local fishermen launch their boats.
Boat launch at Freddie Patrick Park – multiple launch ramps can be entertaining on busy fishing days! It is fun to talk to the fishermen about their catch.
Fishing pier at Jetty Park – a scenic 1,200ft long pier that takes you out to the entrance of the Port. It is a great place to watch the cruise ships sail by.
Beach at Jetty Park – a wide and very popular beach with a life guard station, beach rentals and a cafe (operated by Fishlips Restaurant).
At this point you have decisions to make!
You can return to the Exploration Tower if you are short on time.
Do you want to ride south along the beach or do you prefer pavement? It will be 3 miles down to Cocoa Beach Pier if you stay on the beach and 4.6 miles if you ride on pavement. We suggest you take the bike down to the beach and study the wind and tide.
Please note – due to private beach property restrictions you have to ride south for about 1 mile before you can exit the beach and return to the road between Surf Dr and Sailfish Ave. So please be very sure of your abilities before attempting a beach ride!
Section D – Jetty Park to Cherie Down Park (One Way) – 2.8 miles
This tour starts at Jetty Park and ends at the beach at Cherie Down Park. You will spend about 21 minutes in the saddle.
The ride south through Cape Canaveral neighborhoods on nice bike paths gives you a glimpse of a typical Florida beach-side community.
Cherie Down Park is a popular local beach with restrooms. From here the beach riding south gets narrower with softer sand unless low tide. As a result we do suggest you exit here if you were riding down on the beach from Jetty Park.
Section E – Cherie Down Park to Cocoa Beach Pier (One Way) – 1.8 miles
This tour starts at Cherie Down Park and end at Cocoa Beach Pier. You will spend about 17 minutes in the saddle.
Cocoa Beach Pier is the highlight of this bike tour!
Riding south just a block from the ocean on Ridgewood Ave, also known as Ocean Beach Bvld. While condos dominate the beach landscape, you can access the beach at every block!
Popular Cocoa Beach hotels come into view before you reach the Pier.
The Cocoa Beach Pier– a beautiful fishing pier, a popular beach, several restaurants and bars, water-sports, surfing mecca and shops!
At Cocoa Beach you can ride west to A1A then turn (right) north to return to the Exploration Tower (3.3 miles). Or you can continue south for 1 mile to the Ron Jon area – covered next in Tour 2.
Tour 2 – Cocoa Beach Pier and Ron Jon Loop – 2.75 miles at least 25 minutes in the saddle
This is a very good short ride combining two popular destinations. We suggest you start at the Cocoa Beach Pier and ride south along Ocean Beach Blvd.
If you love fishing or paddle sports then the 1000 Islands at Cocoa Beach is a most wonderful place to explore! Unfortunately, there is little information to be found either in print or online about the 1000 Islands – until now!
Here we will share as much as we can find out about one of our favorite places in Brevard County. Maps, paddle routes, hiking trails (yes you can hike on some of the small islands), what to see and where to see it.
A Quick Summary of the 1000 Island Experience
Officially, it is called the Thousand Islands Conservation Area
The area is rich in sea life and birds and with scenic mangrove tunnels
It offers shelter from windy and choppy conditions on the rivers – easier paddling
The launch areas (Ramp Rd and Country Club) are easy to use.
Stay aware of your surroundings (GPS is suggested) – you can get lost!
It is best to stay on the outside channels during your first few visits until you are familiar with the conditions and geography
The water between the islands is mostly very shallow (6 inches to 2 feet at most). Do not bring a long skeg when using a SUP!
Dolphin and manatee will be in the deeper water so focus on the boating channels for sightings
Use the Church Tower (shown on our map below) as a navigational reference in case you get lost. The Launch is to its left!
Google Earth is a good place to start and we use Google Maps to plot our GPS waypoints and tracks. This is work in progress and it will be for many years to come – please know one can spend a lifetime in the 1000 Islands and still discover new mangrove tunnels, paddle routes and enclaves.
The brochures show crystal-clear blue water with playful dolphins leading the way as kayakers paddle between pods of friendly manatees.
Often, however, that’s not what folks experience and the kayaking shore trip activities get mixed reviews as a result – a shame! The Port Canaveral/Cocoa Beach area is perfect for water-based exploration and kayaking is one of the most popular adventures in the area. You just need to plan properly and manage your expectations!
Here are a few tips to help you make the most of your kayaking shore trip:
At the coast weather can be unpredictable. You may have to brave strong wind and small waves on the river.
Know your capabilities and book an excursion that you can handle! You have to paddle to get around – there is no floating downstream here!
Come prepared with sunscreen, thin gloves, wide-rimmed hat, sunglasses (with retainer), bug repellent, sandals that stay on your feet (not flip-flops), waterproof camera, comfortable clothes. For longer tours bring water and/or energy drinks and snacks.
Sightings are not guaranteed and the water is often murky. Also understand that manatee sightings are fewer during the colder months (Dec-Mar).
All kayaking tours are not the same. Read below to learn about the differences in terms of group sizes, kayaks, launch locations, etc.
How To Book a Kayaking Trip
There are 4 ways to do a kayaking adventure near Port Canaveral.
Book a shore excursion with your cruise company
Book a guided tour with one of the outfitters listed below – RECOMMENDED
Rent a kayak, either at the launch site or have it delivered to the launch area. Then explore on your own, however, we recommend a guided tour instead.
Rent a kayak at or near the beach to play in the ocean – this is really a beach-related activity for experienced folks and we list a few beach rental companies below
Kayaking outfitters offering guided tours
Most of these companies do not have offices to visit – they store/transport their kayaks on trailers not far from their favorite launch sites. Once booked, you will receive directions to the meeting or launch place which will be chosen based on season, sealife reports, currents, wind strength/direction, etc.
The prices, tours and locations listed here do change so PLEASE contact each company for accurate information!
Tours start at Kelly Park to an island near Canaveral Lock
Kayak rental companies
They may or may not deliver kayaks depending on many factors such as time of day, season and your location. You may have to rent a roof rack system if you have a rental car. It is best to call and ask about these things before renting.
The easiest way is to rent at the launch site from companies who park their trailers there for a day! You just show up in your rental car or with Uber/taxi and your kayak will be waiting! Try Calypso at the 1000 Islands.
This map shows the popular kayak launch areas in the area. For newcomers or cruisers we suggest to focus on the 1000 Islands at Ramp Road for your first kayaking adventure. Please read our Guide to the 1000 Islands at Cocoa Beach.
Craft beers are all the rage and the industry enjoys a strong following and seemingly unlimited growth. With cell phone apps such as Untappd, craft beer lovers from around the world share information about their favorite brews and breweries, leading to trips of discovery to find that special beer!
In early 2017 there are 9 breweries within an hour drive of Port Canaveral and beer enthusiasts will not be disappointed by the efforts to brew quality and imaginative beer. The breweries are shown by yellow icons on the map below.
Please note: The beers on tap change frequently at these smaller breweries and even the same beer tastes different when freshly brewed versus a few weeks old. For this reason we are not going to comment on the quality of the beer produced. It is best to use your favorite APP when researching the breweries. There are hundreds if not thousands of reviews for each beer in APPS such Untappd!
Florida Beer Company
Closest brewery to Port Canaveral. Easily reachable from the Cape Canaveral and Cocoa Beach hotels when using the SCAT Bus. Please visit our SCAT Bus page for directions.
It is a large brewery and the tasting room can handle any size crowd. In fact, it is so big it feels almost impersonal – a bit like a food court in a mall!
Nevertheless, there is a small play area for kids near the restrooms, many TVs up against the ceiling, several seating tables, large glass windows to watch the brewing operation and a large round bar with a massive round mural in the middle.
We tend to favor more intimate tap rooms but at least you can almost always get parking and a seat at the bar! While we are not going to review their beers, we have to admit the flavored ciders are excellent!
They do not serve food but you can ask the bartenders for takeout menus from different local restaurants who deliver.
Most importantly, however, they always have a great variety of beers on tap therefor this brewery is a must for every craft beer enthusiast.
Cocoa Beach Brewing Company
Near the popular Coconuts Restaurant in an area called the Barmuda, this brewery is in a great but challenging location. There is limited parking in front and a few more in the back but on busy beach days it will be hard to find parking nearby.
Regulars tell us this once was a great brewery with very good beer even when the selection was small. Our visits, however, continue to disappoint despite our best efforts to remain positive.
First off, it is a tiny place with only four seats at the small counter. There is a couch and larger table nearby but the owner decided to use the tasting area as a storage facility leaving the area cramped and in disarray. Outside seating is available but it does not look clean. Do NOT bring small children inside because they may get hurt when stuff gets knocked over.
Worst, however, is the beer selection. One expect more than one beer on tap even at small breweries but the single choice here is simply not enough to attract repeat visitors.
Food is not served but we do not recommend eating here anyway.
If you have plenty of time and just happens to be in the neighborhood, then give it a try. Otherwise, do not bother with including this brewery in your tour.
Bugnutty Brewing Company
On Merritt Island in a strip mall, the brewery looks unassuming from the outside but inside it resembles a neighborhood pub!
To be perfectly honest our first impression when walking in was not positive. The bar was not busy yet the counter was quite dirty and it took a while for the bartender to notice!
Despite that, the many choices on tap looked promising and we quickly settled in to taste a few. The recommended Rhesus Peanut Butter Cup Nitro was good. Very good actually! So was the solid Porter called Minty Mountain Top and several others!
The tasting room is nothing special and looks like a typical 50s Diner with black, bright red and silver decor but thankfully without the checkered floor! There is a fair amount of seating at the bar and tables and the atmosphere is relaxed and friendly. Come as you are and enjoy your beer! You can even bring your well-behaved dog!
With plenty parking spaces outside and darn good beer, Bugnutty Brewery eventually won us over and this one is a must-do in any brewery itinerary!
Hell ‘n Blazes Brewing Company
Way south, Historic Melbourne is a fun place to visit especially when coming from the coast where so many establishments and buildings are typical beach style. The area reminds us of small-town America where the downtown areas have been revitalized to showcase local history and cultures.
It is here where Hell ‘n Blazes established themselves in a 120 year-old building!
For some reason we just love old buildings hosting modern businesses! To us it means the owners put a lot of thought into creating the right atmosphere for their craft and Hell ‘n Blazes did not disappoint!
The very large and very contemporary bar fills almost half the room and could’ve easily overshadowed the rest of the space yet the shiny wooden floor, the structures along the ceiling and the color schemes on the walls make the interior very inviting. Plenty of table seating near the bar and a game room for kids at the back of the building.
We settled in quickly when the bartender handed us two small bags of Pretzels and proceeded to explain the choices on the large tap menu. First round was the Causeway IPA and Huggins Hefeweizen. Both beers went down smooth and we immediately decided this Brewery is a keeper!
They also offer a nice selection of white and red wine for those times when your partner is not keen on beer!
Parking seems to be in the streets nearby but no worries there’s plenty! Do not plan a craft beer tour without a visit to Hell ‘n Blazes. Also make time to explore Historic Melbourne when in the area!
Intracoastal Brewing Company
So during our brewery tours we get to talk to folks. Many folks. We ask them about their favorites local breweries.
One popular brewery is Intracoastal Company – the kind of place where fans drive many miles to visit because they love the vibe and the beers! We had to see for ourselves.
Sometimes things just work out. You cannot pinpoint the exact reason or analyze the cause but you know it when you experience it!
Intracoastal is such a place in the Eau Gallie Arts District of Melbourne. The warm colors, the simplicity of the wooden bench seats next to the bar, the sounds of people talking, the good beer, the size which is just about right – not too small and not too big. It reminded us of the first time we walked into a Starbucks (a very nice Starbucks).
We dove right into a Boss Hefe and a What Gose Around. Sour, tart and lemon with a bit of spice. A fine Gose. The Boss earned its lederhosen with a fine Bavarian wheat taste.
And so it went! People strolled in, sat down and smiled. Yeah, they felt it too!
Parking is limited on the side so look nearby. Then walk up and savor the atmosphere inside! A must stop on any craft beer tour!
Charlie & Jake’s Brewery Grille
At some point during a brewery tour one has to eat, preferably while drinking a homebrew! Then look no further than Charlie & Jake’s!
Good BBQ is not easy to find around the Space Coast and BBQ lovers are always searching for the next pit king! Charlie and Jake’s may not top most lists but there is nothing wrong with their grub!
Located in a strip mall just north of the Pineda Causeway in Suntree (Melbourne), CJ’s is an easy drove from the Port Canaveral area.
As you walk up, the outside/inside bar and patio is a striking feature but frankly you will feel a bit of an outcast at the outside bar – inside is where the action is! Inside you choose between restaurant or bar seating. The decor is modern yet welcoming with dark and earth colors.
We opted for the bar – but quickly changed to a different part of the bar no thanks to the freezing air-conditioners above! That aside we got served promptly.
There were 6 home brews on tap and those happened to be malts and ales except for the Wickham Wheat which was light and tasty. Overall the beer is good but perhaps not as imaginative as the other breweries – but then again our focus were more on the food and we loved the BBQ!
The atmosphere in Charlie & Jake’s is certainly more restaurant than brewery and the beer selection is limited but they are doing a fine job with balancing the two.
Lost Shirt Brewing Company
This one has that startup look and feel. Owned by two guys who are following their dream and working very hard to achieve success.
It is a bit of a drive out to West Melbourne and the location is in an industrial part of town. Only true beer enthusiasts will venture this far out of the way but once you arrive it is a special feeling to be served beer by one of the owner/brewers.
We did not expect much in terms of decor and setting and the truth be the told, the interior is bright white, bland and very short on ambiance. A visit here is all about the beer and a chat with the guys – and this makes it special. You are enjoying young beer brewed with care and the love, anticipation and excitement of its owners and thus you play a small part in the early stages of their journey!
We sat at the small bar and were served promptly with two packets of pretzels! It was both surprising and impressive to see 8 different beers on tap from such a young brewery! We went for the beers on the lower end of the IBU scale – Bad Apple, Beach Break Ale and Decisions Ale – and were impressed with the flavors. Really solid.
It is always a good idea to support up-and-comers and we suggest you add Lost Shirt to your tour plans. Most probably you also get to chat with the owners!
Playalinda Brewing Company – two locations
We like to the leave the best for last so let’s end with the two locations from Playalinda Brewing Company, starting with Brix and finally their Hardware building!
The Brix Project
The second location just north of the NASA Causeway south of Titusville where most if not all of their beers are currently brewed. It is an expanding operation with a distillery planned for later in 2017!
So what do we like best? The beer, the food or the live music? Heck, we just love it all!
The modern traditional decor is what strikes one first as you walk in. It’s the details that impress; look for the “Playalinda Brix Project” logo carved into the backs of the wooden stools, or the flight paddles neatly stacked upright behind the bar. Do you spot the clever invitation to “Shoot It, Share It, Hashtag It”?
It’s cozy and noisy yet modern and cool all at once.
The beer menu is long and varied. You can choose home brews or guest taps. Our first round was the hoppish Pleasure Chest and yummy Key Lime Slice (served with a cool whip rim)! Whoa! Both topnotch!
Then there are the Bites! They call it artisan food and trust us – they’re not presenting alternate facts! We did not eat on our last visit but can tell you the Sunday brunches are a special treat! How about a flight of flavored Mimosas and really good breakfast food!
If you have time for only one top brewery on your tour, then Brix would be the one. Plain and simple.
The original building where it all began in downtown Titusville. If you can, start or end your brewery tour right there!
Somehow the combination of a 100-year old hardware store and a modern brewery is the perfect match! Well, at least in this case when the owners made a genuine authentic effort to preserve the features necessary to maintain the historic character while still providing a safe and comfortable tasting environment.
Granted, it appears the newer Brix Project building may get more attention because of the live music events and such, but tasting beer in the Hardware is unmatched in the area.
The historic decor highlighted by the original wooden hardware cabinet behind the bar is impressive. But look closer and you will notice the “Playalinda Hardware” logo carved into the backs of the wooden stools! Sometimes details matter!
The beer menu is long and varied. You can choose home brews or guest taps. Our first round was the crispy Bottomless Blonde and yummy Key Lime Slice (served with a cool whip rim)! Excellent stuff!
Then there are the Bites! You can easily come for a tasting and stay to eat – no need to dine elsewhere because the sandwiches and platters are sumptuous!
The rejuvenated space program is giving Titusville new life and hopefully its Downtown area will continue to draw upstarts and visitors.
Yes, yes and yes. A must in any brewery tour itinerary. Enough said.
Explore Port Canaveral, Cocoa Beach and Cocoa Village using the Space Coast Area Transit (SCAT bus)!
The SCAT bus is a comfortable and affordable way to explore the area near Port Canaveral while on a Port visit. You can hop on and off at your leisure – all while enjoying the comfort and safety of the local transportation system. You will find the drivers to be friendly and helpful if you have questions.
Using our interactive map – You can track your location and click on each icon for more information and photos. You can also see the map below on this page.
The SCAT bus system covers a large part of Brevard County but Port Canaveral is on Route 9 – Cape Canaveral/Cocoa Beach. Most visitors do not have to change routes but you can easily do so if you wish to visit areas further away such as Cocoa or Merritt Island.
Our focus is the Cape Canaveral section of Route 9. You can see the route shown in red on the map below. This is the most popular section for cruisers and the bus will take you from Cruise Terminals 1 or 3 all the way to the Cocoa Beach Pier, the Ron Jon shopping area and back. However, we do include a short description of the route to Cocoa Village below.
You can transfer to other buses and travel much further south and west but those options will take time – not ideal for port visits when you have limited time. It is best to get Uber.
How to Ride the SCAT bus
It is very simple.
Here are a few important things to know:
There is an App for this! You can search for 321 Transit in Google Play or App Store. You will get timetables and maps, however, the system is easy enough to use without the App.
The bus uses designated stops and you can expect a bus every 30 minutes on weekdays. You cannot wave it down like a New York cab! So always be aware of your nearest bus stop.
Each stop has a timetable posted. Most stops are open – no protection from wind or rain.
The bus route is circular – not two-way – meaning the bus travels in one direction only. Anti-Clockwise (driving west from Terminal 1)! Once you depart your stop you have to complete the whole route in order to return.
On average it takes about 15 – 20 minutes from the Port down to Shepard Park which is the southern most point of the Canaveral Loop. And then it takes about the same time to get back to the Port.
Have exact change please! The machine on the bus takes coins and notes and change is not given. Please visit the SCAT websitefor latest fare information. In early 2017 the fare was $1.50 per ride or $0.75 (discounted).
You pay every time you get on unless you have a transfer ticket! Please keep this in mind if you have a really tight budget! Tell the driver that you will transfer to another bus when you get on.
When the bus nears your stop, simply pull the rope above the window to ring a bell for the driver! Please do not distract the driver while driving. It is best to ask for advice as soon as you step on the bus before he/she starts to drive.
Is the SCAT bus for you and your family/friends?
In terms of convenience, one cannot beat taxis or Uber/Lyft. These will be waiting at your ship and easy to call from anywhere in the area. On the other hand, the bus is slower and cheaper and you must be willing to walk and wait!
So it depends!
Here are a few things to consider:
If your ship docks at Terminal 1 or Terminal 3 then the SCAT is an option. If you dock at another Terminal then do not bother! Take a taxi or Uber/Lyft.
Do consider the weather. If it is very hot or rainy, then you may want to reconsider using the SCAT because you will be exposed to the elements.
You will have to walk quite a bit but Central Florida is totally flat!
The bus is family friendly and used by vacationers, locals and business travelers! Do not be concerned about safety.
And should you run late and miss the bus you can always get an Uber ride back to the ship from wherever you are!
Actually the bus systems runs until late so there will always be another bus to catch!
Exploring the Cape Canaveral Area by SCAT bus
Here are popular destinations that cruisers can visit by SCAT bus:
Liquor Stores, pharmacies, banks (ATMs) and grocery stores
Unique shops such as Ron Jon and Dinosaur Store
Swimming beaches for tanning, surf lessons and bike rentals
Local breweries and popular beach-side bars/restaurants
Adventures such as zip line fun, mini golf and escape challenges
Cocoa Village (about 40 minutes each way)
In the following sections we will discuss each activity to help you manage your visit and bus rides.
1. Local Beer Brewery
The Florida Beer Company has done a wonderful job with their visitor center and it is a fun place to visit (opens at 1pm until late). Best of all, it is very near the Port! You can actually walk back to Terminal afterwards!
Please know you can get to the Brewery rather fast by bus but to return to the Terminal you have to complete the loop and this may take at least 25 minutes. Or take Uber/Lyft.
A brewery tour on weekends but you must wear closed toe shoes!
A large sports bar area with many craft beers on tap and bottled. You can see the brewery floor behind the glass windows. Snack food is available.
Bus Stop – only about 2 minutes from Terminal 1. Step off at the Burger King as shown on the map. Cross the busy A1A and walk south for a block. Turn left on Imperial Blvd and you will see the building ahead.
2. Closest Liquor Store
Cape Canaveral Liquors has a wide selection of spirits and wine. The selection is not as good as Publix or ABC but you will find most of what you need.
Bus Stop – only about 4 minutes from Terminal 1. Step off at the south-bound Patriots Park stop (at a Mobil gas station). Cross the busy A1A and walk east on Church Ln. The liquor store is in a strip mall at N. Atlantic Ave (to your right).
Afterwards, the fastest way back is to walk south for one block to the north-bound bus stop at Jefferson Ave. Once on the bus it is only about 8 minutes back to Terminal 1.
3. Mini Golf and Aerial Zip Lines
If you want to see live alligators then plan to visit Golf N Gator mini-golf. They have baby alligators and other reptiles on display! And the mini-golf courses are very good too.
Just a block to the north, you will find Cocoa Beach Aerial Adventures – a challenging aerial obstacle course for the Ninja Warriors in your family!
Bus Stop – only about 7 minutes from Terminal 1. Step off at the National Rent-a-Car bus stop. Walk north for a block or so to GolfNGator and Cocoa Beach Aerial Adventures.
Afterwards, the fastest way back is to cross A1A to the nearest north bound bus stop (at Lido Cabaret).
4. Publix Grocery, Pharmacy and Liquor – Also Cocoa Beach Escape
The best place to go if you need any of those! Cocoa Beach Escape is a fun escape room activity that the whole family can enjoy.
Bus Stop – only about 8 minutes from Terminal 1. Step off at the Coasters Taphouse bus stop at the strip mall. Walk straight across the parking lot to Publix and the Escape Room.
Afterwards, the fastest way back is to cross A1A to the nearest north bound bus stop (in front of Sunrise Bank).
5. The Beach at Cocoa Beach Pier
Our highly recommended stop for visiting cruisers when using the SCAT is the Cocoa Beach Pier!
Bus Stop – only about 10 minutes from Terminal 1. Step off at the bus stop on the corner of Ocean Beach Blvd and Pulsipher Ave (you can see the pier straight ahead). Walk across Ocean Beach Blvd to the famous Pier where you can rent beach equipment, learn to surf, play volleyball, have cocktails while watching the surfers and much more!
Tip – the beach rentals are a bit cheaper on the north side of the pier (in front of La Quinta Hotel).
Afterwards, the fastest way back is to walk west towards Publix on A1A and wait at the Sunrise Bank bus stop.
6. The Beach at Shepard Park, Ron Jon and Dinosaur Store
This is the beach where ship excursions go so you will find many of your fellow cruisers there! You can have drinks at very popular Sandbar (no ocean views though) or upstairs at Captain J’s (some views).
Bus Stop – near Pizza Hut only about 15 minutes from Terminal 1. Just walk a short distance to the east and you will see Sandbar on your left and the beach in front. There are beach rentals on the beach.
To visit Ron Jon, walk west a short distance towards A1A then turn south and you will see Ron Jon on the next block. It is a great store for souvenirs, clothes and beach-related items.
The Dinosaur Store is a bit further west (you must cross A1A and it is hidden behind CVS). It is a fun store for adults and kids alike!
Afterwards, return to the bus stop where you step off (Pizza Hut) and make sure you get on the bus heading north back to Port Canaveral! There are other buses going south.
7. Cocoa Village
Shore Excursions arranged by your ship normally include a visit to Cocoa Village. You can do this on your own by SCAT Bus! It will cost only $1.50 pp each way and takes about 50 minutes!
Take the #$9 bus to Shepard Park. Tell the driver you will transfer to Cocoa Village.
At Shepard Park, get your transfer pass as you step off the bus.
Wait for #4 bus to Cocoa. Show your transfer pass to the driver
Exit at the 520/Brevard Ave bus stop (Village Plaza) and walk south along Brevard Ave to the village.
To return, use the nearby bus stop at Tulip Restaurant on Brevard Ave
Interactive Google Map
(Please click on each icon for photos and more information.)