AND CANAVERAL SEASHORE
This is a continuation of the Forgettable Coast article about my visit during March of 2008. However I have visited this area many times, primarily due to the fact that my parents used to own a home here.
As should become evident quickly when browsing this blog, big, flashy cities are not normally my style. While the panhandle coast was a bit too dead for even my liking (the weather playing no small part), places like Orlando are just too big, busy and expensive. But the area around Daytona, Titusville, Cacao Beach and Canaveral Seashore is a really nice compromise. There are several KOAs in the area, and surprisingly they were not filled during this March Break week. The one outside of Titusville is very pleasant and puts you within a striking distance of a lot of attractions. It's reasonably priced as well.
The restaurants which were nowhere to be found in the panhandle are in abundance around this area. You have a huge selection of every type of food, including great seafood. The prices are probably a little steeper because it is more of a tourist area, but it's not outrageous.
Daytona has the speedway and the hotel strewn beaches, but one of my favorite attractions there is the Daytona Flea Market. It is huge, with all the tacky stuff you could ever want, and it's been voted (by somebody or other) as one of the 5 top flea markets in the country. I picked up some great Caribbean masks there, along with a spiffy machete and medical tweezers. (No they weren't all for the same purpose...) It's good for at least half a day, especially when the weather's not cooperating. Check the days it's open.
Just south of Daytona is New Smyrna Beach. Crossing into the northern access to the Canaveral Seashore, you leave the hotels behind and head into uninterrupted beach for miles and miles. While it was not heavily occupied in March, I have seen it quite busy during the summer. Just a friendly warning: The southern end of the beach, beyond the last parking lot, has become a new hangout for nudists (naturists). I haven't been there, but I've heard that they have moved from their old hangout at Playlinda beach. (More on that below.) If you don't want traffic and hotels as part of your beach experience, this is the place to go.
A twenty minute drive south on Hwy 95 brings you into the Titusville area. Cape Canaveral is the main attraction here. I visited it about ten years ago and found it pretty pricey then. I was also a little put off by the guards armed with machine guns at the entrance. But if you're a space buff and willing to pay the entrance fees (yes, there's more than one tier) then it is an entertaining day with great displays.
Cacao Beach is a busy, hip beach that is frequented by young people. The beach is lined by hotels and there are lots of motorized and peddle vehicles traveling up and down the strip. If you're looking for that kind of action, this is a much busier place than New Smyrna or Playalinda. One attraction that I always visit when in the area is Ron Jon Surf Shop. This is the flagship store and is open 24 hours a day, so you can shop at 3 a.m. if you are so inclined. I've always been impressed with the collection of beachwear and other attire that can be found here. In addition to the cheap Ron Jon Ts, there is also a huge selection of latest styles. I'm not usually a big shopper, but this attraction is worth a visit.
Playalinda Beach is part of the Canaveral National Seashore. It is basically the same coastal zone as New Smyrna Beach, if you were to walk 20 miles south. Access to the beach is closed whenever there is any sort of launch at the space centre. The extreme northern part of the beach used to be an optional clothing beach (nudist). The conservative locals found this unacceptable and pushed the local authorities into harassing the sun worshippers, -which is why they moved their butts up to New Smyrna where, word has it, there is more tolerance. There is lots and lots of "normal" areas at both beaches, so there's no need for concern when visiting these beaches.