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Space Coast, Earth Friendly Family Vacation Ideas – Kayaks, Turtles, and Horses. FLSpaceCoast348ManateeKayakSharing the wonders of nature with children is not only rewarding but fun.Our Space Coast eco list includes suggestions for rewarding “green” adventures to share with your children.

Here's the scoop.
Imagine gliding across Indian River Lagoon in a canoe watching for dolphins and manatees. Think about kayaking on the dark of the moon through bioluminescent estuaries or watching the beach for the arrival of a Loggerhead sea turtle. Stroll along Canaveral National Seashore beach. Checkout the list and skip long lines.

Kayak in stealth mode. Everyone knows that kayaking is rewarding and easy to enjoy with children. Anything that combines energy, natural beauty, and no electronics is a healthy family vacation formula. So it is not surprising that kayaking is popular in Brevard County (a.k.a. Space Coast). Day outings span the gamut from quiet estuaries with manatees and hidden marshy passage ways to open water with dolphins and sea waves. A Day Away Kayakers offers night kayaking. Maybe the coolest night junket is the bioluminescent one along Indian River and through Mosquito Lagoon. The night may be dark but the water is filled with thousands of iridescent micro organisms activated by the seep of a paddle. Best part: During the cooler months take a moonlight tour and see jellyfish aglow in the night water and under cover of moonlight spot dolphins, manatees, night herons, and owls.

Saddle up and ride out. An ideal way to feel the natural beauty of any area is by horseback and Ace of Hearts Ranch provides daily escorted excursions along wooded trail rides, and varied indigenous habitats. The ranch spans more than 80 acres with trails for every riding skill level and they have trails dedicated to both trotting and cantering. To ride solo children need to be ten years old but small tykes may be able ride with an adult. Need to know: This is the place to enjoy a hayride, attend a BBQ, and sit by a campfire. They even have a place for weddings and receptions.

Explore the seashore. At the top of the green adventure menu is Canaveral National Seashore – the longest stretch of un populated beach on the Atlantic coast. The national park area encompasses not just offshore waters and miles of beach but also a corresponding barrier island, open lagoon, coastal hammock, dunes and acres of pine flat woods – much as Florida originally appeared to the first explorers. The varied habitat provides comfort the West Indian Manatee and the endangered wood stork. Best part: Within its borders activities include beach combing, surfing, swimming, canoeing, kayaking, hiking, fishing, boating and bird watching, horseback riding, and primitive camping.

Share the fun with others. Canaveral National Seashore rangers conduct a variety of interesting programs meant to be shared with children. The free activities vary by season. Learn how the techniques of clamming in Mosquito Lagoon. Make the climb to the top of Turtle mound and hear stories about Timucuan Indians residents from 2,000 years ago. Join a Loggerhead turtle quest along the beach during June and July summer nights. Take a guided beach walk and learn how the early and later inhabitants used and enjoyed the sand and the sea. Learn the ancient art of pine needle basket weaving. Hunt for the elusive but delicious blue crab. Bonus points: A One-day Junior Ranger Program is offered at the Visitor Information Center or the South District Fee Booth. The activities offer a guideline for creating memories and sharing time in nature. Once completed return the book and your child will receive a Junior Ranger sticker and certificate.

Walk on the wild side. FLSpaceCoast348WalkHugging the edge of the Canaveral National Seashore is a wild spot - Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge. More than 500 species of wildlife inhabit the refuge and among that number 15 are listed as federally threatened or endangered. The place is for the birds so it is possible to observe large bird (wading) rookeries, osprey nests, and 10 active American bald eagle nests have been located. During the springtime the manatee population grows to almost 400 making it easy to view the docile sea cows. The experience begins at the visitor's center with wildlife and habitat exhibits, a 20-minute video about the refuge, and an adjacent hiking trail. Within the Refuge it is easy to feel the senses of wilderness uncommon to most of Florida. Need to know: Freshwater ponds behind the Visitor Center provide a safe haven for several alligators – no they are not pets.

From the land side elevated viewing platforms located throughout the 140,000 acres provide information about the remarkable habitat and the endangered species residing within. It is basically easy to share the wilderness with your children. You may access four additional hiking trails some with viewing towers and spotting scopes, take the 7-mile wildlife observation stops, or use one of the boat launch areas to cruise, canoe or kayak. Bonus points: If an organized viewing is more what you had in mind, each morning a trained U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service volunteer leads a driving tour of Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge to and helps visitors learn how to identify the many feathered residents that reside in the refuge. The tour begins at the Refuge Visitor Center and last for approximately three to four hours. To get the most out of the tour bring binoculars, camera, field guides, bug repellant, water and a snack. Need to know: A few loaner binoculars are available for tour participants.

Connect with the past. The resemblance of modern day alligators to dinosaurs cannot be denied and at Jungle Adventures it is possible to observe the giant reptiles some sleeping others swimming or sunning. Cruise aboard The Jungle Swamp Queen River Boat on a personally guided passage on Green Gator River around Wild Animal Island and deep inside a natural Florida habitat with over two hundred Alligators. Visitors have the option to participate in a baby alligator feeding session. Tour a replica of an ingenious village representing Florida’s earliest residents. Watch living history demonstrations and learn about the daily activities, eating habits and medicinal practices. Within the 20-acre complex pathways and boardwalks provide many ways to share a “green” day with your kids. Bonus points: This is the place to taste “gator bites”- yup farm raised alligator for lunch. Need to know: Make use of the discount coupon at the Jungle Queen website.

Make it happen. Location on the planet. The Space Coast stretches 72 miles along Florida's East Coast and is best known as the home of Kennedy Space Center. Just 35 miles east of Orlando, it is also offers the closest beaches away from theme parks.  Area communities include Titusville, Cocoa Beach, Cocoa, Melbourne and Palm Bay.

Family Vacation Planning Details
Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge The Visitor Center is located on SR 402, 5 miles east of U.S. 1 in Titusville. (321) 861-0667 or

Canaveral National Seashore. Southern access, Playalinda Beach, Titusville, is on Fla 406/402. Playalinda Beach is reached via SR 402 (also known as Beach Road). Canaveral National Seashore 212 S. Washington Avenue Titusville, FL 32796. (321) 267-1110, (386) 428-3384 ext. 10 for program details or

Ace of Hearts Ranch 7400 Bridal Path Lane Cocoa, Florida 32927. (321) 638-0104 or

A Day Away Kayaking Tours 3532 Royal Oak Drive Titusville, FL 32780. (321)268-2655 or

Jungle Adventures 26205 East Highway (S.R.) 50 (7 miles west of Titusville, 17 miles east of Orlando in Christmas, Florida 32709  (407) 568- 2885 or

Content researched and posted by Nancy Nelson-Duac, Curator of the Good Stuff for the Family Travel files. Images by A Day Away Kayking Tours and FTF staff. Copyright 2017.

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