Best Things to Do in (and Near) Port Canaveral

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Things to Do in Port Canaveral - MSC Seashore preparing to leave Port Canaveral.
MSC Seashore preparing to leave Port Canaveral. Photo credit: Jim Hill

If you’re cruising out of Port Canaveral, consider adding a day or two pre- or post-cruise. The port is in Central Florida, ideally located within easy reach of some of the most popular area attractions, like the Kennedy Space Center and Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge. The Orlando theme parks are within day trip driving distance too. Here are the top things to do in and around Port Canaveral.

Best Things to Do Near Port Canaveral Cruise Port

Kennedy Space Center, Merritt Island

Port Canaveral is on Florida’s Space Coast, so our #1 choice is Kennedy Space Center. To see the entire complex does take approximately a full day. However, there are shorter itineraries that will hit the high spots.

Some of the top experiences include the Kennedy Space Center Bus Tour, which gives a good overview of the complex, a guided tour of the amazing Rocket Garden, and the Gateway: The Deep Space Launch Complex, and Heroes & Legends, which features the U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame. Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex is one attraction to add to your bucket list when planning a cruise out of Port Canaveral.

Brevard Veterans Memorial, Merritt Island

Military history enthusiasts will enjoy the incredible collection of military artifacts dating from the Revolutionary War to the modern day. The museum, plaza, and 82-acre park, with walking trails and a playground, are free. The park does have pavilions for rent as well.

Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge, Merritt Island

The refuge resulted from NASA acquiring the lands and waters of nearby Cape Canaveral to establish the Kennedy Space Center. In August 1963, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service signed an agreement establishing the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge.

The refuge provides a safe habitat for more than 1,500 species of plants and wildlife to flourish. It is a prime example of how, when properly planned and managed, nature and technology can co-exist.

Canaveral National Seashore

Running between New Smyrna Beach and Titusville Florida, Canaveral National Seashore has diverse habitats. The habitats include a barrier island, open lagoon, coastal hammock, pine flatwoods, and offshore waters. The Canaveral Seashore is also a National Park.

Two entrances provide access to the Canaveral National Seashore: Apollo Beach (New Smyrna) and Playalina Beach (Titusville). The visitor center is located near the Apollo Beach entrance to the park.

To fish in the Canaveral National Seashore Park, you must possess a valid Florida Fishing License if you are 16 or older, and you must follow the requirements of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. If you need fishing equipment, A1A Outdoors offers rental gear.

Kayaking in the Mosquito Lagoon of Canaveral National Seashore is a favorite pastime. You never know what you will see, and you will get a unique perspective of the park. Viking Eco Tours offers kayak tours of the lagoon.

Cape Canaveral Lighthouse

Because of its location on the Cape Canaveral Space Force station, visitors must take a guided tour. Only US citizens can tour the lighthouse and the Space Force Station at Cape Canaveral.

Canaveral Lighthouse Tours offers weekly tours to the Lighthouse and Space Force Station. The tours last approximately four hours. Custom and private tours are available but check with Canaveral Lighthouse Tours for more information. Pickup and parking for tours is at Port Canaveral.

You’ll spend about an hour at the Lighthouse, where a guide will provide a tour. You can climb the first five floors of the lighthouse, as well as the outside staircase.

Exploration Tower, Port Canaveral

Currently closed for a maintenance project, the Exploration Tower is a capsule of the history of Port Canaveral, an enclosed observation deck for viewing port traffic, an indoor observation deck for viewing rocket launches from Kennedy Space Center, and an outdoor observation deck offering 360-degree views of the port and surrounding areas.

Jetty Park, Port Canaveral

Have time to spare before you board your ship? Head to Jetty Park, the closest beach to Port Canaveral for fun in the sun! The beach is perfect for spending the morning getting some rays and playing in the water before you board the ship. There are also pavilions, a playground for the little ones, and restrooms so you can clean up and dress for boarding your cruise ship.

Things to Do in Port Canaveral - Visit to the Wizard of Oz Museum in Cape Canaveral, FL.
Are you a Wizard of Oz fan? Then definitely plan a visit to the Wizard of Oz Museum in Cape Canaveral, FL. Photo credit: Jim Hill

Wizard of Oz Museum, Cape Canaveral

For movie buffs, a stop at the Wizard of Oz Museum in Cape Canaveral is a must! The mission of the Wizard of Oz Museum is to raise awareness of the rich history of the Oz cosmos to the public.

This fairy tale, set in Kansas, is a genuine American fairy tale that has had a profound impact on American culture. The museum seeks to foster conversation and meaningful connections through imagination and stories, creating an immersive experience as you venture into the world of The Wizard of Oz.

Things to Do in Port Canaveral - Wizard of Oz memorabilia
Just a small sampling of some of the Wizard of Oz memorabilia in the Wizard of Oz Museum. Photo credit: Betsi Hill

The museum was opened in 2018 by the family of Fred Trust. Trust has collected Wizard of Oz memorabilia for 35 years. With a degree in computer science and having worked in the field for 40+ years, Trust has created an immersive experience that allows visitors to experience scenes right out of the Wizard of Oz books.

The newly designed scenes are not in the movie, providing a brand-new experience for guests. Over 2000 display items are housed in the museum, including original props from the film. This is the museum to visit if you are a die-hard Wizard of Oz fan!

Top Day Trip Destinations From Port Canaveral

Disney World

Disney World is two hours from Port Canaveral and an easy drive. If you are flying in for a cruise leaving Port Canaveral, why not plan a pre- or post-cruise day trip visit to Disney? Check out some tips here if you are a first-time visitor to Disney World.

Things to Do in Port Canaveral - Universal Studios, Orlando, Florida.
Universal Studios, Orlando, Florida. Photo credit: Jim Hill

Universal Studios

Universal is also about two hours from the Canaveral cruise port and would be another option for a pre- or post-cruise visit. You’ll have your pick of Universal Studios, Islands of Adventure, Volcano Bay, and City Walk.

Read More: If you are struggling to decide between a visit to Disney or Universal, here is a comparison.

Sea World

For a twist on theme parks, check out SeaWorld and its three parks: Discovery Cove, Aquatica, and SeaWorld. I love that at the heart of SeaWorld’s mission is their heart for animal rescue and rehabilitation.

  • SeaWorld Orlando has sensational roller coasters, animal encounters, and some rides that get you wet and cooled off.
  • Discovery Cove is an all-inclusive day resort where you can experience hand-feeding exotic birds, snorkeling with thousands of colorful tropical fish and rays, and relaxing on sandy beaches. If you are a fan of dolphins, you can even swim with dolphins. Everything you need for a relaxing, fun-filled day at this unique, exclusive park is included: towels, food, drink, and snorkeling equipment.
  • Aquatica is an experience that offers adrenaline-filled rides, personal up-close animal encounters, a lazy river, and sandy beaches all rolled into one unforgettable experience!

Orlando, the theme park capital of America, offers so many fun things to do for a day trip it’s hard to choose!

Things to Do in Port Canaveral - Spot an alligator on your airboat ride in Melbourne, Florida
You might spot an alligator on your airboat ride in Melbourne, Florida! Photo credit: Jim Hill

Airboat Rides Melbourne

Just a short 46-minute drive from Port Canaveral cruise port, don’t miss out on the opportunity to take an airboat ride. Each trip carries a maximum of seven friends and family.

Your tour will be personalized to you. The guides are knowledgeable and know all the best places to spot the local wildlife – including alligators!

Kayak Tours

Kayak Tours on the Space Coast are plentiful, so choose your tour carefully! If you want to see manatees or dolphins, check if they mention these on the tour company website.

Because of the number of dolphins in the area, you are almost always able to see them but ask the tour company. You might also see a gator or three!

Cocoa Beach

Cocoa Beach is one of the places that comes to mind when talking about Florida beach towns; it is also one of Florida’s more affordable vacation spots, with many things to do and see. Its close location to Port Canaveral makes it another choice for pre- or post-cruise opportunities.

Things to Do in Port Canaveral - Cocoa Beach Pier has shops, restaurants, bars, and live music.
Cocoa Beach Pier has shops, restaurants, bars, and live music. This is a destination in itself. Photo credit: Betsi Hill

Cocoa Beach Pier

One of the best choices when visiting Cocoa Beach is to head for the Westgate Cocoa Beach Pier. This historic landmark stretches 800 feet over the Atlantic Ocean and is almost a one-stop destination itself!

The pier offers restaurants, bars, gift shops, beach rentals, freshwater showers, live entertainment, and live music. There are regulation beach volleyball courts and lifeguards year-round.

For surfing enthusiasts, Cocoa Beach offers some of the best surfing on the East Coast. Have a desire to learn to surf? No problem! You can take a surf lesson or two at Cocoa Beach!

Things to Do in Port Canaveral - Having anything key lime in Florida is a must!
Having anything key lime in Florida is a must! We love key lime pie, but the key lime thin cookies from the Key Lime Pie shop in Cocoa Beach are a definite favorite, and perfect for taking on a cruise for snacks. Photo credit: Jim Hill

Florida Key Lime Pie Shop

Florida is known for many things, among them Key Lime Pie. Have you never tried Key Lime pie before? Then, plan a quick stop at Florida Key Lime Pie Shop in Cocoa Beach. You’ll find a vast array of Key Lime favorites and more.

Things to Do in Port Canaveral - Be sure to stop in to Ron Jon Surf Shop
When in Port Canaveral, cruise down to Cocoa Beach …. And be sure to stop into Ron Jon Surf Shop…you never know what you will find that you didn’t know you really needed! Photo credit Jim Hill

Ron Jon Surf Shop – A Travel Destination in Itself

Founded by Ron DiMenna in 1959 on the New Jersey shore, Ron Jon Surf Shop has its own surf culture. In 1963, the Florida flagship surf shop opened in Cocoa Beach.

Today, Ron Jon Surf Shop Cocoa Beach is not just an ordinary surf shop; it is a travel destination, drawing visitors from across the globe. The two-story store offers everything needed for surfing, days on the beach, and more. They have surfboards, skimboards, surf and beach clothing, and accessories.

Open 365 days a year, the shop spans two acres. Ron Jon’s offers more surf and beach gear than any other surf shop in the country.

Things to Do in Port Canaveral - The historical “I Dream of Jeannie” marker is found on I Dream of Jeannie Lane, Cocoa Beach, Florida.
The historical “I Dream of Jeannie” marker is found on I Dream of Jeannie Lane, Cocoa Beach, Florida. Photo credit: Jim Hill

I Dream of Jeannie

When many hear “Cocoa Beach,” two things immediately pop into their heads – Cape Kennedy, now known as Cape Canaveral, Kennedy Space Center, and the long-running television show “I Dream of Jeannie.” The sitcom ran from 1965 to 1979. Cape Kennedy and Cocoa Beach were the settings for the story, which was filmed in California.

Though there is no home to visit, you’ll find “I Dream of Jeannie” memorabilia scattered throughout the area. The most popular place to visit is the street sign “I Dream of Jeannie” Lane and the historical marker.

Cocoa Beach Aerial Adventures

Do you love ziplining or are you curious to try? If yes, then you must try Cocoa Beach Aerial Adventures.

The aerial park was designed to intentionally become an integral aspect of the natural beauty of the area and to have a minimal impact on the land.

Snuggled between two bodies of water, the Banana River and the Atlantic Ocean, you’ll have a breeze even on the hottest summer day, and you will experience breathtaking views from the highest platforms. Imagine being high up in the treetops, surrounded by nature, as you embark on a memorable aerial adventure.

Things to Do in Port Canaveral - Deck view of the Port Canaveral cruise port.
Deck view of the Port Canaveral cruise port. Photo credit: Betsi Hill

Taking a Cruise Out of Port Canaveral

Port Canaveral in Brevard County in Central Florida is our top choice for taking a cruise ship out of Florida. Four airports are nearby, so taking a cruise from Port Canaveral is easy for those flying into the area. The airports are Daytona Beach International Airport (DAB), Orlando Sanford International Airport (SFB), Orlando International Airport (MCO), and Melbourne International Airport (MLB), which is the closest to Port Canaveral.

The cruise port is easy to navigate, with clear signage directing you to the cruise terminal for your ship departure. There is plenty of parking, and folks are on hand to help direct you to the proper location.

Cruise Lines Sailing Out of Port Canaveral

When planning a future cruise, look at cruise lines sailing out of the Port Canaveral cruise port. Currently, five cruise lines offer regular sailings out of Port Canaveral. These cruise lines are Carnival, Norwegian, Royal Caribbean, MSC, and Disney.

For adults who are traveling without children, Victory Casino Cruises also leaves from Port Canaveral. This cruise is an authentic Las Vegas-style casino experience in Florida on the Space Coast. The cruises are typically five to six hours, departing and returning to Port Canaveral. There are two sailings a day, featuring slots, live table games, craps and more.

Cruising out of Port Canaveral is an incredible way to experience a small taste of Central Florida. With theme parks, all-inclusive experiences, and adrenaline-pumping fun to relaxing beach days, the Space Coast in Central Florida is a great option for your next cruise.

Betsi Hill is your sun-soaked guide to global wanderlust, crafting stories from every corner of the globe and bringing you closer to each destination. Specializing in luxury escapes, multi-generational journeys, and all-inclusive, all-you-can-enjoy resorts, she’s got the inside scoop on unforgettable adventures. Got a passion for fine dining and great wine? Betsi’s got you covered, taking you along to some of the top wine and cocktail bars across Florida and the globe. Eager to paint the world with the colors of each place she visits, Betsi teams up with the top Destination Marketing Organizations and tourism boards to unveil the heartbeat of every location and share its unique narrative. If there’s a travel story out there, trust Betsi to tell it, and tell it well!
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