One of the things I love about living in Cocoa Beach and being on the Space Coast is being able to step outside and watch a rocket launch. If you are planning a trip to the Cocoa Beach area to view a rocket launch, here are my favorite places to watch a launch along with other great spots to consider.
I live in South Cocoa Beach and more often than not, I simply cross A1A to beach. Any beach access from Patrick Air Force Station to the Port will give you a good vantage point to see the launch. Really, any beach access from Jetty Park south will give you a good view of the launch. The closer you can get the better.
If it is a SpaceX launch that is also landing, the beach is definitely where you want to be. You can easily see the rockets come back home anywhere in Cocoa Beach to the Port. Jetty Park will be the best spot to see it (And it will also have the biggest crowds)
If you go to one of the parks on the beach (Jetty Park, Cherie Down Park, Shepard Park, Fischer Park, Lori Wilson Park, or Robert Murkshe Park) you will have the luxury of having bathroom facilities nearby.
Coconuts, Longboards Tiki Beach Grille, The Sandbar and The Cocoa Beach Pier offer lunch and dining on the beach while you wait for the launch too.
Exploration Tower at the Port has several viewing platforms to see the launch. There is an admission to the Exploration Tower that might have a premium depending on the launch. You can find more information on their website
There are several restaurants at the Port that offer outside dining that would be a great option too. (Rising Tide, Rusty’s, Grills, Fish Lips & Gator’s Dockside).
If the launch time is outside of the restaurant hours, I have set up in Gator’s Dockside Parking lot or Miss Canaverals for photos (this is a great spot to see a SpaceX rocket return home on the barge too)
Along the causeways
Stateroad 528 in between Merritt Island and Port Canaveral offer a great viewing experience. You have the water views to enjoy before the launch. You can also see the rocket launch between Merritt Island and the mainland over the Indian River once it clears the treeline.
Along US1 between SR528 and Titusville
There are several parks along US 1 in Cocoa, Port St John, and Titusville that are great locations to see a launch.
Space View Park on the Indian River on the West side of the Max Brewer Bridge is a great spot. If you are OK with heights; walk the Max Brewer Bridge to see at the top. The Titusville Marina also offers a great view of the launch.
Playlinda Beach Rocket Launch
IF the park is open for a launch, you will be on some pristine beaches that are also pretty close to the launch pad. Rustic is a good word to describe the beaches here, so plan accordingly (and bring your bug spray) To see park hours and if the park will be open for the launch, please visit their website https://www.nps.gov/cana/planyourvisit/hours.htm
On the water
There are several services that will take you on either the river or in the ocean to watch a launch. Star Fleet Tours offers both river and ocean viewing and will get you as close to the launch pad that you are safely able to. You should check out their website for more info on what to expect if you choose them https://www.star-fleet.tours/
My favorite way to enjoy a launch is being a part of a NASA Social. This is a behind the scenes look at the 24 hours leading up to launch. 25 to 40 people are selected to be a part of this. Depending on the launch, you will get a fantastic tour of Kennedy Space Center. You are in the press room, you get to tour the VAB, you are taken onto one of the many launch pads, and you can get pretty close to the rocket on its pad the day before the launch. The day of the launch, they take you to the press site for upfront viewing of the rocket launch 4 miles (+/-) from the launch pad.
How do you get to participate in the NASASocial? It is a simple online application. They get 400 applications for the 25-40 spots available. I have met bloggers, vloggers, teachers, and other space enthusiasts the 3 times I have been a part of a social. Some of them have quite an impressive social media presence, others have a smaller presence but have a big influence in their community in regards to education and supporting the space industry. If you want more information, please go to their website https://www.nasa.gov/connect/social/index.html
No matter where you decide to go to view the launch, there are a couple things you should keep in mind.
What is the launch window? Every launch has a window of time the launch could occur. Sometimes it’s a quick go/no go at a precise time. Others, it could be as short as a 5-minute window up to 4 hours or more. It really depends on the payload and final destination on how big or small it could be.
Arrive early. Especially for the “headline” launches. Manned flight will be a big launch. SpaceX Falcon Heavy always draws a big crowd. Any SpaceX launch that is also landing back at the Cape has a big draw. The payload also could have an impact on the crowd that shows up to see the launch. Because of the crowds, be patient when leaving too. There were over 100,000 people on the Space Coast to see the Falcon Heavy Launch & Landings. There are a lot of cars on the road!
There could be a delay or cancellation of the launch. Sometimes a launch happens exactly as planned and there is liftoff at the beginning of the launch window. Things happen though and launches could be delayed days, weeks or even longer depending on the issue. What could cause a delay? Weather, mechanical issues, sensor issues, boats or planes getting to close, the list goes on. If it does happen, hopefully, it will be a quick turnaround.
How to keep up with the launch schedule?
I like the Next Spaceflight app or the Space Launch Now app to keep up with things. Next Space Flight also has a good website https://nextspaceflight.com/launches/
If you are on Twitter, there is a lot of space information there and it gets very active around any launch. This is my Twitter list I have set up. If you think I need to add anyone, please let me know. https://twitter.com/i/lists/162056691
I know there are countless other spots you can watch a launch, this is only an overview of my favorite spots and other locations I hear offer amazing views of a launch. I know if you live anywhere in Brevard County, all you have to do is look towards the Space Center and you can see a launch (clouds & weather permitting). It is still pretty cool stepping out of your home and seeing a launch from your front or back yard. If the launch is a night launch, you can see it across the State 100+ miles away (again, weather permitting)
So, what is your favorite spot to see a launch? What was your first launch?
About the author:
Eric Larkin is a Broker Associate with REMAX Aerospace. He lives, works, and plays in the Cocoa Beach area. If you have questions about moving or relocating to Cocoa Beach and the Space Coast, let me know! I get calls, texts, direct messages & comments on my posts every day about the real estate market and things that are happening in Cocoa Beach and the Space Coast that I love answering. Ask me your questions on moving, relocating here, or anything about the community. I am here to help. I have been helping buyers and sellers with their real estate needs since becoming a real estate agent in 2003. My focus is always on helping, answering your questions, and doing everything possible to make certain you have a smooth transaction from beginning to end.
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