Monday, June 29, 2009

Canaveral National Seashore and Playalinda Beach Field Trip

When you want to go to the beach in Brevard County, it's easy - if you are on Highway A1A, you're there. Look for a beachside park (we have lots of very nice, well-maintained ones) and pull into the parking lot. (Click on photos to enlarge.)

However, north of Cape Canaveral, and not accessible from A1A, is Playalinda, a beautiful beach that is a little harder to get to, but well worth the effort. Playalinda is located at the southern tip of the Canaveral National Seashore, a national park near the Kennedy Space Center. The Just the Facts section below gives detailed directions on how to get there.

Playalinda means "pretty beach" in Spanish. (We don't use the Spanish pronunciation of ply- . We call it play- with a long a.) As you're driving there, be prepared for stunning landscape and sparkling water, with the space shuttle launch pad as a backdrop. Drive slowly, and keep your eye out for the birds and critters that call this area home. There are plenty of “photo op” pullovers along the way. Canaveral National Seashore is an important nesting area for sea turtles and home to 13 federally-listed threatened and endangered animal species.

The road at Playalinda runs for four miles along the beach, and there are thirteen parking lots. Each lot has restroom facilities.

As you can tell by the length of this dune crossover, these are some big dunes. As you walk up the crossover, take a moment to admire the lush vegetation. About 2 miles in on the 4 mile beach road, between Parking Lots 7 and 8, you’ll see a sign for Eddy Creek (pronounced E-dee for some reason). There’s a parking area, fishing pier, and boat launch on one side of the road, and the covered Eddy Creek pavilion on the other side. The Pavilion's dune crossover and deck are wheelchair accessible.

Be warned that the beach area at the far end of the four-mile road has evolved through the years into a nude beach, in spite of local laws prohibiting nudity. But rest assured, there is plenty of room at Playalinda, so the nude beach thing is not a big problem.

You'll travel through Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge on your way to and fron Playalinda. After you leave Playalinda Beach, you’ll see signs for many other Florida things to see on your way back to US#1, including this sign to Scrub Ridge Trail. Friends Wayne and Julie hiked this trail the other day, and Wayne has provided his usual excellent "trip report" and photos that will be the topic of our next post.

I love this beach - when Margie and I last went there, it was nearly deserted (my idea of a perfect beach), but now that it is summer, I hear the parking lots are getting full. So you may have to share your stretch of sand with somebody, but that's part of the fun, too.

Playalinda Beach
Just the Facts

"BIG PICTURE" LOCATION: North Brevard, Barrier Island, Titusville

WHEN TO GO: March 11 - October 28, 6:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m., October 29-March 10, 6:00 a.m. - 6:00 p.m., 365 days a year, EXCEPT: Because Playalinda Beach is so close to Kennedy Space Center, it is closed for three days prior to shuttle launches and on the day of a shuttle landing. If it's close to a launch or landing, call 321-867-0677 to verify the beach is open before you go.

HOW TO GET THERE: For starters, you need to be at US #1 and County Road 402 (Garden Street) in the north end of Titusville. Don’t look at a map and think you can take a shortcut through the Kennedy Space Center, because that road is not open to the public. Take a right and head east. After about 7 miles, you’ll come to a stoplight that is kind of in the middle of nowhere. Keep going straight across the railroad tracks and drive about 4 more miles until you reach Canaveral National Seashore. Watch out for the critters crossing the road. (Map courtesy of Space Coast Office of Tourism)

This is important. There are no stores and no gas stations after you leave Titusville. Be sure your car is gassed up and bring plenty of drinking water. You might want to bring a lunch to enjoy eating at the Eddy Creek pavilion.

BRING MONEY? Yes, there is a $3 per person charge (children under the age of 16 are admitted free) to get into Canaveral National Seashore (unless you have a National Parks pass). You can also purchase an annual pass to Canaveral National Seashore for $35. The National Park Service is offering free admission to park-goers the weekends of July 18-19 and August 15-16.

WHERE TO PARK: There are 13 parking lots along the four-mile road.

WHAT TO WEAR: Remember that the sun bouncing off the water will burn you to a crisp, so protect yourself with sunscreen, beach umbrellas, hats, and common sense. Drink lots of water. And as a reader noted in his comment - bring insect repellent!

PHYSICAL CONSTRAINTS: There are bathrooms at each parking lot (no running water, though). The boardwalk at Eddie Creek Pavilion is wheelchair accessible.

HOW LONG TO STAY: As long as you're having fun (within the constraints of the Park hours)!

WHAT TO DO: Fish, surf, swim in the ocean, relax. Lifeguards are on duty from Memorial Day to Labor Day from 10:00 a.m. to 5:45 p.m. You can launch a boat at Eddy Creek. If you fish from your boat, you need to have a fishing license. If you are fishing from the shore or a dock, you do not need a salt water fishing license.

WHERE TO EAT AFTERWARDS: I'm always torn between Dixie Crossroads and El Leoncito. Dixie Crossroads is an iconic restaurant co-owned by long-time Brevard environmentalist guru Laurilee Thompson (we quote her in the I Think box) with terrific seafood, corn fritters that melt in your mouth, and exterior wall murals by our favorite mural artist, Frank Rao. When you get back to US#1 and State Road 402 (Garden Street), keep going west on Garden Street for about a mile. Dixie Crossroads is on the left-hand (south) side of Garden Street.

El Leoncito is in the southern end of Titusville on US#1 near Highway 50 and features excellent Cuban and Mexican food (I'm partial to their Cuban sandwich and black beans). You won't go wrong at either place.

HOW TO HELP: Follow Margie's example and pick up a bag of trash on your way back to the parking lot. There are recycle and trash bins near the restrooms. Pets are not allowed on the beach, and must be on a leash elsewhere. Don't feed the wildlife. And of course, don't litter.



  1. Hi under "what to wear" you did not mention insect repellent, which is at least as important as sun block or suntan oil Paul E. McLaughlin

  2. Paul - you are absolutely right! I added it to the Port Canaveral post also. Thanks. marge


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