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Touch down on Florida’s Space Coast

By Rebecca Underwood on 6th January 2019

Florida’s Space Coast, which includes Cape Canaveral, Cocoa Beach, Melbourne, Indialantic, Palm Bay, Viera and Titusville, offers 72 miles of pristine, glorious beaches, the world’s largest 24- hour surf shop, and the robust waves ensure that this is America’s East Coast surfing capital. The Space Coast is the ideal destination for a family holiday and for those of us who are fascinated by the stars; it’s the gateway to the Kennedy Space Centre Complex.

Built in 1967 and home to NASA’s 30-year Space Shuttle Programme, which is pivotal to the Hubble Space Telescope and the International Space Station, the Kennedy Space Centre attracts more than 1.5 million visitors every year. Up with the larks and keen as mustard, I set off to explore the centre and to focus on the future of travel – ‘Space, the final frontier!’

The Apollo 14 command module is one of many fascinating exhibits at The Kennedy Space Centre

The Kennedy Space Centre’s narrated bus tours transport passengers to NASA’s restricted areas, passing by working facilities including the Vehicle Assembly Building and Launch Complex 39.

Arriving at Mission Zone: Race to the Moon, located at the Apollo/Saturn V Centre, I was absolutely mesmerised by the exhibits, including the powerful Saturn V Rocket, which has transported every astronaut who has stepped onto the moon’s surface.

The Saturn V rocket has transported every astronaut who has stepped on the moons surface

I then headed for the Firing Room Theatre to relive the launch of the first crewed NASA mission, which orbited the moon in 1968. The theatre audience faces the actual consoles used during the Apollo launches and leading up to the countdown the excitement is palpable.

The viewer experiences the incredible noise as the rocket lifts off from the launch pad and as it blasted into space I wondered how those brave astronauts could withstand the fear of the then unknown.

The space shuttle Atlantis now has a permanent home at the Kennedy Space Centre

Hopping back on the bus to Mission Zone: Shuttle: A Ship, Like No Other, I viewed the incredible Space Shuttle Atlantis®, which transferred astronauts from Earth to space and back for thirty years and covered a distance of 126 million miles.

Scorched and battered, it is an amazing sight, a vehicle that launches like a rocket and then lands like a glider. The Shuttle Launch Experience®was my next venture and I strapped myself to a seat to be subjected to the force of a simulated take off.

The module rotates to a vertical position and each ‘passenger’ experiences the force of acceleration and vibration as the shuttle launches and soars into orbit, and it was simply unforgettable.

Atlantis clocked up 126 million miles over thirty years in space!

Another local attraction of note, which is only a ten minute car ride away from the Kennedy Space Centre, is the American Police Hall of Fame and Museum, located on Horizon Drive in Titusville.

Founded in 1960, this building is the nation’s first national law enforcement museum dedicated to officers who have lost their lives in the line of duty. Exhibits include an impressive collection of police cars, including one, which featured in the film Blade Runner, a rather disturbing replica of a prison cell, a guillotine, which displays a sign warning the viewer not to touch the blade or put their neck under it!

The Astronaut Hall of Fame at The Kennedy Space Centre

There is also a rope, which was once used for hanging and a wide range of decommissioned fire arms and tools used by law enforcement officers. Additional exhibits include a collection of photographs and artefacts related to notorious criminals such as Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow, Al Capone, Legs Diamond and Baby Face Nelson. Feeling rather unsettled, I headed for the shooting range!

The on-site shooting centre is a regional training resource for law enforcement, and visitors are welcome to take the opportunity to harness their skills. As an absolute novice and extremely nervous, the Range Safety Officer assured me that I was not the first and swiftly presented me with my Ruger SR22 -22LR semi auto pistol, 50 rounds of ‘live’ ammo, and a target poster depicting an unsuspecting assailant!

Cape Canaveral was the launch site for all Gemini and Apollo missions

After a short lesson on safety, loading the magazine and aiming the weapon I was instructed to ‘fire!’ and to my amazement I have been deemed ‘a natural’ as my first volley of shots hit the assailant’s neck, head and heart.

Feeling relieved, and in need of a breather, I hailed a cab and headed for the Cocoa Beach Pier, and on arrival I was fortunate to arrive in time to join the crowd of spectators waiting for the Space X Falcon 9 ‘live’ rocket launch, which successfully lifted off launch pad 39a at the nearby Kennedy Space Centre. The crowd reacted with spontaneous whoops of joy and rounds of applause and I was absolutely ecstatic.

Witnessing a rocket launch is one of the highlights of a trip to the Space Coast

To celebrate, I made my way to Grills Seafood Deck and Tiki Bar, located on Glen Cheek Drive, and sampled the Cuban sandwich, served on authentic Cuban bread, with marinated pork, ham, Swiss cheese, pickles and a dash of mayonnaise and mustard. Accompanied by a Strawberry Mojito, mixed with Bacardi Dragonberry rum, it was delicious.

A little light-headed, I headed back to Cape Canaveral and the comfort of the Cape Winds on Ridgewood Avenue, adjacent to the gorgeous beach. The resort’s facilities include an outside heated pool, sauna and hot tub, and for those with energy to spare there are flood-lit tennis and basketball courts.

Cape Winds offers beachside living with ocean views

My spacious apartment featured two bedrooms and two bathrooms, a utility room with a washer and dryer, an open plan lounge, kitchen and dining area with a wrap around balcony furnished with high chairs and a sun lounger facing the ocean; the perfect spot for an afternoon snooze.

Or, for those seeking a smaller property, and one with a real taste of Floridian charm, the Tuckaway Shores Resort, a family run business, is located on South Miramar Avenue, Melbourne. The spacious and comfortable one bedroom suites with open plan lounges and kitchenettes are ideal for couples.

The Tuckaway Shores Resort has a real taste of Floridian charm

Resort facilities include an outside heated swimming pool, private beach access, on-site laundry with a washer and dryer, complimentary WiFi and a parking space. My suite, located on the ground floor, was adjacent to a beach access point and lounging outside on a beach chair and sipping on my cool drink I watched the surfer ‘dudes’ coming and going and then riding the waves with abandon.

Florida’s Space Coast offers all this, and much more.

The Encore Resort is minutes away from Disney’s theme parks

Top tip – Space Coast accommodation

For more information on the Cape Winds resort visit stayincocoabeach.com and for the Tuckaway Shores visit tuckawayshores.com

Top tip – Ground transfers

For ground transfers from Orlando airport, Disney, Universal, and International Drive areas to the Space Coast, including Kennedy Space Centre and the American Police Museum in Titusville, Cocoa Beach Shuttle has been providing transport services for over 20 years. Vans, mini buses, motor coaches and door-to-door airport shuttle services with helpful, reliable and punctual drivers. For more information call +01 321 6314144 or visit cbshuttle.com.

Top tip – Stop-over in Orlando

The Encore Resort at Reunion, located on Fairfax Drive, Orlando, is minutes away from Disney’s theme parks. Choose from a selection of private, detached, luxurious home rentals with 3 to 13 bedrooms and all with private outdoor swimming pools.

Beautifully furnished, tastefully decorated, spacious and comfortable, each property offers the ideal solution for those seeking the utmost comfort and privacy. Resort facilities include a 10 acre water park, an enormous swimming pool, covered cabanas, an air conditioned arcade, a Kid’s Club, an activities programme for families, a gymnasium, an outdoor lounge, 2 restaurants and 2 full bars.  Complimentary transportation to Disney, Universal and SeaWorld is provided.

For more information, visit encorereunion.com.