Canaveral National Seashore is the exact opposite of Daytona Beach. Roughly 25 miles north of Canaveral, Daytona Beach is all resort – hotels, condos, clubs, bars, restaurants, shops, NASCAR, and even driving on the beach. Not one of these things is to be found along Canaveral National Seashore.
In fact, Canaveral boasts the longest stretch of undeveloped beach on Florida’s east coast – an amazing 24 miles of primeval beachfront. A single sand dune averaging 12 feet in height runs the entire length of the beach, a rarity in itself. It is an awesome sight to see this pristine shoreline stretching all the way to the horizon.
This national treasure spans 2 counties, with Volusia to the north and Brevard to the south. The northern section is known as Apollo Beach and lies just south of New Smyrna Beach. Here you’ll find Turtle Mound and Castle Windy, both Native American shell mounds (middens). These are the most widely known of nearly 150 archaeological sites at CNS. Turtle Mound is the largest midden on the U.S. mainland and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. A boardwalk leads to the top of the nearly 50 foot mound, where beautiful vistas await those who visit.
Castle Windy offers a trail through a coastal forest with trees reminiscent of Avatar, as each massive tree is an ecosystem unto itself. Resurrection ferns and Spanish moss adorn the branches that crisscross the trail. Both of these ancient middens rest along the Mosquito Lagoon, on the inland (westward) side of Canaveral.
They do offer two designated beach campsites in the Apollo District from November 1st to April 15th each year. Primitive island camping is available year round, accessible only by water. These 14 island sites require reservations and a permit from the visitor center. For $10*/night you get a private island campsite in North America’s most biologically diverse estuary. Oh — $10 covers up to 6 people. Now that’s an incredible deal.
But that’s just the northern district. The southern district is known as Playalinda Beach and lies east of Titusville along Brevard County’s Space Coast. As Apollo Beach contrasts with Daytona Beach in the north, here NASA’s Kennedy Space Center contrasts with Playalinda Beach…except that NASA and Canaveral National Seashore actually rub shoulders.
As you approach Canaveral National Seashore you can clearly see KSC’s launch and vehicle assembly facilities on your right. In fact, we can thank NASA for helping to preserve this national treasure, along with its amazing sister to the west, Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge. But that’s a story for another time.
Playalinda Beach offers miles of shoreline disturbed only by periodic boardwalks. Access to Mosquito Lagoon is at Eddy Creek. No camping is available in this section, but you can still get a backcountry permit ($2/person/day) from the visitor assistant at the entrance station. With that in hand you could explore the center section, known as Klondike Beach.
Klondike Beach, accessible from either Apollo Beach or Playalinda Beach, is backcountry remote. It’s easy to step back hundreds of years when there’s no human imprint in sight, only the constant breeze and crash of the waves. Just be sure to bring plenty of water, sunblock, bug repellent and something for shade. Whatever you think you might need for water, double it. Please consider using reusable stainless steel bottles and absolutely leave nothing behind.
Know Before You Go! Check out the Photo Gallery, WonderMaps (below) and links. If it piques your interest, make plans to check it out. If not, check out our Bucket List and Where-to-Go to find spots that are just right for you. Whatever you do, get out there and enjoy Florida’s Natural Wonders!
Fun Fact: Canaveral National Seashore is home to 13 threatened or endangered species, the second most of any U.S.national park.
Canaveral National Seashore WonderMap; Checking out Turtle Mound & Castle Windy with my Master Naturalist class. TIP >> Click on waypoint flags for GPS location photos.
Canaveral National Seashore WonderMap; Kayaking Mosquito Lagoon from JB’s Fish Camp to Turtle Mound.
Canaveral National Seashore WonderMap; Kayaking Mosquito Lagoon from Eddy Creek
Canaveral National Seashore WonderMap; Garmin version, Kayaking Mosquito Lagoon from Eddy Creek
North access is Apollo Beach, located at the southern tip of Florida A1A below New Smyrna Beach. (I-95 exit 249, then east.)
South access is Playalinda Beach, located in Titusville on Florida 402 (Beach Road) (I-95 exit 220, then east.)