If New Smyrna Beach  is one of the cities along the Space Coast  that’s less dependent upon NASA, the sleepy town of Titusville has its fate permanently intertwined with what happens at the Kennedy Space Center .
Not only is the center itself just on the other side of the Indian River—along with its launch pads, landing facilities, research and construction operations, and tourists—but the beauty of its natural spaces, most notably the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge , is protected mainly thanks to the space program’s need for a security buffer.
A little farther south, Cocoa Beach has built itself up as a tourist-friendly beach town that is more dependent on the cruise ships that come in and out of the nearby deepwater port than it is on NASA, even though it’s on the southern tip of Cape Canaveral; still, Cocoa, like the rest of the area, wouldn’t be the same without the space agency’s operations.
The Cocoa Beach Pier (401 Meade Ave., Cocoa Beach) has been around for decades and has become something of a tourist-magnet monstrosity. Still, the activity in and around the pier—from fishing and relaxing on the beach to trolling the gift shop or waiting an hour for a seat at a restaurant—has become a sort of rite of passage for visitors. Go once; don’t go twice.
Titusville and Cocoa Beach are about 33 miles (45 minutes’ drive) away from each other, separated by I-95 and the east-west State Road 528. From Cocoa Beach, it’s about 23 miles (35 minutes) south to the Melbourne International Airport (MLB, One Air Terminal Pkwy., Melbourne, 321/723-6227, www.mlbair.com ), which has daily service via Delta Airlines.
Sixty miles (an hour) west of Cocoa are Orlando ’s attractions, theme parks , and Orlando International Airport (MCO, One Airport Blvd., Orlando, 407/825-2001, www.orlandoairports.net ). The most convenient airport to Titusville is either Orlando’s (about 40 miles or an hour west) or Daytona Beach International Airport (DAB, 700 Catalina Dr., Daytona Beach, 386/248-8069, www.flydaytonafirst.com ), which is approximately 50 miles (45 minutes) north.
A car is absolutely necessary in both Titusville and Cocoa Beach because public transportation is quite limited.