At the south end of Canaveral National Seashore, Playalinda Beach is a major destination for beachgoers along the Space Coast. It’s popular because unlike the beaches to its south, it’s both remote and a natural shoreline that stretches on for miles. It’s also the best place in the region to watch rocket launches at adjacent Kennedy Space Center.
Lat-Lon: 28.644433, -80.684619
Fees: $10 per vehicle
Restroom: Numerous at beach parking areas
Open 6 AM – 6 PM winter months, 6 AM – 8 PM summer months. Leashed pets are welcome on the lagoon side of the park, but not on the beach. Glass containers are also prohibited.
From Interstate 95, it’s an 11 mile drive east to the park entrance. Take exit 220, Garden Street (SR 402) in Titusville. Follow SR 402 east through town and up and over the Max Brewer Bridge to Merritt Island. Continue past the Merritt Island NWR Visitor Center, to the intersection with SR 3 and the north gate of Kennedy Space Center. Continue straight ahead and you’ll reach the entrance station. The first beach parking area is another 3.7 miles along the park road. The northernmost point on the park road, Lot #13, is 7.6 miles beyond the entrance station.
Something that first-time visitors are always surprised about are the views on the way to the beach. Once past the entrance station, the road leads you between vast salt flats and salt ponds, great spots for birding. There are numerous pulloffs for parking. Looking south over the flats, you also see panoramas of the northernmost launch complexes at Kennedy Space Center, including the now-defunct pad 39B where the Space Shuttles launched. The last big pond on the left tends to have a lot of bird life. When it dries out, it crackles in unusual geometric shapes.
Parking Area 1 is the closest access point to Kennedy Space Center. This is where photographers line up before each launch, particularly for those taking off from nearby pad 39B, now the home of SpaceX. Signs, a fence across the beach, and security cameras make it clear that visitors should not walk south into KSC.
On the inland side, Eddy Creek is a must-see. It has a boat launch and a short pier / observation deck. Manatees are frequently spotted here in the shallows, and it’s simply a beauty spot. Bring your own kayak to paddle in Mosquito Lagoon and launch here.
Parking Area 13, the northernmost beach access point, is where you get to the Klondike Beach Trail, the wilderness walk that stretches from Titusville to New Smyrna Beach. It’s also where you are likely to see nudists. Despite what you may have heard and read, there is no official nude beach at Playalinda. However, what you’ll see is another matter.
As we walked over the crossover to the beach, a man stepped out of his shorts on it, right in front of us. Instead of being “a little north” of the crossover, people sunbathed au natural both south and north of the crossover. As we left, we saw signs plastered in the front window of a Jeep telling people that “this is a nude beach” and if “you’re offended, you should leave now.” In reality, there’s no enforcement.
Hiking & Biking
Although you can walk up to an 8-mile round-trip on Playalinda Beach between the southern and northern parking areas in this National Park, most people are here to enjoy the beach, or the birding. If you bring a bicycle, you can ride the length of Playalinda Beach Road. Eventually Playalinda is supposed to be the terminus of the statewide Coast-to-Coast Connector (C2C) for cyclists.
If you are interested in hiking the Klondike Beach Trail – Florida’s longest backcountry beach walk, 13 miles linear -you must obtain a backcountry permit in advance and haul in all the water you need with you. It’s an extremely strenuous hike due to the slope of the beach and soft sand; the trail follows an old road in other spots. Due to seasonal nesting and other factors, the trail is not always open. Call Canaveral National Seashore in advance at 321-267-1110 for current details, status, and to get a permit. If you’re just looking for a short day hike on it, ask at the entrance station for a day permit, which you must obtain before 2 PM.