From boating to bird-watching and everything in between, countless experiences in the Space Coast and Daytona Beach ensure that meetings won’t be all work and no play.
The Space Coast, known for its spectacular launches at Kennedy Space Center and Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, also has some of the best beaches across the globe, where groups can take to the water or visit a variety of diverse natural habitats.
“The Space Coast is located on the Atlantic Flyway and is in close proximity to 40 sites on the Great Florida Birding Trail, and it is a perfect place to watch for migrating species, which groups can explore by foot, boat, car, kayak or bicycle,” said Bonnie King, executive director, Visit Space Coast. “We are a place that is ruled by nature—a universe etched with enchanted forests, flowing rivers and peaceful lagoons. During warm summer months, the lagoon is alive with bioluminescence. At night, every movement in the water produces light. It is a truly an unbelievable experience.”
The Great Florida Birding and Wildlife Trail, established in 1963, is a network of 510 wildlife-viewing sites across the state. Two national parks, the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge and the Canaveral National Seashore (between New Smyrna Beach and Titusville), are part of the trail where visitors can view more than 1,500 species of plants and animals, including manatees and more than 300 species of birds. Recreation at Canaveral National Seashore includes fishing, boating, canoeing and hiking on historical trails. During the summer, the park provides guided sea turtle nesting tours that are open to groups.
Airboat Eco-Tours, Space Coast
Cocoa Beach’s 338-acre Thousand Islands is a series of islands in the Indian River Lagoon. It’s a great place to kayak or canoe through mangroves where hundreds of manatees, dolphins and many bird species like osprey make this a place to birdwatch. There are also two hiking trails.
The Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge, which spans 140,000 acres and has more than 500 species of wildlife, is situated on Florida’s largest barrier island.
There are more than 1,000 species of plants, more than 100 species of fish, 300 bird species and 31 mammal species of which 21 are on the endangered species list. There are hiking and driving trails, but as NASA is located on the island, some areas are restricted to the public.
Several airboat companies take guests on rides through the St. Johns River and Lake Poinsett. Visitors have been known to spot alligators, bald eagles, wild hogs and plenty of wading birds.
Some outdoor dining options in the area include Longboards Tiki Beach Grille at the Hilton Cocoa Beach Resort, Coconuts on the Beach, Floridian Restaurant and Discovery Beach Cafe, which all have spectacular waterfront views.
Biking, Daytona Beach | Credit: Daytona CVB
In Daytona, where most everyone has heard of the infamous Daytona International Speedway, there’s plenty to do on the 23-mile stretch of Daytona beaches.
“Although most people know us for racing, our visitors can enjoy high-energy activities, relaxing in the shade, or simply watching the waves on our legendary beaches. There is something for everyone to enjoy in the great outdoors surrounding the Daytona Beach area,” said Linda McMahon, director of group sales, Daytona Beach Area CVB.
The Daytona Beach Pier and boardwalk stretches 1,000 feet into the Atlantic and is not only a great place to fish, it’s a great place to eat. Joe’s Crab Shack, which took the place of the pier’s original casino, opened after a $10 million renovation. Perched right over the ocean, the views of the water from the restaurant, which seats 300-plus, are spectacular. The rooftop bar, called, naturally, The Roof, can accommodate up to 400.
Other alfresco dining options in Daytona for groups include Sloppy Joe’s Daytona Beach, Sunsetters Riverfront Bar & Grille, Caribbean Jack’s Restaurant & Bar and Zappi’s Italian Garden.
Not only is the Atlantic Ocean perfect for a dip in the water, McMahon said groups have used the beach for everything from sunrise yoga classes to leisurely bike rides on the beach at sunset. There are also several companies that charter boats for fishing, visiting artificial reefs or just cruising.
And for those groups into horseback riding, the 15 miles of trails at Lake Woodruff National Wildlife Refuge is the place. It’s also great for a photo safari. Here visitors can take pictures of mammals and birds especially in the mornings during the warmer months when they are easily spotted.
Five miles south of Daytona is Spruce Creek Park, which is situated on more than 1,500 acres in Port Orange. The boardwalk stretches three miles through nature trails leading to a15-foot observation tower overlooking Spruce Creek. The park offers picnicking and a canoe launch.
McMahon also said there are wonderful golf opportunities in the area, including Indigo Lakes Golf Club, consistently ranked among the “Top 10 Golf Courses of Florida” by Golfweek; Daytona Beach Golf Club, an area favorite since 1921; and Riviera Country Club, located in Ormond Beach, which opened in 1953. The par-71 course features a driving range and chipping and putting practice area.
Paddleboarding, Daytona Beach | Credit: Daytona CVB
Stand-up paddleboarding has become the fastest growing water sport in Daytona, and there’s no shortage of companies that offer group outings. Guided tours are available through the area’s winding waterways from the Atlantic Ocean to the backwater estuaries.
Twenty miles south of Port Canaveral and Cocoa Beach, Melbourne is home to The Brevard Zoo, where groups can have a meet-and-greet with a sloth, goat or alpaca. The relaxing 3,000-square-foot Nyami Nyami River Lodge is used for corporate events of up to 200.
“For companies looking to have a fun day in the zoo, we can accommodate really any number of guests as we set-up lunch in shifts,” said Erin Gracie, event specialist at the Brevard Zoo. “A few months back we hosted an amazing company event for 950. While the lodge is mostly an indoor venue with air conditioning, AV and Wi-Fi, the covered veranda overlooks the picturesque giraffe exhibit.
The zoo also has kayaking, the Treetop Trek ziplining course and the Treetop Challenge, a three-hour course great for a teambuilding event.
South of Daytona Beach is Ponce Inlet, known for being home to Florida’s tallest lighthouse. At 175 feet and 203 steps, visitors who brave the climb are rewarded with spectacular views. There’s also a marine science center with interactive exhibits, an observation tower and nature trails.
CENTRAL EAST FLORIDA CVB CONTACT INFORMATION
Daytona Beach Area CVB
Florida’s Space Coast Office of Tourism
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