When it comes to viewing a rocket launch, your options are pretty limited – or they were until recently, when private space companies like SpaceX, Blue Origin, and Virgin Galactic began launching their own rockets. In the past, you had a few choices if you wanted to see a rocket launch: hope for an infrequent opportunity in either Virginia (Wallops) or California (Vandenberg), shell out to see a launch at Baikonur in Kazakhstan, or head for Florida to one of the launch viewing spots on the Space Coast.
The Space Coast is so named because it’s one of the most frequently used launch sites in the world – and one of the most public. Thanks to NASA’s close relationship with the American public (read: taxpayers), launches are open for public viewing, and there are lots of places along the Space Coast to see a rocket take flight.
If you’re hoping to see a rocket launch in Florida, you’re in luck: they happen pretty often, and there are loads of launch viewing spots on the Space Coast. Below you’ll find 21 of the most popular Space Coast launch viewing spots, as well as a bonus option that makes it almost impossible to not see a launch when they happen.
1. Alan Shepard Park
If you were wondering where to see a rocket launch on the Space Coast, Alan Shepard Park is one of the best spots. Named after Astronaut Alan Shepard, this oceanfront park of 5 acres located at the east end of State Road 520 is perfect for a picnic day and exploring the local retail shops in the area, and of course, do some launch viewing! The park has over 300 parking spaces and charges $15 for automobiles and recreational vehicles.
2. Cocoa Beach Pier
Cocoa Beach Pier makes an ideal spot for launch viewing on the Space Coast. Located just south of the Kennedy Space Center, Cocoa Beach Pier is super close to launch complexes. This is a popular spot, so try to get there early. Also, try not to go by car since parking can be an issue. Unless you eat at a restaurant or have a drink at the Rikki Tiki Tavern, you’ll need to pay $2 to access the pier.
3. Exploration Tower
The seventh floor of the Exploration Tower is more than a good place to enjoy panoramic views of Port Canaveral or stargaze in the city. It is also an excellent spot to do some launch viewing on the Space Coast! While this is a popular viewing spot, the facility may be closed for some launches, so it’s best to call ahead. Also, tickets can be pre-purchased or on-site and cost $50.
4. Jetty Park
If you were wondering where to see a rocket launch on the Space Coast and want that place to have NASA’s approval, then Jetty Park is your go-to option. This beautiful 35-acre park is popular among locals thanks to its recreational activities, such as surfing, kayaking, and bike riding. Jetty Park is ideal for enjoying a family beach day and viewing a rocket launch if you have kids. You have to pay $15 per vehicle ($5 if you live on Florida’s Space Coast) to get in.
5. Kelly Park East
Located on the shores of the Banana River in Merritt Island, adjacent to Port Canaveral, Kelly Park offers a great view of rocket launches. Like Jetty Park, this 15.37-acre community river park has many amenities (pavilions, picnic facilities, grills, playgrounds, etc.) you can enjoy while waiting for the launch. Its waterfront view and facilities attract many people during the spring and summer seasons, so advanced reservations are recommended.
6. Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex
NASA’s Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex is as good as it gets when it comes to Space Coast rocket launch viewing spots. With exhibits, memorabilia, IMAX theaters, and simulated space rides, the complex is every space fan’s dream. It has two prime viewing locations of rocket launches: the Saturn V Center and LC-39 Observation Gantry. For even better views, you can book a close seat at the LC-39 Observation Gantry for an extra $49 or at the Banana Creek Launch Viewing Area for an extra $20.
7. Lori Wilson Park
Right in the heart of Cocoa Beach is Lori Wilson Park, a seaside park with dunes and coastal hammocks. Besides being a perfect place for a beachside picnic or refreshing dips in the Atlantic, the Lori Wilson Park is a great viewing area in the Space Coast, with the best spots usually along the causeway. There are plenty of parking spaces, and the entrance is free.
8. Manzo Park
Manzo Park makes another excellent spot for launch viewing on the Space Coast. Located in Titusville, this riverfront park offers unblocked views of rockets on launching day. Why? Well, because there’s nothing but the Indian River Lagoon between the park and the launch pads. Unlike other spots, Manzo Park and its restrooms stay open to the public when a launch is scheduled after normal hours.
9. Marina Park
Also located in Titusville along the Indian River Lagoon, the Marina Park shoreline makes an excellent launch viewing venue. This community riverfront park is equipped to service your recreational needs, including a boat ramp and dock, playground, or dog-friendly park. These amenities make this park another family-friendly spot to watch rockets blasting off.
10. Max Brewer Bridge
Max Brewer Bridge is an iconic sight in Titusville and is one of the most popular venues for launch viewing on the Space Coast. Especially on important launch days, Max Brewer Bridge becomes a sea of people. So, to get a good viewing spot, you need to arrive early. The Max Brewer Bridge has an inclined gradient (for which it has a gentle “slope”). So, if you want to experience the best views of rockets blasting off, climb to the “top” of the bridge.
11. Parrish Park
By now, you should notice that Titusville is home to many launch viewing spots in the Space Coast, and Parrish Park is another one of these. This park is only 10 miles from the closest Kennedy Space Center launch pad, which means it’s one of the top viewing sites on Florida’s Space Coast. You can get there by car since the park offers paved parking for 46 cars and 47 boat trailer spaces and unpaved parking for up to 100 vehicles.
12. Playalinda Beach
Set inside Canaveral National Seashore, Playalinda Beach is one of America’s national parks. The serene environment and pristine shoreline of the park’s undeveloped beach make for a prime viewing location. If you take a short walk down the beach, you can be within 5 miles of the launch. Although Playalinda Beach usually opens for launch viewing, always check their website for the most up-to-date info regarding launches.
13. Port Canaveral
Port Canaveral is a world-class cruise and cargo port located just south of Kennedy Space Center. Nicknamed ‘Florida’s Fun Port,’ the busy port offers great spots to witness the liftoff of the rockets from the launch pad. Make sure to arrive early on important launching days since Port Canaveral limits the parking spaces. The same advice goes for cruise arrivals and rocket launches scheduled the same day.
14. Rotary Riverfront Park
Located along the Indian River Lagoon on U.S. 1, the Rotary Riverfront Park is another good place for launch viewing on the Space Coast. This public park is approximately 13 miles from the launch complexes at Kennedy Space Center and has many areas where you can watch the launches. However, the park’s prime viewing spots are the fishing pier and observation deck.
15. Sand Point Park
Sand Point Park is one of Titusville’s community parks and a popular launch viewing site. The park is less than 15 miles directly across from the Kennedy Space Center launch pads, so unblocked launching views are guaranteed. Near the park’s south entrance is the Astronaut Memorial Plaza, which commemorates the astronaut crews of the Apollo, the Challenger, and more recently, the Columbia Space Shuttle.
16. Sidney Fischer Park
Sidney Fischer Park is an ocean-front park that is a favorite among Florida families. The 10-acre park is ideal for a picnic day providing many amenities, including picnic pavilions, playground, volleyball, and restrooms. It is also an excellent beachside spot to witness rockets blasting off. The parking fee is $15 for cars and recreational vehicles. The park closes at dusk, and there is no overnight parking permitted.
17. Space View Park
Located only 15 miles directly across from the launch pads, Space View Park is one of the most popular viewing areas for rocket launches. This is the first and only park in America that honors astronauts and the men and women who helped America lead the world in space exploration. Take a walk throughout the park to learn about the history of space exploration. You can also check the handprints from the legendary Mercury and Gemini astronauts.
18. State Road 401
If you want a remote viewing spot, State Road 401 is a great place from where to see a rocket launch on the Space Coast. It is located close to Port Canaveral and offers views of the launch pad from across the water. This is also the closest location available for viewing boosters landing LZ-1 and LZ-2. You’re free to pull off onto the side of the road and enjoy launching views from the comfort of your car.
19. The Cove at Port Canaveral
The Cove is the port’s prime entertainment district with plenty of great dining, shopping, and entertainment options to enjoy. Its waterfront restaurants and bars are probably the most comfortable option to enjoy spectacular views of a rocket launch on Florida’s Space Coast. You can enjoy fresh drinks and a lunch at the same time that you see SpaceX rockets land, and other rockets blast off. Make sure you get there early or make a reservation to get a table.
20. The NASA Causeway
This spot located within the Kennedy Space Center offers an up-close and personal view of all three launch pads across the Indian River. The NASA Causeway is one of those places where there really are no bad spots to witness the rockets launching. Being such a wide-open space, the NASA Causeway is also a great place to bring family and friends to enjoy a picnic.
21. Westgate Cocoa Beach Pier
The world-famous Westgate Cocoa Beach Pier is a historic landmark and a local favorite. Thanks to the array of activities it offers, the Westgate Cocoa Beach Pier is described as ‘not just a day at the beach.’ Besides all the beach fun, Westgate Cocoa Beach Pier is also a great venue to enjoy spectacular views of rocket launches. The pier stretches out 800 feet over the Atlantic Ocean, offering plenty of room to pick your ideal viewing spot.
Bonus: Roadside Locations
If you just want to catch a glimpse of the launch and continue driving to your next destination, a few roads of the Space Coast offer spots with phenomenal views. The roadside locations include State Road 528, State Road A1A in Cocoa Beach U.S., and Highway 1 in Titusville between State Roads 405 and 402. Once you’ve carefully pulled off the road, Get ready to experience rocket launches from the comfort of your car.
Do you know of other launch viewing spots on the Space Coast? Or do you have a favorite? Let me know any questions in the comments!