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12 Best Things to Do in Melbourne, FL

Written by Meagan Drillinger
Sep 14, 2022

Welcome to one of the best beach towns on Florida's Atlantic coast. Melbourne, FL has an ideal location along the banks of both the Indian River Lagoon and Florida's world-renowned Space Coast. It's a paradise for adventure lovers, beach bums, foodies, and festivals. Read on to discover the best things to do in Melbourne, Florida.

Canova Beach Park
Canova Beach Park | Photo Copyright: Meagan Drillinger

Less than an hour from Cape Canaveral, Melbourne has a coveted spot along the Space Coast. A quick trip up I-95 will put you at the doorstep of the Kennedy Space Center and all the history and science that comes with that.

Across the channel in Melbourne Beach, you'll find powdery soft stretches of shoreline, state parks brimming with wildlife, fishing, snorkeling, and beachfront parks.

Over in Historic Downtown Melbourne is the buzz of activity. Here is the best dining, shopping, and entertainment in the city. Wildlife can be found at every turn in Melbourne, as well, from the botanical gardens to the turtle sanctuary, the wetlands, and beyond.

The bottom line? Whatever your interest, Melbourne has something incredible to discover. If you're ready to choose your own adventure, read on to see the best things to do in Melbourne, Florida.

1. Brevard Zoo

Lorikeet at Brevard Zoo
Lorikeet at Brevard Zoo

With so much wildlife on land and in the surrounding waters, it's safe to say that the entire state of Florida is one giant outdoor zoo. Still, a visit to the Brevard Zoo in Melbourne is a sure-fire way to guarantee that you are seeing some truly exotic animals.

One of the best things to do in Melbourne, the zoo opened in 1994 with a jaguar, tapirs, anteaters, and monkeys and birds. Today the Brevard Zoo is a 75-acre space with more than 900 animals that are native to not only Florida, but South America, Africa, Asia, and Australia.

Brevard Zoo
Brevard Zoo | Photo Copyright: Meagan Drillinger

Visitors can stroll the wooden boardwalks that wind through the thick, leafy jungle environment to discover the many different exhibits and habitats.

Not only can visitors stop by and visit with animals, but they also have the opportunity to get a bit more hands-on at this popular tourist attraction, with opportunities for people to feed giraffes or brilliantly colored lorikeets. Get up close and personal with the resident rhinos, or take a kayak, and paddle around on a guided tour through Expedition Africa.

Address: 8225 N Wickham Road, Melbourne, Florida

2. Sebastian Inlet State Park

Sebastian Inlet State Park
Sebastian Inlet State Park | Photo Copyright: Meagan Drillinger

South of Melbourne Beach, enroute to Vero Beach, is one of Florida's most beautiful and coveted state parks. Sebastian Inlet State Park sits on a barrier island facing the Atlantic Ocean and is known for its pristine beaches, sea turtle nests, and 70,000 acres of land that used to be called the Cross Florida Barge Canal.

Driving through Sebastian Inlet State Park will have you feeling transported from the energy of Melbourne and Melbourne Beach. The local traffic melts away into long stretches of green-lined highway, bordered on either end by white, soft sand and sparkling blue water.

The actual Sebastian Inlet is a manmade slice through the island that connects the Atlantic Ocean with the Indian River Lagoon. Around the lagoon are several boating facilities that take visitors all around the lush landscape for fishing and diving.

Within the park are more than 50 campsites, as well as two museums and walking paths.

Sebastian Inlet State Park also happens to be one of the top surf destinations in Florida, known for its "First Peak" and "Monster Hole" breaks.

3. Paradise Beach

Paradise Beach
Paradise Beach | Photo Copyright: Meagan Drillinger

One look at Paradise Beach, and its name will become apparent. Powdery soft sand and a seemingly endless stretch of Atlantic waves gives you a perfect introduction to the beach scene here in Melbourne, FL.

Because it is centrally located right at the entrance to Melbourne Beach, this is one of the most popular beaches on the Space Coast. It also happens to be home to the Howard E. Futch Memorial Park, a 12-acre park with sand dunes, volleyball courts, picnic pavilions, grills, outdoor showers, and restrooms. To put it simply, it is a full-service beach that caters to nearly everyone.

With that said, though, expect crowds, especially on weekends. But the stretch of sand is so expansive that it's highly likely that everyone will be able to find a space of their own to sprawl out and enjoy.

4. Ritch Grissom Memorial Wetlands

Ritch Grissom Memorial Wetlands
Ritch Grissom Memorial Wetlands | Photo Copyright: Meagan Drillinger

Down a dusty road, away from one of Melbourne's busiest thoroughfares, is a quiet pocket of preserved area that is a prime spot for nature lovers. The Ritch Grissom Memorial Wetlands, also known as the Viera Wetlands, is a favorite spot among eco-travelers, photographers, and bird lovers.

The wetlands sit between Moccasin Island Tract and the Brevard Zoo, so while it may feel like another world away, the 200-acre park is actually quite close to Melbourne. Within the park are many ponds, a butterfly garden, and hundreds of birds – so many birds, in fact, that the site is a stop along the Great Florida Birding Trail.

Address: 3658 Charlie Corbeil Way, Viera, Florida

5. Historic Downtown

Historic downtown Melbourne
Historic downtown Melbourne | Photo Copyright: Meagan Drillinger

Melbourne, Florida may be all about the coast, but its historic downtown packs plenty in for visitors to learn about the city. The quaint historic district is packed with restaurants, boutiques, public art, and outdoor lounges, making it a really fun area to explore any time of the day.

Downtown Melbourne sits right on the waterfront, perched on the edge of Indian River Lagoon. It has direct access to Crane Creek, which is a popular spot for fishing and canoeing.

You'll also find a large selection of green space in downtown Melbourne, and many of the walls are splashed with brilliantly colored, commissioned murals. You can take yourself on a DIY outdoor art walk simply by strolling the streets of downtown Melbourne.

Downtown has more than 40 different restaurants ranging from craft ice cream to Italian, Cuban, and seafood. Most of the restaurants here are locally owned, as well, with ample outdoor dining space to enjoy the deliciously warm weather.

6. Florida Tech Botanical Garden

Joy & Gordon Patterson Botanical Garden
Joy & Gordon Patterson Botanical Garden | Photo Copyright: Meagan Drillinger

Wander the grounds of Florida Tech to discover the lush, dreamy Joy & Gordon Patterson Botanical Garden. The 15-acre garden makes its way through the heart of the campus, peppered with palm trees that follow a winding stream.

The journey through the garden will be along the Dent Smith Trail. Dent Smith was the founder of the Palm Society, which is an international organization devoted to studying palm trees. The campus is actually home to around 200 species of palm trees. Along the walk, you'll pass plenty of bridges and pavilions.

One of the highlights of the garden is the Little Red Schoolhouse, which was once a working schoolhouse for the children of early settlers. It is one of the county's oldest structures.

Address: 150 W University Blvd, Melbourne, Florida

7. Sea Turtle Preservation Society

Loggerhead turtle with a satellite transmitter on the beach in Melbourne
Loggerhead turtle with a satellite transmitter on the beach in Melbourne

Ninety percent of the sea turtles that nest in the United States come to the coasts of Florida to do so. And the beaches along Melbourne are some of the most important for turtle conservation. The 72 miles of beaches in Brevard County have some of the largest nesting sites of loggerhead sea turtles, so it is a prime focus of the Space Coast to keep their native residents thriving.

At the Sea Turtle Preservation Society, volunteers are committed to helping the sea turtles that nest in Florida survive. They oversee the protection of the leatherback, loggerhead, and green sea turtles that come to lay their eggs every year.

Visitors can get involved in helping with the sea turtles, too. They host activities like regular beach cleanups, charity races, and turtle night walks. The night walks allow guided groups to observe the nesting loggerhead sea turtles, which is a beautiful, unforgettable experience.

Address: 111 S Miramar Ave, Indialantic, Florida

8. Historic Rossetter House Museum and Gardens

Historic Rossetter House Museum and Gardens
Historic Rossetter House Museum and Gardens | Photo Copyright: Meagan Drillinger

Melbourne's historic district is known as Eau Gallie, and there is no better place to visit to learn about the history of Melbourne than at the Historic Rossetter House Museum and Gardens. Originally home to the Rossetter Family, the house was built in 1908. Today it serves as a museum and historical society to help tell the story of Florida's history.

The house itself is a beautiful structure and sits on the National Register of Historic Places. Tours are given Wednesdays through Saturdays. The guided tours include the interior of the museum, the Roesch House across the street, as well as the gardens and family cemetery, which dates back to 1865.

Address: 1320 Highland Ave, Melbourne, Florida

9. Brevard County Erna Nixon Park

Erna Nixon Park
Erna Nixon Park | Photo Copyright: Meagan Drillinger

Not far from the bustling, beachy streets of Melbourne is the Erna Nixon Park, one of the best and most beautiful natural escapes along the Space Coast. Meander the park atop the wooden boardwalk that takes visitors straight into the heart of the foliage.

The boardwalk runs a loop nearly a mile long through a thick oak hammock, past broadly fanned ferns, through fields of sawgrass, and across a marsh. The experience is wonderful for enjoying so many different types of Florida landscapes in one spot.

The entire park is nearly 54 acres and is home to wildlife like the gopher tortoise, pileated woodpeckers, and others. A small butterfly garden is found at the park, as well.

Address: 1200 Evans Road, West Melbourne, Florida

10. Andretti Thrill Park

Andretti Thrill Park
Andretti Thrill Park | Photo Copyright: Meagan Drillinger

Looking for a jolt of adrenaline? Look no further than the Andretti Thrill Park. For more than 20 years, Andretti Thrill Park has been entertaining families with rides and attractions in Melbourne, FL.

Wind your way around the F1 Speed Track, or swerve a figure 8 along the Super Speedway. Amp up the challenge at the Jr. Indy Track, or take it down a notch at Rookie Row.

Among the other attractions are laser tag, a Drop N Twist Tower, and miniature golf. You'll also be able to try a climbing wall or cruise down the lazy river.

Need a little AC break? The indoor arcade spans a massive 7,000 square feet, with more than 100 games.

Address: 3960 S Babcock Street, Melbourne, Florida

Official site: https://andrettithrillpark.com/

11. Canova Beach Park

Canova Beach Park
Canova Beach Park | Photo Copyright: Meagan Drillinger

You'll have your pick of beaches along Melbourne's coast, but Canova Beach Park is certainly one of the best. Touching nine acres of coast, this community beach is one of the prettiest in Melbourne.

Directly in front of the bridge that crosses from the mainland, this easily accessible beach features a small pavilion, grill, picnic center, and a sprawling stretch of white-sand beach.

The popular beach area is a top choice along the Space Coast for swimming, fishing, and surfing. It is also one of Brevard County's only dog-friendly beaches.

Address: 3299 N Hwy A1A, Indialantic, Florida

12. Kennedy Space Center

Rocket Garden at the Kennedy Space Center
Rocket Garden at the Kennedy Space Center

And finally, a visit to the Space Coast is incomplete without a visit to the inspiration for the nickname: the Kennedy Space Center. Though technically about an hour north of Melbourne, one of the biggest draws to the destination is to go visit the world-famous complex at Cape Canaveral.

From 1968 to 1975, The Kennedy Space Center was the site of 13 Saturn V launches, three Skylab flights, all Space Shuttle flights between 1981-2011, and others. It is a tremendous part of U.S. and space history.

The NASA-operated visitor center is the best place for space enthusiasts to learn all about the various NASA missions and projects that have happened in the past or are ongoing. The complex is divided into Mission Zones, and tours are grouped by time period. You can learn all about the early legends of space research and discovery and even take behind-the-scenes sightseeing tours of the launch sites.

If you're lucky enough to be in town during a launch, why not grab a front-row seat and witness history in the making right from the Kennedy Space Center? It has the closest public viewing space, which will allow you to capture the sheer magnitude of the event in real time.

Address: Space Commerce Way, Merritt Island, Florida

Official site: https://www.kennedyspacecenter.com/

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