Florida State Archives, Historic Cocoa

Image Courtesy of the Florida State Archives

6 Space Coast History Tours to Experience

Go back in time on the Space Coast

Florida’s Space Coast is full of history. From the indigenous Indian tribes to early settlers and the dawn of space exploration, there are so many people and events that shaped our slice of paradise over the decades. You can experience it all this school year by checking out some of these amazing Space Coast museums, parks, and places dedicated to preserving the past and looking forward to the future!

Encounter the Indigenous People of the Space Coast

Ais Trail

The Ais Indians were the first documented indigenous civilization to inhabit what we would begin to call the  Space Coast.  Ther presence was well known as Florida’s history was being documented by European colonizers.  In fact, one of the first contacts between North American Indians and European explorers happened around 1513 when Juan Ponce de Leon encountered the Ais tribe in an area near Cape Canaveral. The earliest written account of the Ais, was in 1570 by Spanish admiral and explorer, Pedro Menéndez de Avilés, Their ancestry dates further than Pre-Columbian time, though not specifically stated, and ended in this area around 1763. The Ais’ use of their natural surroundings, including stone and shells, not only gave insight to their way of life, but also paved the way for later development, and cultivation, of such resources in modern time. We can even attribute some of the Space Coast’s waterways to the Ais people, as remnants of old foundations and canals were discovered and dated to their time of inhabitation. Enjoy a day outdoors at The Ais Trail Park in Palm Bay where walking trails, a canoe/kayak/SUP launch, and beautiful shade trees provide the perfect spot to experience what life would have been like for the Ais Tribe with a few modern-day amenities. You can also learn more about this tribe at a little-known exhibit located near the entrance of the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex called Nature and Technology.
 

Want to go dig deeper to other ancient worlds while here on the Space Coast? Then you’ll want to check out the Museum of Dinosaurs and Ancient Cultures in Cocoa Beach where you can see artifacts from ancient cultures and walk amongst the bones of dinosaurs!

Dinosaur Store and Museum of Ancient Cultures

See the History of Indian River Citrus

Field manor

Fun Fact: over 70% of oranges grown in the United States come from Floridian groves and Florida is second only to Brazil in orange production (the latter growing a third of all the oranges in the world). Juan Ponce de Leon planted the first trees in St. Augustine between 1513 and 1565. Here on the Space Coast, a man named Douglas Dummit established the Indian River Citrus industry on Merritt Island in the 1830s. The industry boomed back then, with the Indian River Lagoon serving as the perfect way to transport citrus crops from grove to packing house and onward! Places like the Porcher House in Historic Cocoa Village and Field Manor in Merritt Island are a testament to the time and offer unique history tours to this day!  

Field Manor is the most interactive of the citrus industry relics in the area. It is a National Register Property and living history museum that includes an 1880’s farmhouse and 45 acres working citrus grove. They offer historic tours, educational programs, and more recently, have begun hosting events called “Exhibition Days.” Where you can gather under their pavilion, with views of their 320 ft. riverfront shoreline, and explore different artifacts from the early days in the Space Coast citrus industry.

Experience Settling the Space Coast

Eau Gallie Art District

Did you know, in the 1880’s, the primary means of transportation in this area was on water? And that the extension of Henry Flagler’s Florida East Coast Railroad provided the first real boom on the Space Coast, creating an increased settlement and the start of tourism in this and surrounding areas? The first capital city on the Space Coast was established in what we now call the Eau Gallie Arts District,  and you can explore it in all its history and splendor on a walking tour!

EGAD hosts different tours in the area, including a mural and art tour. But for full immersion into the history of the Space Coast, check out The Florida Stories EGAD Tour. With a free, downloadable app for your smartphone, you can go on a self-guided excursion at your own pace. It is GPS-enabled and includes audio narration and photos for each historic place of interest in the district. You’ll see historic homes, houses, and businesses while learning about the lives of the people who set up shop and settlement on the Space Coast.  

Looking for some more historic streets to stroll? Check out Historic Cocoa Village. This city,  also born from the citrus industry features some of the Space Coast's oldest buildings including the Cocoa Village Playhouse, the S.F. Travis Hardware Store, and the Porcher House. 

Be a Part of Space Coast Surfing History

Surf History

You don’t get called the East Coast Surfing Capital for nothing! Head over to the Florida Surf Museum located in the Ron Jon Surf Shop to learn all about how surfing in Florida came to be and a bit about the famous surfers who put the Space Coast on the map! Then, try it out for yourself and book a surf lesson to become a legend in your own right!

Learn Civil Rights On the Space Coast

Harry V and Harriett T Moore

The United States’ Civil Rights Movement began in the late 1940s with the Civil Rights Act passing legislation in 1964. And while many milestones of this movement were achieved in Montgomery, Little Rock, Birmingham, Greensboro, the March on Washington, and elsewhere, the Space Coast is home to a few Civil Rights heroes as well.  Harry V. and Harriett T. Moore were well-known activists, heavily involved in the desegregating schools and beaches, and brining racial justice and equality to the people of the Space Coast. Tragically, their work was cut short just 68 years ago on Christmas Day. Their home was bombed leading to their deaths, and their legacy has been immortalized at The Harry V. & Harriette T. Moore Memorial Park and Museum located in Mims, Florida.

Complete with a cultural center and museum, 100-seat conference center, historic exhibits, a library, walking trail, and an exact replica of the home the Moore’s lived in, you can walk through history and see firsthand, their major contributions to this area and to the Civil Rights Movement as a whole. Further, a bus tour that highlights historic locations integral to Moore’s story is available to visitors. Outside, check out the gazebo and the Walk of Freedom lined with reflecting pools and fountains, perfect for creating space for dialogue and deep thought.
 

One Small Step for Man one Giant Leap for History on the Space Coast

Early KSC

The Space Coast is America’s Launch Spot, representing innovation in technology and space exploration. The first steps in the development of the Space Coast as we know it today came when, in October 1946, a committee of the Joint Chiefs of Staff decided that Cape Canaveral was the place for military services to test guided missiles. Between Cold War tensions and the Soviet’s successful launch of Sputnik, Congress passed the Aeronautics and Space Act in 1958- giving President Eisenhower the authority to officially establish the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). NASA prompted a huge developmental boom in the area at the time, and again in the 1960’s when President Kennedy made his famous address to Congress proposing that the US should endeavor to put a man on the moon. The rest, as they say, is history, and you can see and hear all about it at some of these impressive sites: Space View Park, Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex, and the American Space Museum.

From exhibits to educational programs and walkthroughs, each of these attractions provides an out-of-this-world experience to be enjoyed by all. You have the chance to immerse yourself in space history by seeing actual spacecraft parts, astronaut suits, and working launch consoles. There are even a variety of hands-on educational STEM activities, to get the kids (and grown-ups) involved even more. It’s educational fun for guests of all ages. Check out the Astronaut Hall of Fame, Rocket Garden, or even have a Shuttle Launch Experience to inform of the past and inspire the future!

History lives and breathes on the Space Coast! Trails, tours, and museums offer a myriad of opportunities to explore and discover a depth of history that made the Space Coast what it is today! Learn something new while you explore the Space Coast.

 

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Space Coast Visitors Guide Cover Image

Vacation Planner for Florida’s Space Coast

The official Space Coast Vacation Planner Guide is now available. There are two ways to get yours: