Location: New Smyrna Beach, Florida
Webpage: National Park
General Description: At 24 miles long, the beaches of Canaveral National Seashore are the longest stretch of undeveloped beaches on the East Coast. The National Seashore consists of 57,662 acres of sand dunes and salt water mashes on the barrier island between Mosquito Lagoon and the Atlantic Ocean from New Smyna Beach to the John F. Kennedy Space Center. Except on foot, access to the National Seashore is either from the south along Playalinda Beach or the north along Apollo Beach. The southern section provides beach access to the ocean and boat docks to the lagoon. The northern section consists of a 6 mile road with hiking trails and the historic community of Eldora.
1) The Visitor Center is one of the first stops in the northern section and is very small consisting of two small exhibits and a souvenir store. Once again I was disappointed that there was not even a short movie to give the history and sample of the habitats contained in the Seashore.
2) Before you arrive a the Visitor Center, there is a stop that should not be missed. Turtle Mound is a thousand of years old shell mound. It towers over 35 feet above sea level and was used as a navigation marker by the Timucuan Indians and early settlers. They have constructed a long boardwalk to take visitors to the top of the mound and you have to see it to believe it! The view from the top of the mound of the ocean and lagoon are spectacular.
3) There is a short drive into the the remains of Eldora, consisting of a single surviving home. In the late 1800s, Eldora was an agricultural community with a post office, steamboat stop, and US Lifesaving Service “House of Refuge”. With the arrival of the railroads along the East Coast of Florida in 1898, Eldora shifted from agriculture to winter seasonal homes for the wealthy. This lasted until the Great Depression in 1938 and Eldora fell into ruin. The surviving home has been restored by the Friends of Canaveral as an example of this period.
4) There are numerous small parking areas to gain access to the beaches, which are beautiful and pristine without all the development found everywhere else along the coast.
5) There is a very easy hiking trail from one of these parking areas that cuts across the landscape to the lagoon and Castle Windy, another Indian shell mound. There is a trail guide for the hike that give information about the cross section of the habitat you get as you walk from the saltwater ocean to the brackish lagoon. In a span of a few hundred feet you can notice the live oak trees getting larger the further you get from the salt spray of the ocean. The guide pointed out a couple of tropical species of plants that are at their northern extent including the nakedwood tree that has no bark, wild sour orange trees, and wild coffee plants.