Introduction To Cape Canaveral and its Port
The city of Cape Canaveral is positioned on the Atlantic coast of Florida, approximately equidistant from Miami and Jacksonville, about forty miles to the east of Orlando. The city is bounded on the north by Port Canaveral, on the west by the Banana River, eastwards by the Atlantic and southwards by Cocoa Beach.
From early times this hazardous part of Florida’s coastline was held in fear by seamen, who named the headland Cape Canaveral. Because of the dangers to shipping, the Cape Canaveral Lighthouse was constructed in 1844, aiding boats to navigate safely avoiding the Cape.
In the early 20th century a little township based around fishing was established just south of Cape Canaveral. The town was given the name Artesia. To the south of Artesia the small settlement of Avon-by-the-Sea, with streets named after presidents, was established by the Brossier bros.
In the second World War 2 naval air bases were built on Florida’s barrier islands, one of which was sited at the Cape. After the War the USAF, searching a promontory jutting into the Atlantic ocean to construct a secure rocket launch site, opted for the Cape. Avon By The Sea and Artesia were swallowed up by houses built for the space workforce of the space complex, and the city of Cape Canaveral came into being.
Work on constructing a deep-harbor facility at Port Canaveral started in 1950, and was finished by 1953. The docks function was to handle the retrieval of booster rocket motors from the ocean.
In the 1970s Port Canaveral made a convenient port-of-call for cruise ships carrying passengers who were keen to call at the theme parks of central Florida. During the next decade, Premier Cruises and Carnival Cruises operated ships from Port Canaveral, selling cruises to Freeport from newly constructed cruise ship facilities. The 1990s were a period of fast expansion for the cruise port, with the construction of cruise terminals 5, 8, and 10. Disney cruises commenced running cruises from the port.
Today over a million people leave on their cruise trip from Port Canaveral each year. Carnival and Disney now have competition from Royal Caribbean and NCL at the port.
Port Canaveral Cruise Terminals
Port Canaveral has several cruise terminals, though just three are in regular use for cruises. These are terminals 5, 8 and 10 which are positioned on the north western shore of the port. On the south side terminal 2 docks a gambling cruise ship, and terminals 3 and 4 are not utilized often.
A Side (North) Terminals
Cruise terminal buildings 5, 8 and 10 are situated on the A or north docks, alongside Charles M Rowland Drive. These modern cruise terminals have longer docks with the ability to berth the largest cruise ships, and all 3 can cope with more than 3000 passengers.
Cruise Terminal 5 is an elegant 2 story building, with a 30ft high glass central hall resplendent with tropical plants and imaginative water features. Embarking passengers are processed on the top storey, debarking cruisers on the bottom.
Cruise Terminal 8 was specified by and built for Disney Cruise Line, and is an attractive art-deco style building with an impressive 80 foot high glass foyer.
Cruise Terminal 10 features a fast passenger embarking/disembarking arrangement, with completely automatic baggage processing.
Each cruise terminal offers the essential facilities including vending machines, check-in desks, pay phones, cab rank, ATMs and restrooms. Next to each terminal stands a parking lot.
B Side (South) Terminals
Cruise terminals 2, 3 and 4 are positioned on the B or south docks, alongside George King Boulevard. These cruise terminals were amongst Port Canaveral’s first facilities dedicated to cruise ships, and all 3 have a capacity about 1800 people. Beside each terminal building there’s a parking lot.
Port Canaveral Sightseeing
Jetty Park is a gorgeous coastline park that offers a beach, picnic areas, pavilions, a playground and camping grounds. The park’s pier is a favorite as it gives close-up views of cruise ships departing from/arriving at Port Canaveral, and rewarding fishing for tarpon, redfish and common jacks. The well-kept sandy beach offers lots of facilities like convenient parking, year-round lifeguards, restrooms and freshwater showers. The lively Cove Waterfront area sited between the park and the port has cafes, restaurants and shops. The park is managed by the Port Authority, and is positioned on the south coast of the port exit channel.
Kennedy Space Center Visitor Center
Even if you’re not old enough to recall ‘That’s one small step for man; one giant leap for mankind”, almost all people are enthralled by the idea of traveling into space. The Kennedy Space Center is the base of NASA’s activities and was the launch pad for the Apollo missions. At the Center you can enjoy the Shuttle Launch Experience, learn about the future of space travel at the Exploration Space exhibition, go by bus to the LC39 Gantry and the Apollo Center and watch a movie at the IMAX center. The Center is around 12 miles north from Port Canaveral.
US Astronaut Hall of Fame
The Astronaut Hall of Fame honors American astronauts. View a fascinating range of memorabilia including the Sigma 7 Mercury rocket, a realistic astronaut training simulator, space suits and the Science On A Sphere show. The Hall of Fame is only 4 miles westwards of the Space Center.
Cocoa Beach Pier
Originally constructed in 1962 Cocoa Beach Pier is amongst the most popular landmarks on Florida’s Space coast. The 800 foot long pier houses souvenir shops, 5 restaurants, four bars and occasional live musical entertainment. The beach next to the pier offers restrooms, year-round life guards, showers and beach-hire concessions. Cocoa Beach is situated only 5 miles south of Port Canaveral.
Orlando Amusement Parks
Head west from the Port on Highway 528 to reach fabulous attractions like Walt Disney World, Universal Studios, Sea World of Florida and Disney/MGM Studios all of which are no more than an hour’s drive away.
Picking a Cruise from Port Canaveral
The range of cruises available include the Eastern Caribbean (San Juan, St Maarten and St Thomas), the Western Caribbean (Cozumel, Grand Cayman, Belize and Roatan), or the Bahamas (Freeport and Nassau). More extensive cruises are occasionally on offer, such as transatlantic cruises to Europe.
Traveling to the Cruise Terminals
North Cruise Terminals
Drive towards Port Canaveral on Highway 528, cross Merritt Island, and leave at the sign for A Cruise Terminals joining SR 401 North. Drive 1 mile on SR 401 North and leave at the sign marked with the cruiselines.
South Cruise Terminals
Approach Port Canaveral on Hwy 528 and leave at the sign for B Cruise Terminals (1/4 mile following SR 401 junction). Next turn left below the bridge onto George King Blvd. Drive 1 mile on George King Blvd. Next follow directions to the required cruise terminal.
Orlando International Airport
Orlando International Airport, positioned in the south eastern fringe of Orlando, is roughly an hour’s drive west from Port Canaveral. A transfer is possible by cab or shuttle.
Melbourne International Airport
Melbourne International Airport is roughly 30 miles south from Port Canaveral. Travel from the airport is possible by shuttle bus or cab.