The Space Coast, more specifically Melbourne, was stop number nine on my Big Gay Florida Road Trip. After a nonstop twelve days on the road in busier regions, I was eager to relax and unwind in a more suburban Florida town. I got exactly that in Melbourne, along Florida’s Space Coast.
Located directly to the East of Orlando, the Space Coast is 72 miles north to south, with Melbourne at the southern-most end and the Kennedy Space Center towards the northern end. Fishing, golfing, snorkeling, sunbathing, and even kayaking through an African habitat, are all part of a Space Coast road trip experience.
I stayed in Melbourne, Florida, along the Indian River Lagoon. Melbourne may be a popular suburban town, but its tourist appeal is due to its miles of beautiful beaches and sunrise views.
If your Space Coast road trip starts from the Fort Lauderdale or the Palm Beaches region, as mine did, then stop to stretch your legs and grab a bite to eat in The Eau Gallie Arts District on your way into town.
The hub of excitement in Melbourne, however, is in Historic Downtown Melbourne, which offers several dining, shopping, and entertainment options.
Melbourne is also home to several annual festivals such as the Independent Filmmaker’s Festival, Arts Festival, Aviation Day and Oktoberfest. And if you’re looking for the Space Coast road trip gay experience, it’s in Melbourne, home of Space Coast Pride.
A bit further up Florida’s Space Coast, you can enjoy a bioluminescence kayak adventure in Titusville. And make sure to visit the Kennedy Space Center on your way out of town.
Since I spent most of my time in Melbourne, Florida, I’ll cover the where to stay and eat for the region. If you’d like more info about the Space Coast in general, check out our Space Coast regional page here.
How Gay is Melbourne, FL?
While gays aren’t flocking to Melbourne, Florida at the speeds that they flock to Fort Lauderdale and Miami, there is still a robust LGBTQ community. Not only is Melbourne home to Space Coast Pride, but they even have a gay bar and a local LGBTQ gathering at The Sun Shoppe Cafe. So make sure to add a Melbourne road trip stop on your gay Florida vacation.
Twisted Rooster Bar
1220 W New Haven Ave #150, Melbourne, FL 32904
The Twisted Rooster Bar in Melbourne, Florida is known for three things – dancing, drinks and divas! A vision of Founder Jimit Kapadia, The Twisted Rooster opened its doors in 2018 as a place to offer great entertainment, a unique experience, and pure fun! The bar attracts people of all backgrounds and demographics, but, as can be seen by its logo, it’s a top spot for LGBTQ nightlife.
The LGBTQ bar is currently closed, but check back for updates.
Space Coast Pride
Space Coast Pride is formerly known as The Living Room of Brevard, which began in 2007 as a small picnic. The festivities take place in the Historic Eau Gallie Arts District in Melbourne, Florida. With over 170 vendors, two entertainment stages, an indoor vendor expo, over 60 parade units, and more than 12,000 attendees, this pride celebration is not one to miss. The organization also hosts a Pride Gala, Ambassador Pageant and 5K thought the year.
Unfortunately, due to COVID, Space Coast Pride has cancelled all 2020 events. The 5K will be held in a virtual format.
Where to Stay in Melbourne
As mentioned, Melbourne has a suburban feel, overall, so there is no doubt that you can find a cozy Air B&B in the downtown region. But if you’re looking for water views, check out the Crowne Plaza Melbourne Oceanfront or the Crane Creek Inn.
Crowne Plaza Melbourne Oceanfront
2605 North Highway A1A, Melbourne
This popular hotel is situated on the Atlantic shore. It’s a great location for visitors who want to explore the Space Coast and still be within an hour of Orlando. Some guest rooms and suites have balconies with ocean views. Free wifi is included in your room and throughout most common areas.
Enjoy a dip in the ocean or pool. Or just relax and listen to the waves with a drink under one of the umbrellas around the beach and pool area. Reserve your slice of paradise here.
COVID Note: While this hotel is taking the necessary precautions to keep people safe, it was nearly impossible to socially isolate in the lobby area. I suggest having your mask with you at all times, as it’s not required to be worn indoors in this part of the state. This hotel is currently operating at higher-than-recommended occupancies and is hosting both groups and events. Still, I felt very safe in my room and outside in the dining and beach areas.
My Tip: Watch both sunrise and sunset from your balcony room. The views are incredible!
Crane Creek Inn
907 East Melbourne Avenue, Melbourne
This waterfront Bed & Breakfast overlooks both the Crane Creek and Indian River. This upscale piece of paradise was completely renovated in 2019. Each of the five rooms has its own bath and deck or patio.
The property features beautiful grounds with views of the Crane Creek and Indian River. Don’t be surprised if you spot a gator or manatee from the boardwalk! Unwind with a complimentary beverage, or a dip in the heated swimming pool.
If you decide to leave this oasis, the many restaurants and shops of historic Downtown are just a short walk away. Start planning your time at this great little B&B here.
Other Places to Stay
Where to Eat & Drink in Melbourne
Hungry? Then you’re in luck! From pizza to seafood to brewery favorites, Melbourne has something for every taste bud. I was only in Melbourne for one night, so please excuse the lack of breadth in my food and drink review, but these are a few of the spots I visited, or were suggested to me by the Space Coast Florida Visitor’s Bureau.
FM Pizza Oven
1436 Highland Avenue, Melbourne
As mentioned above, my first food experience in Melbourne, Florida was FM Pizza Oven. You can’t go wrong with anything on the menu. The popular pizza spot is built into a historic former bank building which has been a part of the district since 1922. FM Pizza Oven started as a local wood-fired food truck and opened its physical address in 2019. The interior features two dining rooms, space for private events, and a craft cocktail SpeakEasy.
The restaurant offers outdoor seating as well as indoors and has been operating through COVID.
Check out their menu here.
My Tip: Try the meatballs or meatball Margherita pizza. The crust is the perfect thinness and the sauce is sweet and savory, just as I like it. If you like living on the edge and marching to the beat of your own drummer, then, by all means, order that Hawaiian pizza or the 5 Pepper Pie. If you opt for the last one, have a glass of water and a handful of Tums at the ready.
801 East New Haven Avenue, Melbourne
Whether you’re looking for a light bite or a full lunch or dinner, Matt’s Casbah has something for everyone. Matt’s eclectic global menu has plenty of options from vegan to beyond. They also have also a sushi bar and an extensive wine list. Dine inside in the upscale dining area, the more casual pub side, or outside on their spacious patio. Late nights the music gets turned-up and the Casbah becomes a party hot spot.
My Tip: Be adventurous! As a seafood lover and the wife of a fishmonger, I felt it my civic obligation to try the fried yellowtail collar (AKA throat) with seaweed salad and sesame rice. Although a bit scary looking to some, the flavors of this dish were FINtastic! This may have been a special for the evening, but it’s worth the ask to see if it’s available. The sauce alone was worth the experience.
Melbourne Seafood Station
2001 South Harbor City Boulevard, Melbourne
Housed in a vintage gas station, The Seafood Station is the perfect place to pull into for quick, casual, and fresh seafood. There are plenty of menu options and preparations to choose from. The Station’s specialty is the Florida Low Country Boil featuring savory seafood, veggies, and unique spices.
In addition to the historic Downtown location there are three other Seafood Stations in the Melbourne metro area. Check out their menu and locations here.
Long Doggers Indialantic
890 Miramar Avenue, Indiatlantic
Join the locals and pick up the good vibrations of Long Doggers hip and friendly surf shack. Since 1997 they’ve been serving popular casual fare including wings, fish and chips, and Mahi tacos. They offer an extensive gluten-free menu and plenty of vegetarian options.
The whole family, including well-mannered and leashed pups, will enjoy Long Doggers outside dining deck. Check out their menus and other Space Coast locations here.
652 West Eau Gallie Bouleverd, Melbourne
Wind down the day with your choice of local beers in the heart of the Eau Gallie Arts District (EGAD). Intracoastal Brewing offers a rotating beer menu featuring seasonal options and local favorites. Don’t worry about choosing just one – they serve flights of your choosing.
Find a seat at one of their outdoor picnic tables and sample their craft while you enjoy entertainment such as trivia or live music. When you’re ready to go, grab a growler container to share with your friends back home.
Discover the latest and greatest brews and entertainment schedule here.
Things to Do on a Space Coast Road Trip
While I spent most of my time in Melbourne, there are plenty of things to do while on a Space Coast road trip. Spend time in downtown Melbourne and the Eau Gallie Arts District, but also make sure to venture up north to the Kennedy Space Station. With today’s renewed focus on space discovery, this is the perfect time to catch a shuttle launch. Spend time in Titusville for a kayak experience you’ll never forget. And finally, don’t forget a visit to the zoo for a safari water ride!
Eau Gallie Arts District Murals
1542 Guava Avenue, Melbourne (and surrounding blocks)
The charming Eu Gallie Arts District (EGAD), on the Indian River Lagoon, is a thriving area for entertainment, dining, and culture. The district is home to several galleries and the Foosaner Art Museum. Period buildings include the Rossetter House Museum & Gardens, restored to its 1908 appearance.
One of the most unique artistic attractions of this historic community is its outdoor mural “museum.” The collection features over 20 amazing creations by local and nationally recognized artists.
Plan to join a guided mural tour or explore on your own here.
My Tip: Have I mentioned pizza? Ok, so then I won’t remind you again to stop at FM Pizza Oven. (I swear I haven’t been paid to promote them, but their pizza is just THAT GOOD!) Also, bring a friend or a selfie stick tripod to capture some fun images in front of the local murals, like the one I took above.
Derek Gores Gallery
587 W Eau Gallie Blvd Ste 101, Melbourne
Collage artist Derek Gores gallery focuses on eclectic work by local and national contemporary artists. Gores’ collage and illustrations are detailed and sometimes whimsical. His series “Unmentionables” features whimsical charcoal drawings of vintage lingerie.
The Gallery also serves as home to interactive events. Audiences can enjoy performances by the local “Not Quite Right” improv group or participate in “Dr. Sketchy” live drawing social gatherings. Get in on the culture here.
Canova Beach Dog Park
3299 Highway A1A, Indian Harbour Beach
Canova Beach Park is fun for the entire family. Even your four-legged family members can enjoy this dog-friendly beach!
Situated over nine acres of Atlantic shoreline this is a great spot for surfing or skim boarding. People and pets can take a sun break at the small, shaded pavilion or a picnic area. After your time in the surf head over to one of several dog-friendly restaurants and cafes in the area.
Insider tip: The access ramp for Canova Dog Beach is to the right of the public restroom at the free parking area. Plan your day at the beach here.
8225 North Wickham Road, Melbourne
The 75-acre Brevard Zoo is home to over 900 animals. Tour the animal exhibits via shaded paths or from the waterway in a rental kayak! Climb a platform to see eye-to-eye with Giraffes at feeding time.
Young visitors will enjoy the children’s water and splash park. Adventurous visitors can check out the view from the Tree Top Trek zip line aerial obstacle course! Start planning your zoo adventures here.
Shopping in Downtown Melbourne
New Haven Avenue and surrounding streets, Melbourne
Experience the charm of historic Downtown Melbourne. This vibrant shopping and entertainment district dates back to the 1800s. Now the neighborhood is home to delightful shops, restaurants, and a thriving arts scene. It’s also home to the region’s historic Melbourne Hotel, now called the 1900 building.
Be sure to check out the dozen murals located throughout the historic district. Each mural was created by local artists and organizations to highlight the history and unique atmosphere of the community. I never pass up a mural selfie opp, especially when it includes a giant glass of Florida orange juice and a friendly blue jay.
Learn more about Downtown Melbourne here.
Surfing in Cocoa Beach
Florida’s Space Coast is known for its rocket launches and race cars. It’s also been home to a vibrant surfing community since the 1960s. Locals will tell you Cocoa is considered the surfing capital of the eastern U.S.
Head over to the Cocoa Beach pier to catch a glimpse of surfers in action. Adventures travelers might want to try catching a wave of their own. Several concessions rent boards and provide lessons. Cocoa Beach is home to the legendary Ron Jon, supposedly the largest surf shop in the world! Get ready for your surf adventures here.
A Day Away Kayak Tours, Titusville
Bask in the literal blue glow of the Space Coast waters. Check out the natural phenomenon of bioluminescence, created by plankton, from a clear-bottom kayak. Expert guides lead you safely through the enchanting waters of a nature refuge. Even first-time kayakers will enjoy the beauty of this magical experience.
Find out more about these unique excursions and other kayak tour options here.
Kennedy Space Center
Space Commerce Way, Merritt Island
Get in touch with your inner astronaut and visit this national landmark. This is a must-visit place on your Florida Space Coast road trip. Visitors to Kennedy Space Center can get up-close to outer space.
I grew up in the Washington, D.C. area and my mother worked for NASA, so anything NASA has a special place in my heart. I grew up eating astronaut ice cream, collecting pins and patches, and visiting the Air & Space Museum. Nearly 20 years ago, during my mother’s business trip and family vacation to Florida, I met Buzz Aldrin and Neil Armstrong at the Kennedy Space Center during an awards banquet. All of these experiences forever remain etched in my mind as favorite childhood memories.
For me, visiting the Kennedy Space Center was like revisiting the best parts of my childhood. The Kennedy Space Center is equivalent to visiting a theme park without a ton of rides, although they do have one or two. The Space Center is the Air & Space Museum on steroids!
The Kennedy Space Center is organized into “Mission Zones” by era of space travel. You can use the app in advance to input your interests and map-out your journey! Whatever you choose don’t miss the Rocket Garden for some great photo opps! Here are a few of my personal favorites.
If you want to witness history in the making, find out about future rocket launches here.
Insider Tips: Consider purchasing advance tickets online. Arrive early to avoid lines and having to park far. There is a fee for
parking. Pets are not permitted in the complex, however, there is a free air-conditioned kennel where your pet pals can relax during your visit.
My Tip: Pretend you’re a kid again and let yourself fully enjoy this incredible experience and historical treasure.
As Melbourne, Brevard County, and surrounding areas of the Space Coast reopen information is frequently being updated to best meet the needs of the community and insure safety for residents and visitors.
During this unusual time please travel safe. Check with your hosts, restaurants, and other venues in advance to learn their current plans and regulations.
COVID resources and information for this area:
Plan Your Space Coast Road Trip
Florida’s east central region has a lot to offer. Melbourne makes for a great base for exploring the rest of the Space Coast and central east region.
Whether you’re driving through to other parts of the Sunshine State or sticking around to soak up the fun and sun, this exciting area has plenty to offer.
With so much to choose from, we invite you to take some time and plan ahead to craft your perfect Space Coast road trip. Don’t forget your sunglasses!
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