Indian River Lagoon National Scenic Byway: Yours to Explore
By Dalia Colon
Length: 233 miles.
How to get around: Car or motorcycle.
Best time to visit: Winter, for prime kayaking and camping weather.
Fun fact: Florida’s Treasure Coast gets its nickname from the gold coins that occasionally wash up on shore—a relic from 18th-century Spanish shipwrecks.
Florida’s history spans more than 500 years, and if you’re looking for a crash course, this part of the state is a good place to start.
“You have the history from the first explorers to the first explorers of space,” said Tim Ford, president of the Indian River Lagoon National Scenic Byway Coalition.
The area’s Juan Ponce de Leon Landing Park claims to be the spot where the legendary Spanish explorer first disembarked in what’s now Florida.
Fast-forward to the Space Age, when the world’s eyes were on Kennedy Space Center as it served as a hub for NASA’s history-making launches in the 1960s.
And there to witness it all were more than 4,000 species of plants and animals. From sea turtles and porpoises to palm tree hammocks and scrubby flatwoods, the area is one of the most ecologically diverse in North America. A great time to explore the local flora and fauna is during the Space Coast Birding Festival, held each January in Titusville.
Another can’t-miss way to enjoy nature? Hit the beach. At less than an hour’s drive from Orlando, Florida’s central Atlantic coastline offers the closest beaches to Orlando’s theme parks. After some fun in the sun, cool off inside one of the area’s many indoor attractions, including the American Police Hall of Fame and Museum, Port Canaveral Exploration Tower or Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex.
At mealtime, skip the astronaut ice cream and head to Marsh Landing Restaurant in the small farming community of Fellsmere. The property was once the headquarters of Florida Crystal Sugar Company and is now the go-to eatery for country-style comfort food.
“If you wanted to and you’re brave enough," Ford said, "you can get frog legs and alligator.”
Not all of us will conquer new lands or walk on the moon, but surely we can embark on a culinary adventure.
Photos by Willie Allen Jr. for VISIT FLORIDA