Beach purists who want straight- up beautiful ocean, sand and dunes, but with absolutely no sign of civilization or crowds. If you want to reconnect with nature, this is the place. Completely unspoiled, Playalinda Beach is a remote gem tucked away on the Canaveral National Seashore, the longest stretch of undeveloped public beach on the east coast of Florida. This barrier island, at some points no more than 100 yards. wide, is a stunning ribbon of sand that lies dramatically between the rolling waves of the Atlantic and the quiet brackish estuary Mosquito Lagoon.
Beach-gazing is the favorite activity here. As far as the eye can see, the golden sandy shore runs to the north and south with 12 boardwalks leading from nondescript parking areas over tall, plump dunes to a breath-taking windswept spectacle. Stand at the top of a walkover and let your eyes feast on an endless 360- degree view of the horizon — ocean, coast and wet- land wilderness — interrupted only by NASA’s launch pads in the far distance at the adjacent Kennedy Space Center kennedyspacecenter.com.
On your way to the beach, pick up some made-to-order deli sandwiches generously layered with cheese & cold cuts at Bagel 13 in the neighboring town of Titusville. This is your last chance at civilization. When you arrive at this secluded beach, you’ll want to be prepared with a chair, umbrella, picnic lunch and a good book. Consider this the ultimate spot for R&R and maybe a jog or walk on the shoreline if you feel guilty just lolling and lazing in the sun. On your return trip at day’s end, there’s hot fudge brownie ice cream waiting for the sun-drenched at Caffe’ Chocolat on U.S. Highway 1. Good luck resisting the handmade chocolates — the sea salt caramels and dark chocolate Key lime truffles are amazing.
The neighboring Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge is a whopping 140,000 acres of pristine marshland left undeveloped to accommodate the rocket launches at Kennedy Space Center. Some 6,000 alligators and 350 bird species roam the grounds. Travel the seven-mile Black Point Wildlife Drive, a winding lane flanked on both sides by marshes dotted with little mangrove islands and populated with gators, otters, herons and bald eagles. Don’t forget the binoculars. nps.gov/cana
More Favorite Beaches
- St. Augustine Beach – Park by the pier and unload your chairs, umbrellas and surfboards. This stretch has plenty of wave action, plus beach bars and ice cream stands.
- Ponce Inlet – Not only does Ponce Inlet have a stunning stretch of sand and a long rocky jetty good for spotting dolphins, but the historic lighthouse is the second tallest in the United States.
- Big Talbot Island – Boneyard Beach is the attraction at Big Talbot Island State Park, where 20-ft. bluffs and giant skeletons of live oak trees turn a walk on the sands into a study of nature.
- Amelia Island – Dunes studded with sea oats make this stretch of the Atlantic picture-perfect.