Port Canaveral Cruise Port

What to do in port canaveral cruise stop

This blog was written by us, Scott and Lindsey, your local experts! In this blog, we’ll talk about what to do in Port Canaveral cruise stop, the places we would take you, and also mention some of the most popular tourist attractions. We live about 20 miles directly south of the port in the charming town of Indialantic. We’ve been on dozens of cruises from Port Canaveral and are fortunate to live so close to this amazing port. Many times we go to one of our favorite bars at the port and watch the ships sail out while sipping on a cocktail!

Whether you’ve sailed in for the day to Port Canaveral, you’re coming in early for a cruise, or staying for a few days after, there is so much to do and see in Port Canaveral, Cocoa Beach and on Florida’s Space Coast (Brevard County). Not only is Brevard County home to the Kennedy Space Center, but also boasts beautiful beaches, great surfing, fun restaurants and bars, natural wildlife, and more. We’ll help you navigate the best places for your cruise vacation, let’s get to it! 

Exploration Tower Port Canaveral Cruise Port

Exploration Tower. Port Canaveral

Exploration Tower is temporarily closed due to a maintenance update.

Located close to cruise terminal 1, Exploration Tower provides entertainment for everyone and is a mesmerizing architectural landmark. It offers seven floors of activities and interactive exhibits. Visitors can learn about the history of the Port, its beginnings, and how it became what it is today. You can also visit the gift shop, grab a snack at the cafe, and much more! The seventh floor has open observation decks, equipped with high-end telescopes for spectacular views. If you’re lucky and time it right, you can have an amazing view of a rocket launch from Kennedy Space Center! 

Jetty park

Jetty Park is a public park and is closest to the cruise terminals if you want to hit the beach for a couple of hours, this is not on our list for your day at Port. It’s a large park with camping, boat ramps, and fishing piers. A day pass is required for $15 per vehicle.  If you want to camp and fish, this is definitely your spot!

Lori Wilson Park

A beach day is always a good day and Lori Wilson Park is one of the best-known in Cocoa Beach. It’s a popular spot for locals and tourists to enjoy a large and beautiful beach. Lori Wilson Park offers amenities including chair rentals, multiple boardwalks, showers, public restrooms, and free parking. The beach here is sandy with very few rocks, which makes it a perfect place to learn to surf! Rent a board and take a lesson, or just enjoy the waves in the Atlantic Ocean! 

Cherie Down Park / Beach

Cherie Down is our pick for a beach day if you want a local experience close to the port! It’s the closest public park to the port and much less busy than Lori Wilson Park, Jetty Park, and the Cocoa Beach Pier. There’s public parking, restrooms, picnic tables, and a charming little walkway leading you to the large beach. This is a great place to chill on the beach like a local or maybe try a surf lesson! There are no vendors so bring some snacks and your your favorite beverages!

Cocoa Beach Pier

The iconic Cocoa Beach Pier is a great place for the whole family! This is where all the action is on the beach. There are beach vendors renting chairs, umbrellas, and surfboards. The pier itself has a few small shops, several restaurants/bars, a fishing pier, and our favorite spot the Rikki Tiki Tavern! It’s a large tiki bar at the end of the pier. The views are unbeatable! View up and down the Space Coast as you’re sitting right on top of the ocean. If you’d like to get your party on, try the Pier Punch made with 4 shots of rum and you get to keep the souvenir bucket.  Our go-to is their locally brewed Pier Beer, there’s nothing better than a cold draft beer at the beach! Whether you want to hang on the beach or chill on the pier, you’ll have a great day!

See a Rocket Launch

If you are lucky enough to be here on the day of a launch there are a couple of things you will want to know. First of all, the view is spectacular on a clear day, just find a spot with a clear view to the north. You feel the earth shake before you see a fiery blaze shooting through the sky, followed by a long tail of puffy smoke. It’s pretty amazing! These days are VERY busy for our county. Tons of people drive from Orlando and all over the state, they congregate on the bridges and in Cocoa Beach and Cape Canaveral. This would NOT be a good day to visit Walt Disney World or go places that are far from your cruise terminal because traffic will be bad. 

Ron Jon Surf shop

No trip is complete without visiting the famous Ron Jon Surf Shop! If you’re driving in from out of town, you’ll see billboards hundreds of miles out for Ron Jons. It’s a huge 2-level store selling clothing, souvenirs, beach supplies, and of course surfboards. A must on your list is buying a Ron Jon t-shirt! Side note: We love crazy cruise shirts. Check out our favorite Cruise Shirt Ideas!

Not to be missed is the competing surf shop next door, Cocoa Beach Surf Company. They tend to run sales more often and offer their own CBSC-branded items. The highlight is the Shark Pit Bar and Grill.  We don’t recommend the food but stop in for a drink and check out the 5600-gallon aquarium with real sharks, exotic fish, and an incredible green moray eel. 

Dinosaur Store and Museum

We don’t have small kids anymore, so this is not on our list, but if you have little dinosaur lovers in your group, this is a great spot to check out! You can hit it on your way to Ron Jons or the pier as it’s close by. They sell dinosaur-themed toys and souvenirs and there are lots of things kids would want to see.

Restaurants and Bars at the port

One of our favorite things to do is to eat and have a drink at one of the restaurants located near cruise terminal 1. We love to sit outside at the bar or dining areas and watch the boats sail out of port. Seeing a massive cruise ship sail by right in front of you and waving at the passengers heading out on their vacation is so much fun! 

There are 5 restaurants that we recommend! Keep in mind, these are only walkable from Terminal 1. If you’re at any of the other cruise port terminals, you’ll need a car or an Uber. We’ll rank these in order of our favorites:

1. Grills Seafood Deck and Tiki

It’s not very often that a place can be a great bar and restaurant at the same time. Usually, it’s one or the other but Grills manages to do them both! Inside it’s seafood/nautical themed with tall ceilings and wood like an old sailing vessel and of course a large menu with fresh seafood. Our go-to is the grilled mahi sandwich with cheese, onions, and peppers. Think Philly steak sandwich but with grilled mahi, yum!! The outdoor bar and tiki is a fun lively spot with live music most afternoons and evenings. 

2. Gators Dockside

We ranked this second but it’s almost a tie with Grills for us! Here we sit outside at the tiki bar and have beer and wings! They have really good grilled wings, try the scooter sauce! They also offer live music most afternoons and evenings on their outdoor stage. 

3. Fishlips

What’s great about Fishlips is there is a 2nd story bar and deck, offering you a view of almost the entire port!

4. Rusty’s Seafood and Oyster Bar

This is the place to go if you want oysters. They have a typical Florida seafood menu and plenty of seating both inside and out on the deck. It’s our 4th choice but these places are all great and you’ll have a great experience at any of them. 

5. Rising Tide Tap and Table

Not located directly beside the water but just across the parking lot. There is still a view of the ships but just not as close. Many people prefer the food here, it’s pizza, tacos, bowls, and a great $5 appetizer tune from 4-6. Also, tons of beers on tap!

Fun Fact

Port Canaveral is ranked as the world’s busiest cruise port for multi-day embarkations. It serves many of the most popular cruise lines like Carnival, Royal Caribbean, Norwegian, Disney, and MSC

World-class theme parks

Port Canaveral is the gateway to Walt Disney World! If your spending an extra day before or after your cruise you could have time to visit Walt Disney World, Magic Kingdom, or Univeral Studios! There is a shuttle that takes cruise passengers from the cruise terminal to Disney.


Whether you want to see the incredible Kennedy Space Center visitor complex, take surf lessons, rent bikes or scooters for the day, kayak the mangroves, or go on a dolphin tour or airboat ride, we recommend booking a tour through Viator. It’s really the best place to book a local experience and if you use our link, it helps us out a little 😉. Be sure and sort by traveler rating!

Bottom Line

Port Canaveral is more than just a popular cruise port. It’s home to lots of fun in the sun. We hope our recommendations here will make help you make the most of your vacation time in the Port Canaveral area!

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