On most early morning flights, many travellers tend to be asleep, reading, or greedily guzzling down coffee in an attempt to wake up. This was not one of those flights. This flight was buzzing with anticipation and excitement, and for good reason.
On October 17th I joined about forty other Canadian journalists and bloggers on a chartered flight with Porter Airlines to a special destination that will, no doubt, be a huge hit for Canadians looking to escape the winter. I went to Florida, direct from Toronto. But, I didn’t go to Orlando, I went to Melbourne on Florida’s Space Coast.
Never heard of it? Don’t worry, I’m going to fill you in because trust me when I say I’ve got your winter escape covered. Here’s what you need to know.
Porter Airline’s Newest Route
Starting on December 16th of 2017, Porter Airlines is starting a new, seasonal route from Toronto’s Island Airport to Melbourne Orlando Airport. A direct flight that will see you from snow to surf in just over three hours. Sound amazing? Trust me, it only gets better.
Not only do you get to leave from Toronto Island Airport (YTZ), the small, quiet, and much less stress inducing alternative to Toronto Pearson (YYZ), but you get to land in equally as small and friendly airport; Orlando Melbourne International Airport (MLB). Oh, and you get to arrive in style with beach views from the window as you land; landing in MLB was actually named as one of the top scenic airport landings for 2017! And, of course, the fantastic service from Porter Airlines, which was named as one of the best airlines according to Conde Nast Traveler’s 2016 Reader’s Awards.
Orlando Melbourne International Airport
So, what’s so great about flying into MLB? Well to start with, you won’t be arriving with several other plane loads of people meaning you will breeze through customs. But, even if you do end up landing at a busy time, MLB can take care of 400 passengers in an hour which is pretty impressive for a small airport. For those needing assistance, there are specially trained helpers ready to assist you on and off the plane and through the airport. The airport is also equipped with an elevator for anyone with mobility issues and, perhaps the best part, there’s a comfort dog named Kuma who is ready and happy to provide some doggy hugs for anyone needing a little bit of love. Add on the steel drum music as you wait for your luggage and the knowledge that Melbourne’s beaches are only a few kilometres away meaning that you, my friend, are basically getting off the plane and heading straight into your sunny vacation in Florida’s Space Coast.
Florida’s Space Coast
Florida’s Space Coast spans 115km along the coast. It’s filled with sandy beaches, world class surfing, beautiful nature and marine life, space tourism, a cruise ship port, and a number of restaurants, waterfront hotels, and beach bars. Basically, there is no shortage of things to do and see here and I made sure to do as much as I could in my short time. Here’s what I got up to:
Being mid-October when I arrived in Florida’s Space Coast, I was more than excited for the beaches. Soft, white sand dotted with seashells, rolling waves crashing into the shore, and warm water calling my name. I was one happy mermaid.
Part of my beach party day was supposed to involve surf lessons with the famous RonJon surf shop. After my intro to surfing in Ireland earlier this year, I was convinced it was my time to get on the board. Sadly, the weather wasn’t convinced and our lessons had to be cancelled because of storm warnings. But I still got to play on the beach, and was convinced I should definitely come back.
Port Canaveral is best known as a world-class cruise ship port, but even if you aren’t about to embark on a cruise there are some cool things to see, the highlight for us being the Exploration Tower. The Exploration Tower is a seven story tower that includes an observation deck where you can even see rocket launches. While we weren’t lucky enough to time our visit for that, we did see the retrieved section of a recent rocket that had been pulled out of the ocean.
The Exploration Tower also has interactive activities and games, an auditorium, and lots of cool and interesting facts to learn about space history.
Yes, that’s right, I said DISNEY WORLD. It’s only about an hour’s drive from Florida’s Space Coast, making it an easy daytrip for families looking to get a bit of a Disney experience, without the cost of staying in Orlando. We went in for Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party; a few hours to take in some rides, watch the parade, and enjoy Disney’s famous fireworks before heading back to our beachside accommodation. At 28 years old, I still found it absolutely amazing and was probably just as excited as every child there.
Sebastian Inlet State Park
As I admitted above, I was really excited about the Space Coast beaches, until I visited Sebastian Inlet State Park. As a self-proclaimed mermaid, I was ecstatic about the idea of kayaking the Indian River Lagoon which is home to manatees, dolphins, and even a couple of sharks (harmless ones, don’t worry). For an hour and a half, we paddled along the mangrove covered shoreline, watching for birds (pelicans, osprey and more) and other fabulous wildlife. The highlight for me was when the dolphins joined us at the beginning, and at the end when I saw my first ever manatee by the pier. Best morning ever? It just might have been.
And so much more…
I only had two short days exploring Florida’s Space Coast, and though I did as much as I could, there was no way I could have done it all. For those looking for more ideas in the area consider visiting Kennedy Space Visitor Center, checking out the shops and boutiques in historic downtown Melbourne, spend a day surf fishing (done on the beach, not a surfboard…yes I asked), or take a moonlight walk on the beach looking for sea turtles. These are just a handful of the additional activities you can take part in in Florida’s Space Coast, be sure to check out their website for more ideas and suggestions.
Where to Stay
There are plenty of options on where to stay during your visit to Florida’s Space Coast, however for those looking for a beachfront property located close to the airport, here’s what I recommend based on our experiences.
Windermere Inn by the Sea: For my stay, I was put up at the Windermere Inn, a gorgeous B&B just set back from the beach. My room, The Melbourne, was spacious with a jet tub and probably the most comfortable hotel bed I have ever slept in. The property was furnished beautifully with a beautiful sitting area, breakfast room, and a little covered cabana overlooking the beach. It’s perfect for a romantic getaway, or a solo trip. Book your room at the Windermere Inn by the Sea here.
The Radisson Suite Hotel Oceanfront: The majority of our group stayed at the Radisson with gorgeous ocean views and spacious rooms. I can’t personally speak for the rooms but I can say it’s literally on the beach, great for sunrise, and has an excellent buffet breakfast. Book your room at the Radisson Suite Hotel Oceanfront here.
Crowne Plaza: While none of stayed at the Crowne Plaza, we did get to explore it a bit. A nice, large hotel right on the beach it’s a great spot to stay. Plus it’s undergoing some renovations right now to be ready for the new season. Book your room at the Crowne Plaza Melbourne Oceanfront Hotel here.
So Why Go?
The real question is, why not? If you are planning a trip to Florida, flying into MLB and using the Space Coast as your base offers the best of all worlds; beaches, Disney, fun outdoor activities, space tourism and more at a lower cost that staying in Orlando. Plus, with the refined service of Porter Airlines, and the ease of getting through Orlando Melbourne International Airport, your trip is guaranteed to feel like a true vacation from start to finish.
Disclaimer: I was part of a media trip invited to discover Porter’s new route to MLB and Florida’s Space Coast. However, this is not a paid post and all opinions are, as always, my own.