20 Best Things to Do in Port Canaveral on a Cruise [Port Guide]

Port Canaveral cruise port guide

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If you’re visiting Port Canaveral on a cruise, you’re in luck. Port Canaveral is a favorite Florida cruise port for many cruise travelers. In fact, Port Canaveral hosted 6.8 million cruise passengers in 2023 (the fiscal year), a record number for the port.

Not only is Port Canaveral within close proximity to major theme parks, this port also has space-centered activities, wildlife, and world-famous surfing beaches.

In this post, I’ll share the best things to do on a cruise in Port Canaveral, including shore excursions and inexpensive or free activities. You’ll also learn everything you need to know about visiting the Port Canaveral cruise port for the day and get answers to commonly asked questions.

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Port Canaveral Cruise Port 

Port Canaveral Cruise Port

When you hear “Canaveral” your first thought might be space shuttle launches. However, Port Canaveral’s massive 6-berth port is ranked as one of the busiest cruise ports in the world. This port is the starting point for 3-15 day itineraries for Southern, Eastern, and Western Caribbean cruises and the Bahamas.

Because it is such a popular port for embarkation, each berth is flanked by a parking garage and public restrooms. If you’re leaving on your cruise from Port Canaveral, you’ll love the convenience and affordability of these on-site parking garages, as well as the wide variety of activities available nearby if you have some time to fill before your departure.

What Cruise Passengers Need to Know About Port Canaveral Cruise Port

Port Canaveral Cruise Port Disney cruise ship

Time Zone

Port Canaveral, Florida is in the Eastern time zone. 


The weather in Port Canaveral throughout the year ranges from the low 70s (Fahrenheit) to the high 80s. The hottest months in Port Canaveral are June through September. These months are also the rainiest and most humid.  

Getting Around Port Canaveral

Port Canaveral Cruise Port

Port Canaveral is a very large cruise terminal, with six deep-water berths. This is not a port where you will get off the ship and be able to walk to many activities. However, it is relatively easy to get to a large variety of activities and excursions nearby.

On Foot

Port Canaveral is not a walkable port. If you are berthed on the south side (B Terminals, #1,2,3) there are four restaurants within walking distance. 

For the most part, you will need to drive to exit Port Canaveral, whether that is by taxi, shuttle, Uber/Lyft, car rental, or cruise excursion company. 

Public Transit

There are no public bus lines running into, or out of, Port Canaveral. 


There are a variety of shuttles that can transport you to and from Port Canaveral, including hotel shuttles, cruise ship shuttles, and private shuttle companies. 

If you are staying at a nearby hotel before or after your cruise, check to see what shuttle options they offer. Shuttle prices can vary widely, however, hotel shuttles and private shuttles will typically be your best value.

Keep in mind that using a shuttle means you won’t have to pay for parking. 


Rideshare services are a popular option at this port, and many drivers frequent Port Canaveral around cruise departures and arrivals. Expect to pay more for Uber/Lyft than you will for a shuttle and try to arrange pickup as far ahead as possible to avoid the cruise rush. 

Car Rentals

A car rental is an excellent option for transportation at Port Canaveral. Many of the rental companies offer shuttles to and from the port to nearby rental agencies. 

The Cape Canaveral area is easy to drive, and renting a car will most likely result in less wait time and a lower cost than an Uber/Lyft at this busy port. 

Related: Everything You Need to Pack for a Caribbean Cruise

20 Best Port Canaveral Shore Excursions

Port Canaveral Cruise Port

Nicknamed “The Gateway to Central Florida,” Port Canaveral is within a short drive of a many exciting activities and picturesque beaches. 

It’s also only an hour’s drive to get to major theme parks in Orlando. 

If you are embarking from Port Canaveral and need activities to fill your time before or after your cruise, or if Port Canaveral is your port of call, here are some of the best Port Canaveral shore excursions.

1. Blast Off and Beach at Jetty Park

Located near this large cruise terminal, Jetty Park is accessible by walking if you are docked in B Terminals (#1,2 and 3). 

If you are on a ship that is docked on the other side of the channel (#5,6,8 and 10), Jetty Park is on the other side of the channel with no pedestrian access over the bridge. You would need to take a taxi or Uber/Lyft to take you to the park entrance. 

The beach itself has on-duty lifeguards and rental chairs, umbrellas, and beach toys available. If you’re lucky, this is also an excellent spot to watch rocket launches.

Tip: Check the Kennedy Space Center website to see if your docking or departure date matches up with a launch.

2. Spend the Day at Cocoa Beach

If you’re docked in Port Canaveral during a Bahamas cruise, one of the easiest and most popular excursions is a beach day at Cocoa Beach. Families cruising with kids especially enjoy a day building sandcastles and jumping in the waves.

Located about 10 miles from Port Canaveral, cruise passengers can take public transit, an Uber or taxi, or a transfer that can be purchased through the cruise line.

Related: What to Pack in Your Cruise Shore Excursion Day Bag

3. Get Interactive at the Exploration Tower

The Exploration Tower is a seven-story museum with interactive exhibits. Depending on where your ship is docked, the tower is a short walk or inexpensive cab ride away.

The tower’s exhibits include information and artifacts from: the U.S. space program, the development of Florida’s central coast, early settlers and native people as well as how Port Canaveral itself was developed.

Enjoy amazing views from both an indoor and outdoor observation deck and plan on 2-3 hours to explore this attraction. 

4. Savor Local Seafood at Port Eateries

If you want to eat local fare without venturing outside of the port, there are some restaurants located in the Cove Eatery near B terminals (#1,2 and 3). Fishlips and Rusty’s Seafood and Oyster Bar are both popular options for fresh seafood. 

Ask to get seated portside/outside so you can watch the cruise ships and possible rocket launches. If you eat at Fishlips, try the tuna poke or crab cakes. And don’t miss your chance for fresh shucked oysters and mojitos at Rusty’s.

5. Have a blast at Orlando Theme Parks

If you are a theme park fan, Port Canaveral offers the unique opportunity to combine your cruise vacation with a major theme park. If you starting your cruise from Port Canaveral, overnighting here, or if your ship is in port for at least 8-10 hours you have the option of heading inland to, (or starting at!) Walt Disney World, Universal Studios, Seaworld, or Legoland. 

The drive to Orlando is about 45 minutes to an hour from Port Canaveral, which will limit the amount of time you have to spend in each park. Many cruise lines offer a paid shuttle option to the theme parks, or you can use a rental car or rideshare service. 

This won’t be a typical “all-day” theme park experience so plan accordingly. If you go with expectations of only riding a few rides and perhaps some specialty dining, a theme park visit can be a memorable shore excursion

Sandwiching your Port Canaveral-based cruise with a visit to theme parks can also be a fantastic option and allow for more park time.

Related: Shore Excursion Checklist: 16 Things to Do Before a Port Day

6. Fly through Florida Swamps on an Airboat ride 

If you’ve never had an airboat ride before, it is a thrilling experience! These flat-bottomed boats are powered by a gigantic propellor, allowing them to quickly travel through shallow inlets in swampy marshlands. 

You’ll be outfitted with hearing protection and life jackets. An airboat is the best way to see Florida wildlife in their natural habitat including alligators, wading birds, river otters, bald eagles, and possibly some wild hogs and cows. 

Port Canaveral Cruise Port

7. View Sea Cows at the Manatee Sanctuary Park 

This small park is located a short drive from the Port and includes a half-mile, partially shaded walking path. You aren’t guaranteed to see manatees here, however this is a great place to try.  

Manatees prefer warmer waters, so from the months of November to March manatees you probably won’t spot them in the Canaveral area. 

8. Experience Nature at Lori Wilson Park 

This beautiful park is located about six miles South of Port Canaveral on Cocoa Beach. It has many amenities if you are looking for a relaxing beach day. 

There are hiking and nature trails, a wide expanse of clean beach, and concessions available. You can rent beach chairs, umbrellas, and even boogie boards for a nominal fee.

9. Shop and Snack at Cocoa Beach Pier

This iconic pier stretches 800 feet over the Atlantic Ocean and has fun beachy vibes. There are restaurants, bars, shops, live music and fishing. 

Parking is around $30 and food is a little more on the expensive side. Beware that the pier can be closed for weather (typically wind) and you are not allowed to bring your own alcohol.

The Pier is located about 3 miles away from the port (a 10-15 minute drive). Your cruise line will likely offer Cocoa Beach shore excursions and transportation options.

10. Test your Skills at Cocoa Beach Aerial Adventures

If you have a future American Ninja Warrior in your cruise party, they will love the chance to work their way through seven different ropes courses, including suspension bridges, zip lines, monkey bars, balancing logs, balance beams, and tunnels. 

Cocoa Beach Aerial Adventures is located 8-10 minutes from Port Canaveral. 

11. Hang Ten at Ron Jon Surf Shop and Surf School 

Located a block away from Cocoa Beach, this gigantic surf shop and school is a must-stop for surfing enthusiasts. Cocoa Beach is known around the world for being the home of surf legends Kelly Slater and Dick Catri. 

Not only can you visit the largest surf shop in the world (over 52,000 square feet), you can also add on some surf lessons and impress your friends by saying you surfed the same beach as Slater. 

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12. See Endangered Species Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge

The Merritt Island Refuge is home to more endangered species than anywhere else in the USA. It is located about a 40-minute drive from Port Canaveral. There are several different ways to enjoy the refuge including boats and kayaking or, if you drive yourself, a self-guided 7-mile wildlife drive. 

Be sure to start your visit at the visitor’s center. While at the refuge, you might spot manatees, alligators, wild pigs, herons, turtles, dolphins, and many types of birds and butterflies. If you love wildlife, this is a wonderful spot to visit while docked in Canaveral. 

13. Explore Florida’s Space Coast

Port Canaveral Cruise Port

Port Canaveral is located within Florida’s “Space Coast” and has several exciting attractions for aerospace enthusiasts. 

The Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex is on 42-acres and includes the U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame, the Saturn V rocket, the space shuttle Atlantis (one of only 4 real space shuttles on display in the country) and the Spaceport USA ride where you can virtually blast off into space. 

The Kennedy Space Center is about a 25-minute drive from Port Canaveral. There is a lot to do here, so plan on anywhere from 3-6 hours for your visit. 

14. Have an Active Zoo Adventure at Brevard Zoo 

With a zipline, a train, animal interactions, and even kayaking, the Brevard Zoo isn’t your average zoo.

Located about 30 minutes from Port Canaveral, the Brevard Zoo would be a wonderful excursion choice for families or animal lovers. It is a smaller-sized zoo, so you might be able to add some beach time before or after your visit.

15. Catch a Snapper on Banana River

Banana River is a 31-mile-long lagoon that lies between Merritt Island and Cape Canaveral. It is part of the Indian River Lagoon system and provides a habitat for many types of marine species including dolphins, manatees, stingrays, trout, catfish, drums, and mangrove snapper. 

Excursions here include fishing tours and ecotours (to view wildlife and the ecosystem). Banana River is about 15 minutes from Port Canaveral.

Port Canaveral Cruise Port cruise ships

16. Get Jurassic at The Dinosaur Store

This hidden gem packs a lot of punch for dinosaur lovers. Located in the heart of Cocoa Beach it has two full floors of exhibits on dinosaurs and ancient people, a third-floor gigantic museum store, and an adventure zone with live amphibians, gold panning, and a “wild” ride. 

Plan on a couple of hours for The Dinosaur Store museum and gift shop. You’ll have time to catch a bite to eat or even catch some waves in Cocoa Beach. 

17. Enjoy Local Seafood at Florida’s Fresh Grill

This popular Cocoa Beach eatery is self-labeled “Florida Upscale Casual” and offers fresh locally sourced seafood, steak, and salad. It opens at 4 p.m. each night and is a 15-minute drive from Port Canaveral.

If you want to be adventurous, try the “Gator and Grits” or the Florida-style Fresh Calamari. The dress code is business casual here, so no beach attire or sleeveless shirts.

18. Satisfy Your Sweet Tooth at The Florida Key Lime Pie Company

You can’t visit Florida without tasting the Keys’ iconic Key Lime Pie. At The Florida Key Lime Pie Company, you can sample this tart favorite along with “twists” including Key Lime Snickerdoodle cookies, Key Lime-covered pretzels, and Key Lime macaroons.

There are also lots of local products that would make excellent souvenirs including hot sauces, taffies, and other candies. The Florida Key Lime Pie company is located across the street from the Ron Jon Surf Shop in Cocoa Beach.

19. Catch “The Big One” Deep Sea Fishing

The reef and shipwrecks in the Port Canaveral/Cocoa Beach area attract a variety of fish species. If you want to try your hand at sports fishing, this port is an excellent choice! 

Common Florida catches include Snapper, Grouper, Amberjack, Sailfish, King Mackeral, Cobia, and Mahi. Ask your captain for the names of local restaurants that will grill up your fresh catch. 

20. Shop and Dine in Historic Cocoa Village

Not to be confused with Cocoa Beach, Cocoa Village is a delightful step back into historical Florida. You can browse shops, eat at restaurants, or just walk along the cobblestone streets and admire buildings dating to the late 1800s. 

Cocoa Village often has town fairs and celebrations that make this quaint village even more enjoyable. A trip to Cocoa would make for a relaxing and enjoyable port stop. 

Caribbean Cruise Port Guides:

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Port Canaveral Cruise Port Frequently Asked Questions

What is the best time of year to visit Port Canaveral? 

Port Canaveral has cruises departing year-round. If you are hoping for cooler, less humid weather, the months of January through May and October, November, and December would be your best bet. 

How far is downtown from the Port Canaveral cruise port?

Orlando, the largest city near Pot Canaveral is located about 45 minutes west. Closer by, the town of Cocoa Beach is about 15 minutes away. 

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Final Thoughts On Things to Do in Port Canaveral Cruise Port

Whether you are looking for activities to do in Port Canaveral before a cruise departs or exciting excursion activities for a port stop, Port Canaveral has a wide variety of options. From theme parks and space tourism to sport fishing and surfing, you are sure to find an activity that everyone in your cruise party will enjoy.

Have you been to Port Canaveral on a cruise? Please let me know your favorite activities in the comments below.

Happy Cruising!



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