Brevard County is long and lean: 72 miles long and about 15 miles wide. Located on Florida's east coast midway between Jacksonville and Miami and only 50 miles east of Orlando, this county has what some might consider a dual personality. Sometimes called the Space Coast, most visitors are torn between its two major components--between the space complex and the beautiful beaches, between the high-tech Kennedy Space Center and the low-tech wonders of nature's bounty. Residents conquer this potential tug on their heartstrings. They embrace both aspects and integrate them wherever possible. Perhaps nowhere else in Florida is so much technical expertise devoted to the preservation of ancient plant and animal species. Residents are known for using the latest technology on their jobs, in their schools and on their Internet sites--sometimes specifically in an effort to protect their priceless natural environment.
Sanctuaries and wildlife refuges are scattered around the county, often close to the beaches. Beach driving, which made Daytona Beach famous, is prohibited in Brevard County. Water lovers love this place. Not only does it possess miles of uncrowded beaches but also an enormous bonus--lots of additional waterfront on the Intracoastal Waterway. What locals call the Banana River and the Indian River are actually major segments of the Intracoastal Waterway system of lagoons and estuaries, where fresh water mingles with saltwater from the ocean.
"Brevard County has a great year-round climate and a very reasonable cost of living," according to the Space Coast Association of Realtors. Housing prices from the region prove the point. Although prices range from under $30,000 to well over $500,000, most single-family homes and condominium units in Brevard County are definitely affordable. In the northern part of the county, for example, a three-bedroom, two-bath single-family existing home of about 1,500 square feet sells for an average price of $73,000. In central Brevard, the same size home, also with three bedrooms and two baths, averages $82,000. Even prestigious properties are comparatively reasonable. In northern Brevard, an 1,800 square-foot waterfront home averages $115,000. In the central section of the county, a slightly larger waterfront home of 1,900 square feet is priced at $152,000.
With 15 golf courses scattered around the northern and central Brevard, existing golf-course property is affordable. In north Brevard, a 2,400-square-foot golf-course home averages $158,000. In central Brevard, a 2,500-square-foot home, for example, sells for an average price of $193,000. Single-family homes represent 68 percent of Brevard County's housing inventory. Another 32 percent is comprised of condominiums, many of which are oceanfront yet affordable. The average price for a two-bedroom, two-bath, oceanfront condo in central and northern Brevard is $97,000.
New three-bedroom, 3,000-square -foot homes in Brevard County usually start at about $200,000. Plus, there's a solid and affordable inventory of existing single-family homes. For $88,800 (the median sales price of existing homes sold in the Melbourne/Titusville/ Palm Bay Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA) during 1999) you could buy an older, 1,600 to 1,700 square foot home in some sections of the county. The average price for a three-bedroom, two-bath home of 1,700 square feet but without a swimming pool is $103,861. Area Realtors report that single-family homes are probably the area's best housing value and represent about 65 percent of the market. The other 35 percent is comprised primarily of condominium units. "We do have some very reasonable oceanfront condos," says the Melbourne Area Association. "You can get a two-bedroom, two-bath condo on the ocean from between 100,000 and $130,000." New or larger units cost more, of course. Single-family waterfront is predictably pricey. Plan on paying $500,000 or more for Intracoastal waterfront and $500,000 to $800,000 for oceanfront. Some large, luxury waterfront homes are priced higher.
Melbourne/Titusville/Palm Bay MSA includes all of Brevard County
Median age: 40.3
New citizens: 8,580 yearly
New job creation: 2.8 (1999)
Unemployment rate: 3.8 percent in August, 1999
Cost of living: 97.65 percent (U.S. average=100 percent)
Per capita income: $21,640
Median effective household buying income: $34,729
The sun shines upon Brevard County more than 300 days a year. True, it rains at least a little 115 days of the year, but most of the county's average annual rainfall of 50.2 inches falls on sultry, mostly sunny summer afternoons--just in time to cool the air and freshen the spirits. A balmy 73 degrees Fahrenheit is the average year-round temperature. In January, the temperature averages 62 degrees, in August 81.5 degrees.
The county's largest employers include the Kennedy Space Center (KSC) and affiliated companies make up the largest block of Brevard County employers, though they hire less workers now than they did during space-race heydays. In 196l, when President John F. Kennedy established the goal of putting Americans on the moon within a decade, this area was a quiet coastal region with a few small cities and beach towns clustered primarily along the Atlantic Ocean. (In 1960, 111,435 people lived here; currently, almost a half-million people call Brevard their home.) Kennedy's ambitious goal of high-tech space exploration resulted shortly thereafter in Congress establishing a government installation on Cape Canaveral to implement what had by then been accepted as a national goal. The facility is now known as the NASA Kennedy Space Center.
What was once a strip of marsh and scrub about 34 miles long and 5 to 10 miles wide is now the economic hub of the space coast. NASA's presence attracted numerous space and defense contractors and allied high-tech companies, which now cluster around KSC in synergistic fashion. Local governmental units, particularly the school board with 7,000 full-time employees, also employ thousands.
The largest private employers in Brevard County include Harris Corp. (7,467), United Space Alliance - USA (5,000), Health First Inc. (4,800), The Boeing Company (2,900), Space Gateway Support (2,633), Northrup Grumman (2,230), National Aeronautics & Space Administration (NASA) (1,800), Wuestoff Health Systems (1,800), Rockwell Collins Inc. (1,359) and Sea Ray Boats, Inc. (1,200).
Extensive information about the schools in this area is online at the state's Department of Education (http://www.firn.edu). There you'll discover everything you'll need to know about Florida schools -- in general and in particular. All you need is the name of your county and the names of the schools students from your neighborhood attend.
Use links from the DOE home page for general information about entrance requirements, immunizations and so forth.
For the nitty-gritty details that really matter, click on the logo for the "Florida School Indicators Report."
Interstate 95 travels through Brevard County on its north/south trip from Maine to Miami. Other major highways include State Road A1A along the coastline. The major north/south routes are important arteries that connect a number of communities: Titusville in the north; Cocoa , Cocoa Beach and Rockledge in central Brevard; and Melbourne, Melbourne Beach and Palm Bay in the south. Important east/west roads are State Road 405 to the north, which traverses the NASA Causeway to the space center and S.R. 528 (the Beeline Expressway) in the center of the county. Another major highway, S.R. 524 (the Bennett Causeway), merges with the Beeline, crosses the Indian River to Merritt Island and then the Banana River to the town of Cape Canaveral and Port Canaveral. Farther south, State Roads 502 (Barnes Boulevard) and 509 (Wickham Road) serve Viera and Melbourne. The primary east/west highway in south Brevard is S.R. 518 (a.k.a. Eau Gallie Boulevard and Eau Gallie Causeway). It connects Melbourne with its small beachside segment and with the beach communities of Indian Harbour Beach, Canova Beach, Indialantic and Melbourne Beach. Additionally, S.R. 509 travels north/south through the county's southern section and connects with Eau Gallie Boulevard.
At least five airlines serve passengers at Melbourne International Airport. An even larger airport, Orlando International, is 50 miles and about 45 minutes away via the Beeline Expressway (S.R. 528). From either place you can fly almost anywhere. Many smaller executive airports and government airfields are scattered around the region, including the Space Center Executive Airport, the Patrick Air Force Base, the Air Force Eastern Test Range Malabar Annex and the Valkaria Annex in addition to KSC's own runways.
The state's third-largest cruise-passenger port, Port Canaveral, also handles lots of space-related and commercial cargo at its deep-water facility. The East Coast Railroad carries freight by rail. Greyhound buses also provide transportation in the county.
One place you'll want to take the kids is the citizen-built Brevard Zoo. And for environmentally based outings that kids of all ages seem to enjoy, consider the dolphin-watch cruises on the Indian River Lagoon or get into the car and drive through the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge. You might see an alligator. You're sure to see birds of many kinds and colors. At certain times of the year, you'll see hundreds of ducks lined up for a mile or more, all swimming along in a stately, one-by-one procession through the refuge's marshy waters.
Other outdoor wonderlands--in addition to the miles and miles of beaches (especially the pristine sands owned and monitored by the federal government)--include the Archie Carr National Wildlife Refuge, the Canaveral National Seashore, Erna Nixon Park, the Turkey Creek Sanctuary, the Ulamay Wildlife Sanctuary, the Enchanted Forest and the Sebastian Inlet State Recreation Area. Coon's Run Wildlife Sanctuary in Rockledge offers rehabilitation for injured and orphaned wildlife at its privately operated, non-profit center.
The area on the barrier island along the Atlantic Ocean from Holland Spessard Park south of Melbourne Beach to Sebastian Inlet, at the county's southern border, is the largest sea turtle nesting area in the United States. Between May and August, Loggerheads, Greens and Leatherbacks come ashore to lay their eggs. Hatchlings that survive--and few do in spite of serious efforts to protect them--struggle back to the sea during September and October.
Surfing is big here. Several tournaments occur annually in Cocoa Beach. Sebastian Inlet's Monster Hole and Spanish House challenge even experienced surfers. One "don't miss" spot on the surf circuit is Ron Jon's Surf Shop, a Cocoa Beach institution. Originally a small surf shop with several boards and a few T-shirts for sale, it's now a 24-hours-a-day merchandising palace complete with amenities like a fountain and a glass-encased elevator in addition to every conceivable retail item that can carry a Ron Jon logo, including thousands and thousands of T-shirts. Surf boards are the poor relations here. Not that they're cheap, but there still aren't many, especially considering the size of today's emporium. Smaller surf shops up and down the beach aren't as famous, but many stock more boards.
Fishing--especially the saltwater variety--is popular with locals and vacationers. Sport fishermen catch mackerel, sailfish, marlin, wahoo and tuna from Brevard County waters. Marinas, boats, airboats, charter fishing boats, commercial fishing boass and pleasure craft--ranging from one-man skulls and canoes to cabin cruisers and yachts--abound. The Cocoa Beach Pier, which stretches out 840 feet above the ocean, is a good place to cast your line if you don't have a boat--or even if you do.
Other active sports fans enjoy Brevard's facilities. Hiking and biking entertain some. Public tennis courses exist in at least 11 parks. The 16 public and seven private golf courses located within county borders keep most golfers content. And, of course, wind surfing, surfing, swimming, diving and boating along the Intracoastal Waterway and Atlantic Ocean beaches keep water-friendly folks in a state of barely controlled bliss.
Baseball is big in the late winter and early spring when Big League ball players train and compete here on the Grapefruit Circuit. The Florida Marlins (from the Miami area) train right here in Brevard County; the Los Angeles Dodgers do their spring stint in Vero Beach (in Indian River County just south of Brevard County). For professional football, residents can travel up the coast to see the Jacksonville Jaguars play; for pro basketball, their best bet is the Orlando Magic, who play less than an hour's drive from home.
You'll be busy for weeks visiting Brevard County's many places of interest. In the Titusville area (north), try Astronaut Hall of Fame, the Valiant Air Command Museum and especially the very reasonable and exciting NASA Kennedy Space Center, where the Astronauts Memorial is also worth a look. Don't neglect downtown Titusville's historic district and the North Brevard Historical Museum.
In the Cocoa Beach (central) area, check out the pier and Port Canaveral--its commerce, foreign trade zone and Jetty Park. Also mid-county, don't miss Cocoa Village, especially the Village Playhouse and the Porcher House. On A1A in Cocoa Beach, you'll find the famous Ron Jon Surf Shop. On the mainland in Cocoa, visit the Brevard Museum of History and Natural Science and the Astronaut Memorial Hall and Planetarium at the Cocoa campus of Brevard Community College (BCC).
In south Brevard, take a look at historic downtown Melbourne or view the 100-foot-long Merritt Island Dragon, constructed in 1971 from 20 tons of concrete and steel and sited on the southern tip of its namesake island, where it can be seen from the Eau Gallie Causeway. The county's cultural powerhouses, the Brevard Art Center and Museum and the Space Coast Science Center, are neighbors on Melbourne's Highland Avenue. Throughout the year, the Maxwell C. King Center for the Performing Arts hosts high-quality live entertainment that ranges from opera to pop. The King Center is located on BCC's Melbourne campus.
You can. Melbourne Square Mall sports five anchor department stores and numerous specialty shops. Merritt Square Mall hosts 100-plus stores and four anchors. K-mart and Winn-Dixie anchor the Palm Bay West Shopping Center, which has 40 additional stores. Miracle City Mall in Titusville offers anchors Belk's and J.C. Penney plus several other stores. Searstown Mall in Titusville is a retail store combined with a cinema complex. Two flea markets are Super Flea & Farmers Market in Melbourne and Frontenac Flea Market on U.S. Highway 1. The downtown sections of Melbourne, Cocoa and Titusville offer one-of-a-kind shops. Cocoa Village, near Cocoa, is not only the site of restaurants and specialty stores but also host for arts and crafts activities throughout the year. On the beachside, Cocoa Beach, Indian Harbour Beach and Indialantic's Fifth Avenue provide plenty of places to purchase products of all kinds.
At last count 1,400 restaurants fed area diners; clubs and bars exist in profusion, too. Gilligan's Cove is only one of many live-music clubs. In fact, you'll find entertainment to suit nearly every musical taste and food for most ethnic preferences. Best of all, if you like food with a view, you're in the right county.
For either lunch or dinner, consider Dixie Crossroads, the extremely reasonable and very popular seafood place in Titusville. The line for dinner starts forming early, so be prepared to wait. But the fast seafood served is definitely worth it. To dine where atmosphere and cuisine count, consider Cafe Margaux in Cocoa Village or the Heidelberg in Cocoa Beach, both recommended by Scott Joseph, food critic for The Orlando Sentinel .Florida Trend has ranked Cafe Margaux and two others--Bernard's Surf and The Mango Tree, both in Cocoa Beach--in its Trend's Top 200. In the Melbourne area, you might enjoy eating at the historic Strawberry Mansion & Mister BeauJean's, where food is served in a Victorian setting. On Melbourne's Eau Gallie Causeway, Conchy Joe's Seafood is notable for its Bahamian recipes.
Brevard Community College (BCC) serves all sections of the county with campuses in Cocoa, Melbourne, Titusville and Palm Bay. The college's president says, "We are proud that one of every two citizens of Brevard County is served each year with classes, culture or events by BCC." Open Campus, a Patrick Center branch on the air force base and classes at Kennedy Space Center expand the community-oriented school's reach. The full two-year curriculum is also offered for home-based learners via WBCC TV68. BCC maintains a strong reputation for its academic programs. It's an important part of the 28-member system of state-supported, two-year community colleges. The closest of the state's 10 major four-year schools is the University of Central Florida University (UCF) in Orlando, which maintains a branch in Brevard County. Highly respected academically, Florida Institute of Technology (a.k.a. Florida Tech), a four-year private university, is located on 175 landscaped acres in Melbourne.
Volunteer opportunites abound. One of the most fun for the musically inclined of any age is the Community Band of Brevard, which presents from five to eight concerts yearly. Seniors who aren't involved enjoy attending the performances. Another activity popular with seniors is watching launches from the Cape. Early morning and late night launches don't hinder enthusiastic space fans, either. After all, one advantage of retirement is that seniors can adjust their sleep times more easily than people with regular work schedules.
For seniors who require special assistance or services, there's an Information and Referral (I&R) system called the Elder Helpline. The I&R staff member who answers your call has resource guides at her fingertips. Whether you need to know about congregate housing, congregate meals, senior centers, social activities planned for the 60-plus population,, homemaker services or home-delivered meals, youcan get referral tips from the helpline at (800) 96-ELDER.