Putting Out The Welcome Mat Along the Space Coast

Florida’s Space Coast is rolling out the welcome wagon this fall for visitors traveling with their pets, from poodles to pot-bellied pigs and everything in between. The destination, which includes iconic Cocoa Beach along Florida’s east coast, has aggregated its creature comforts on a new micro-site, www.visitspacecoast.com/pets, which points guests to more than 50 pet-friendly hotels, dining spots, parks, beaches and shopping, as well as local just-in-case emergency clinics.

“Pets are family, period,” said Emma Richard, Corgi owner and e-commerce manager at Ocean Partners, which operates five hotels in Cocoa Beach and Cape Canaveral. “We have guests that come back year after year because we don’t just accept pets, we embrace them. Or should I say, hug them?”

More than 20 parks and campgrounds along the coast are canine friendly, including Lori Wilson Park, Wickham Park, Port St. John Dog Park and Sebastian Inlet State Park. They can frolic in the surf at Canova Dog Beach or take in the sights at one of three quaint shopping districts in Melbourne, Titusville and Cocoa Village.

Pet-perfect patio and terrace seating is available at many restaurants and cafes along the Space Coast’s 72 miles of beach, including aptly named Long Doggers Radically Relaxed Grill & Brew, which has five locations throughout the county. For a more refined meal, outdoor dining at Ossorio Bakery & Cafe in Cocoa Village and the Melting Pot in Melbourne are both good options.

“We regularly have dogs and cats stay with us, and we have the occasional pig and bird,” said Hilton Rialto’s Courtney Lillig. “The most unusual visitor has been a miniature horse, which was being used as a therapy animal. She definitely turned heads.”

Florida’s Space Coast is 35 miles (56 km) east of Orlando and is home to Orlando’s closest beaches. Encompassing Cocoa Beach, Melbourne Beach, Palm Bay and Titusville, this family-friendly destination offers more than 10,000 guest rooms, and is an ideal, value getaway. Guests will discover 72 miles (110 km) of beaches, the longest stretch in the state and more than 250 square miles of wildlife refuge. It is home to one of the nation’s busiest cruise ports; is the nation’s East Coast surfing capital and the location of NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, where all 135 shuttle missions launched and unmanned rockets continue to launch. The Space Coast is home to Space Shuttle Atlantis and is one of only four destinations nationwide where visitors can view an orbiter.