15 Best Things to Do in Indian Harbour Beach, Florida

Written by Bart Meeuwesen
Updated on
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One of a long string of shorefront communities along SR A1A in Brevard County, Indian Harbour Beach is in a wonderful spot.

First, there’s the Atlantic shore, with public beach parks here and in neighboring cities. You can come to swim, surf, unwind on the sand, or watch the sun come up, which is an experience I’d recommend to anyone. 

Sea turtles also hit the sands to nest in the summer months, and these sites are cordoned off during their season. On the wildlife theme, the west side is at the south end of the Banana River, where it meets the Indian River Lagoon. 

This is an aquatic preserve with an amazing array of wildlife to observe. You might see dolphins or manatees from the shore, or you can paddle past islands where wading birds and pelicans nest.

1. Bicentennial Beach Park

Of course it gives you access to the wonderful sandy shorefront, and is endowed with amenities. 

But the reason Bicentennial Beach Park tops my list is that it’s the best place to stop along A1A and contemplate the Atlantic Ocean. 

Complete with two sheltered areas, there’s a boardwalk lined up along the dunes here. An surefire way to feel reinvigorated is to get up at dawn and come here (after 7 am) to see the sun come up. 

Next to the parking area you’ve got a neat lawn with picnic pavilions of various sizes, and these can be reserved by calling the Recreation Department.

2. Gleason Park

Next to the City Hall, Indian Harbour Beach’s community park is a thing of beauty. Aside from the city’s recreation center and pool in the middle, this is a passive park, made for strolling or taking picnics under the dense canopy.

In keeping with the rest of the city, there’s a lot of wildlife all around. For one thing, I saw gopher tortoises happily wandering across the lawns. 

On the west side, the trail leads to an elevated boardwalk with an observation platform overlooking a large pond with fountains. This is a good vantage point to spot fish and turtles in the water, and you may see waders like ibises pecking around the shore. 

Late in the day, with the sun sinking behind the trees, it’s perhaps the romantic place to be in the city.

3. Canova Beach Park

Managed by Brevard County, this public beach is in the city’s southeastern corner, overlapping with Indialantic.

Now, a good reason to keep Canova Beach Park in mind is the setting, at the end of East Eau Gallie Boulevard. This puts a wide range of shops and eateries in easy reach. In fact, there’s an ice cream parlor, and branches of Friendly’s and McDonald’s right across AIA.

On the shore, Canova Beach Park feels a long way from all this commerce. I love how the beach is screened by the dunes, with three crossovers to the sand. 

One more thing that distinguishes this spot is that it’s the only dog-friendly beach for miles, so you can feel like a whole family here. Naturally, you need to bring tags for their license and boosters, and they have to stay on-leash.

4. Banana River

Indian Harbour Beach is on the east side of a 30,000-acre aquatic preserve. The Banana River is part of the Indian River Lagoon system, noted for its almost unmatched level of biodiversity.

In fact, this is one of the most biodiverse estuaries in North America, with over 2,200 animal species. Birds are a real highlight of the Banana River, with scores of nesting and migrating species. 

A prominent one is the pelican, as the preserve safeguards the largest rookery for this iconic bird on the Atlantic Coast. Alligators, dolphins, and manatees are other very noticeable residents. 

There are plenty of ways to experience the Banana River in the Indian Harbour Beach area. You can navigate the lagoon by motorboat, kayak, canoe, or paddleboard, or on an eco-tour exploring the Thousand Islands Conservation Area near the north end.

5. Indian Harbour Beach City Arts & Crafts Show

Gleason Park is the location for a vibrant arts and crafts festival on the third Sunday in November. A day-long affair, the show has a full spectrum of vendor booths. 

You can find something out of the ordinary in all kinds of artforms, from mosaics to art glass, acrylics, pottery, jewelry, sculpture, textiles, woodworking, seasonal decor, and tons more. Added to that are plenty of handmade wellness products, from organic soaps to candles.

Give yourself several hours to see everything, and when you get hungry you can grab something delicious from one of the food trucks.

6. Mathers Bridge

Crossing the southernmost part of the Banana River, this swing bridge links Indian Harbour Beach with Merritt Island to the west. 

Measuring 700 feet, the Mathers Bridge dates back to 1927, and was moved to this spot in 1952. People come by to watch the swinging mechanism in action when boats pass through. 

The walkways are also big with fishing and crabbing folk, with gray snappers among the species biting here. 

There’s a strong chance you’ll see dolphins or manatees swimming past, while the bridge is also the first step on the beautiful Tropical Trail, which continues north for nearly 20 miles.

7. Anchorage Yacht Basin

Just off Indian Harbour Beach’s southwest corner, this marina is at the junction of the Banana and Indian rivers. Whether or not you own a boat, Anchorage Yacht Basin can be your gateway to these extraordinary environments.

If like me you’re a boatless landlubber, you head to the Carefree Boat Club for boat rentals. There are half a dozen vessels in the fleet, available for half or full days. 

You’ll find the boat for your needs, whether you’re out for watersports, fishing, nature watching, or just taking it easy.

You can head for Samson’s Island, just a few minutes to the north, and there’s a number of tiki bars (Frigate’s, Squid Lips) in the area that you can approach from the water.

8. South Tropical Trail, Merritt Island

If you’re in the mood for a scenic drive, then I don’t think you can do better than this road on Merritt Island. Unlike, say, A1A, Tropical Trail is right on the water, with a front-row view of the Indian River Lagoon for miles.

Next to Indian Harbour Beach, the island is so narrow that you can also look between the houses to see the Banana River. By the road on the Indian River side are palms and little private docks, some with tiki-style roof thatching.

The ideal time to make the drive is in the evening to watch the sunset over the lagoon. You can shorten the drive by turning around at Eden Isles Lane or Windjammer Point. 

Alternatively, the traffic is light enough that many people enjoy the sunset by jogging along this stretch of road.

9. DeSoto Park Canal for Manatees

I’ve mentioned that manatees can be seen in the Banana River, and these placid mammals show up all year. All the same, they’re not keen on cold conditions, so when the temperature drops they tend to congregate at warm spots. 

One of these is on the Indian Harbour Beach/Satellite Beach line at DeSoto Park. Here, warm water flushes into a canal on its way to the Banana River. After days when temperatures sink below 60 °F or so, there’s usually a herd huddling for warmth. 

There’s no better spot for miles to see a concentration of manatees. You can view them from the north side, just off the Desoto Parkway, or to the south at the little fishing dock. 

When I was here last, there was a sign warning about a crocodile, so it’s a good idea to stay on your toes.

10. Oars & Paddles Park

True to its name, this park is a handy access point for the Banana River and Indian River Lagoon. 

On five acres by the Whiting Waterway, which leads to the Banana River, Oars & Paddles Park is the home of the Space Coast Crew rowing team.

The Oars & Paddles dock is exclusively for non-motorized vessels, which adds an extra layer of peace of mind. On land you’ve got a picnic pavilion, a playground, and restrooms, all linked by a paved walkway.

There was no rental service at the park when I put this together. Still, there’s a few options in the area, including Ballard Boards, just across the Indian River in Melbourne.

11. Pelican Beach Park

Heading north on A1A from Indian Harbour Beach you’ll be at another wonderful public beach access in no time. For me, Pelican Beach Park shines thanks to the breadth of amenities just in from the shore.

There are six large picnic pavilions, ideal for parties and family unions, and equipped with grills. Like almost everything at the park, including the crossover, the restrooms, and showers, these are ADA accessible. 

As for the beach, it does pitch quite sharply into the water. This is only an issue at high tide when it might not be suitable for younger swimmers. Periodically, Pelican Beach is also one of the best surfing beaches on the Space Coast. 

Lifeguards are on duty daily, Memorial Day weekend through mid-August, and then on weekends for the rest of the year.

12. Rossetter House Museum and Gardens

Rossetter House MuseumSource: Leonard J. DeFrancisci (transferred to Wikimedia Commons by rohith_goura) / Wikimedia
Rossetter House Museum

A short drive across the Dr W. J. Creel Bridge and you’ll be at this local history museum, comprising two historic residences and a family cemetery.

The showpiece is the James Wadsworth Rossetter House, which has elements going back to the 1860s. This was greatly expanded in the early 1900s with the relocation of an existing winter home from the 1890s.

Among the many intriguing things about the Rossetter House are carved motifs commonly used in shipbuilding at the time. 

Starting across the street at the Roesch House (1901), 90-minute guided tours feature entertaining and in-depth accounts about the history of the area and its prominent figures at the turn of the 20th century. These took place Wednesday through Saturday when I went to press.

13. Paradise Beach Park

The public beach parks are packed so close to each other that you can pick a new one for each day of the week. To illustrate, Paradise Beach Park is less than five minutes away in Melbourne. 

I don’t think the name is an exaggeration, with three crossovers delivering you to a wide open swath of soft sand, patrolled by lifeguards in season. This is on a very low gradient, with a massive shallow area to wade in at low tide. 

Behind, you can see nothing but the dunes and their lush vegetation. The park’s amenities include a giant pavilions seating 200, as well as smaller pavilions, grills, and volleyball courts.

There isn’t a huge choice of eateries nearby, but Paradise Beach is served by a food truck.

14. Samsons Island Nature Park

One of the closest stops in Banana River is this 50-acre island off Satellite City. Formed in the 1950s, Samsons Island is the result of dredging activity.

It lay unused until the 1990s, and since then work has been done to encourage natural plant communities native to Florida. These include freshwater wetlands, coastal saline wetlands, mesic forest, and hardwood hammock.

Over time the island has become an eden-like haven, with close to 30+ bird species, including waders like roseate spoonbills and egrets. 

You can get there by boat or kayak, while Satellite Beach offers free eco-tours on the first and third Sunday of the month.

15. Algonquin Sports Complex

If you’re searching for an active park, this public facility has a range of sports fields. The Algonquin Sports Complex cost more than a million dollars when it was developed in the 2000s.

Available for all ages, the complex features fields for baseball, little league, softball, and soccer, all lighted. If you’re a local parent with a sporty child, you’re sure to be familiar with this facility.

When I went to press, the complex was about to double in size with an expansion into the neighboring plot. A public consultation was underway to determine the new amenities in the new eastern portion.

15 Best Things to Do in Indian Harbour Beach, Florida:

  • Bicentennial Beach Park
  • Gleason Park
  • Canova Beach Park
  • Banana River
  • Indian Harbour Beach City Arts & Crafts Show
  • Mathers Bridge
  • Anchorage Yacht Basin
  • South Tropical Trail, Merritt Island
  • DeSoto Park Canal for Manatees
  • Oars & Paddles Park
  • Pelican Beach Park
  • Rossetter House Museum and Gardens
  • Paradise Beach Park
  • Samsons Island Nature Park
  • Algonquin Sports Complex