Landlocked for months in self-imposed quarantine, we’ve been dreaming of sun-baked sand sinking beneath our feet, and ocean waves on a serenely hypnotic loop. Where would we go for the next island runaway? Barbados? Key West? Jamaica? Watching the pandemic news, I couldn’t help but think that any potential trip was a long way off. And then, serendipity stepped in, a family member made a kind offer, and we found ourselves at Satellite Beach.
(On the way to the beach. Photo by Laura Albritton.)
It’s not famous. Or crowded. Which, in these uncertain times, means as an island destination, it’s just about perfect. Satellite Beach is located on one of Florida’s 4500 barrier islands, off the east coast, about 193 miles north of Miami. Satellite Beach’s better-known sister, Cocoa Beach, attracts surfers from all over the country. Cocoa is fun and full of stuff to do (Ron Jon Surf Shop, anyone?), but I’ve discovered that Satellite Beach has its own inimitable charms.
(Looking south on the beach. Photo by Zickie Allgrove.)
Named “Satellite” Beach due to nearby Cape Canaveral's space program, this community of 10,000 people has a truly mellow vibe. Low-rise condominiums and apartment buildings face much of the beach, while the streets off A1A are lined with ranch-style houses, sometimes painted in tropical colors. Hibiscus, mango trees, frangipani, and palms dot the yards; surfboards and boats are parked outside.
(Frangipani and mermaid shutters. Photos by Laura Albritton.)
We stayed in a house a short distance from the shore, and walked about 3 blocks to the public access point, Blackbeard’s Den. (Hightower Beach and Pelican Beach offer public parking.) The beach itself has soft, beige sand and is wide and long enough so that our towels were 30 feet from our neighbors. Some days, the ocean action is on the quieter side, ideal for body surfing and swimming; other days, the Atlantic stirs itself with more power. Then we admire the surfers who wait patiently for the perfect opportunity to catch a wave.
(In Satellite Beach surfing is a way of life. Photos by Laura Albritton.)
In the hours after sunrise, people of all ages stroll up and down the shore, usually nodding or saying “hi” to one another. Shells lie scattered all over. Pelicans glide overhead, while egrets poke around in the shallows. We’ve discovered that all the built-up anxiety about Covid-19 sloughs away, when you’re faced with that endless ocean. “Relax, let go,” the sea seems to whisper, until we wake up one morning to find we’ve had the best night’s sleep in ages.
(Shells everywhere. Photo by Laura Albritton)
Satellite Beach may be quiet, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t amenities: we’ve found three grocery stores, including a giant Publix, Pappagallos for amazing pizza, Diego Da Kine’s for awesome burritos, not to mention Nippon Thai and many, many other options. We’ve gotten take-out, since we’re still “distancing,” and the restaurants are making it very easy, with some offering online ordering. Another joy is preparing a simple dinner at home and later going outside to count stars on a cloud-less night.
Although we see other vacationers, Satellite Beach is a locals’ place, with schools and a lake-side park and places of worship. We feel grateful to be able to share in their secret. For the past month, I’ve scrolled through pictures of exotic locales and wondered about the safety of flying. Then the chance to discover Satellite Beach fell into our laps, like a pandemic-miracle, and all we had to do was throw our bags into the car and drive. Now, we’re ready to return to the “real world,” with tans and happy memories.
Laura Albritton is the author of four books on South Florida history and travel, including Hidden History of the Florida Keys, written with Jerry Wilkinson, available at Key West bookstores and on Amazon.