Boating in Melbourne, Florida
Fun in the Sun
Past the southern termination of the Banana River you'll spot the Eau Gallie Causeway (Route 518) bridge, and you’ll find this area an excellent spot to layover for a night or two. There are at least one half-dozen transientfriendly marinas and a few spots to anchor on the east side of Dragon Point. Farther south is Melbourne, the most populated township on the Space Coast. Here you’ll find above-par eateries and handy grocery stores.v
Eau Gallie River once served as the focal point for this part of the Space Coast. Its discovery proved to be an ideal berthing spot for early ships plying along the Indian River, and a lively community of dock masters and boat builders soon emerged. Its fi rst permanent resident was a U.S. Army soldier named John Houston, who had been sent to count Seminoles. He liked the place so much that he asked for a discharge, and returned in 1859 with his son and 14 slaves to begin clearing land and building a house. The name Eau Gallie, loosely meaning “rocky water,” is symbolic of the coquina rocks that line the Indian River shoreline here.
By contrast, the fi rst settlers of Melbourne in 1870 were three freed slaves, Peter Wright, Balaam Allen and Wright Brothers. Florida was where many former slaves went to start life anew. These fellows set up camp at the next source of freshwater to the south, Crane Creek. Other families soon arrived to farm and log, and in 1880 a name had to be chosen to facilitate mail delivery. The right to name the city was chosen by drawing straws. An Australian fellow named C.J. Hector pulled the long straw, which is how Crane Creek came to be named for Melbourne, Australia (where Hector had once lived).
Eau Gallie grew up around the boatyard established by Capt. Aaron Bennett in 1885–1889. Eventually named the Eau Gallie Yacht Basin, it was considered the best, safest, deep-water harbor along Florida’s East Coast and the area was nicknamed “Harbor City.”
The commercial side of Eau Gallie was long ago laid to rest when the railroad arrived in 1893. Meanwhile, the marina facilities on this stretch of ICW retained their distinct seagoing atmosphere, and heartily welcome those who arrive by water.
To the east, Eau Gallie and Melbourne's barrier island offers a breathtaking expanse of shoreline that rivals the rest of Florida's coast. Satellite Beach to the north, and Indian Harbor Beach and Melbourne beach to the south, adorn a narrow strip of land that separates the Indian River Lagoon from the Atlantic Ocean.
Things to See and Do
Along with Cocoa, Melbourne was once a beneficiary of the Space Race boom but has since settled into a more sleepy residential community, and one with a relaxed, laid-back atmosphere. Melbourne Harbor and the Melbourne Yacht Club on Cranes Creek are positioned close to Melbourne’s downtown along East New Haven Avenue, an old-fashioned main street with 20 restaurants and many shops.
Eau Gallie Yacht Basin and Eau Gallie Boatworks (SM 915) are friendly, snug facilities at the bottom of the historic redevelopment area and within a few live-oaks of historic homes and antique shops. The Brevard County Museum of Arts and Sciences (1463 Highland Ave.; 321-242-0737) and Eau Gallie Public Library (1521 Pineapple Ave.; 321- 255-4304)—the second-best waterfront public library in Florida—are also an easy stroll. Waterline Marina is farther down the creek and closer to provisions but farther by land from historic Eau Gallie and the library. It’s faster to dinghy around to the lagoon side.
For a special side trip, the Brevard Zoo (8225 North Wickham Road; 321-254-9453) is a small but excellent facility east of I-95 on SR 509, focusing on Latin American animals and tropical exotics. It offers some really unique activities including behind-the-scenes tours with keepers, hand-feeding giraffes, and the opportunity to kayak through a replication of the Nyami River Delta. Several Florida panthers, North America's rarest mammal, also call the Brevard Zoo home.
Restaurants and Provisions
Melbourne Harbor offers more than a half-dozen good “old town” eateries plus bakeries and delis within walking distance. The Chart House Restaurant (2250 Front St.; 321-729-6558) and Ichabod’s Dockside Bar and Grille (2210 Front St.; 321-952-9532) are located near the Melbourne Harbor site. Try Publix (1411 S. Babcock St.; 321-727-8085) for provisioning.
Meg O’Malley’s (812 E. New Haven Ave.; 321-952-5510) is the happening spot for Irish grub and drinks. Go for tasty corned beef and stay for the Irish or jazz bands that play every night. The known gourmet spot is Djon’s Chop House (522 Ocean Ave.; 321-722-2737). The setting for this excellent steak, veal, and seafood spot is a romantic Victorian house once visited by steamboat crews who worked the Indian River.
The Conch Key Grille & Tiki Bar (6355 N. US HWY 1; 321-751-5311) on the waterfront in Rockledge is part island joint, part sports bar, and it has a sandy beach and fi shing pier. Come by boat, kayak, or car.
You’d never fi nd this one on your own so pay attention… the Pineda Crossing Bar and Grill (2515 Roberts Road; 321-259-7760) is where the Culinary Institute of America and cracker Florida collide. The outside and inside don’t match either, but just go and be amazed at the fi ne food. It’s located at just west of US 1 and south of the SR 404 Bridge in Melbourne near Palm Shores.
Provisioning is a snap at the Anchorage Yacht Basin or Telemar Bay Marina as both are close to Publix and Winn- Dixie. For gourmet shops, check out Green Turtle Market and Grapevine Café (855 E. Eau Gallie Blvd.; 321-773- 2001). The café serves soups and salads at lunch in a wine country-themed decor.
Use ChartKit Region 7, page 43, and NOAA charts 11472 (1:40,000) and 11476 (1:80,000).
Navigation and Anchorages
Statute Mile 914.8 brings you to the Eau Gallie Causeway Bridge. If you are going to take advantage of the facilities here, the best approach is from the south. Head past the mouth of the creek and at SM 915 you’ll pick up G “1” where you can make a safe turn into this cozy harbor with two marinas and a boatyard.
South of the Melbourne Causeway/SR 516 Bridge (SM 918.2) at R “6” is the entrance to Crane Creek and Melbourne Harbor. Following the marked channel westward, depths should be six feet at low tide on approach and eight feet inside. The docks on the south side belong to Melbourne Yacht Club for cruisers with reciprocal privileges.
Continuing south, the ICW remains friendly with adequate depths in most places adjoining the defi ned channel. This changes at SM 925, where there is little margin for wandering, and navigating the channel requires constant attention all the way to the Fort Pierce Inlet.
Shoreside and Emergency Services
Airport: Melbourne International 321-723-6227
—Greyhound, Melbourne 321-723-4329
—Space Coast Area Transit 321-633-1878
Coast Guard: Port Canaveral 321-868-4200 or VHF 16
ICW Conditions: 561-627-3386
Marine Police: FWC 888-404-3922
Taxi: Yellow Cab 321-676-3100
Train: Amtrak 800-USA-RAIL
—Sea Tow 800-4SEATOW or VHF 16
—TowBoatU.S. 800-391-4869 or VHF 16 ?
—Sea Tow 800-4SEA TOW
—TowBoatU.S. 800-391-4869 ?