Cocoa Beach Travel Guide
Sunset in Everglades National Park © Esther Lee
Centre of Florida's 'Space Coast' around Cape Canaveral, Cocoa Beach has become one of the Sunshine State's prime holiday resorts, boasting the top attraction of the Kennedy Space Center and close proximity to Orlando's major theme park attractions 46 miles (74km) away. Situated on a six-mile (10km) long barrier island, nestled between the Atlantic Ocean and the Banana River Lagoon, Cocoa Beach offers the chance to watch a space launch from the beach or ride the waves on which several surfing champions have cut their teeth.
The town of Cocoa Beach has a large permanent population made up largely of retirees, but this more than doubles during peak season when the local hotels, motels, timeshares and condominium rentals are filled with holidaymakers and sightseers. The quintessential beach town, Cocoa Beach has an oceanfront running the entire length of its city limits, fronted by numerous dining spots, shops and cafes. There is also an historic pier, stretching 840ft (256m) into the ocean, lined with restaurants, boutiques and souvenir shops and providing for good fishing. A few minutes away is man-made Port Canaveral, port of call for numerous cruise liners, where there are also operators offering day sails, casino cruises and deep-sea fishing charters. Cocoa Beach is connected to Port Canaveral and various stops in-between by the Beach Trolley service.
Any holidaymakers who ever wanted a surfboard would be well-advised to buy one at Cocoa Beach, capital of surfing on the Florida coast, where speciality surf shops abound. Ron Jon's Surf Shop is one shop in which any surf enthusiast can find just what they're looking for. This typical beach resort is also well stocked with fashionable beachwear and accessories, souvenir and gift stores. Most shops are located in the tree-lined streets of historic Cocoa Village. The town's main mall, with some anchor department stores, 100 speciality stores and restaurants, and a movie theatre, is on Merritt Square on the Merritt Island Causeway.
A wide range of culinary temptations are on offer for holiday visitors to enjoy at Cocoa Beach's 250-odd restaurants, with establishments to suit every purse and palate from casual dockside dining to four-star cuisine. In the space of one block you can choose between Chinese, German, Thai, Cuban or American seafood and steak. Seafood is always a favourite with visitors. Recommended often is the open air Oh Shucks Seafood Bar, right on the beach. Port Canaveral has become known as the hub of some sumptuous seafood restaurants.
At Cocoa Beach visitors on holiday can dance the night away, kick back and relax to some great tunes, sing karaoke, go see a play or movie. Cocoa Beach is packed with casual bars and hip clubs, most centred along Atlantic Avenue. Rated one of the hottest spots by the bikini and beach set is Coconuts on the Beach, on Minuteman Causeway, where partying goes on till the wee hours. For jazz and blues Big Daddy Dave's, in Cocoa Village, is a sure winner.
The possibilities for passing time pleasantly while on holiday in Cocoa Beach are boundless, and strolling, sunning, swimming and surfing on the miles of pristine beach is just the appetiser. At least two days are required for fully experiencing the high-tech space adventures at the Kennedy Space Center and the Astronaut Hall of Fame where you can touch a piece of the moon or take a trip into space in the IMAX theatre. By contrast, the area's wildlife sanctuaries can be explored by airboat, kayak or riverboat, or if you prefer nature in a more concentrated environment there is an excellent zoo. Soak up history in the tree-lined streets of historic Cocoa Village and the worthy local museums. Ride a horse or a go-cart, or take a boat trip from Port Canaveral. The Sterling Casino Lines gaming cruise ship sails twice daily for those wishing to try their luck. The Cocoa Beach pier can claim you for an afternoon's shopping, eating and fishing. Golfers have a choice of several great courses, while the children can enjoy miniature golf or tenpin bowling, or take in a movie.
Cocoa Beach, particularly in peak season, is not a place to seek solitude or a quiet vacation. The beach is large and long enough to ensure space is always available, but restaurants and other tourist facilities become very crowded.