Cocoa Beach: Orlando’s Closest Beach
Cocoa Beach is situated less than 60 miles (the actual distance is 59.8 miles) from Downtown Orlando. Not only does that put vacationers and tourists into the heart of Magic Kingdom, Universal Studios, Sea World, and a host of other amazing destinations, its closest beach may also be the finest anywhere within a few hours’ drive from this Central Florida city.
Cocoa Beach is often overlooked as a clear-cut winning vacation destination, not because it isn’t worthy of that title but because its neighboring cousins grab far more attention for reasons other than pristine beaches, great lodging opportunities, or proximity to other amazing locales throughout this part of Florida.
However, despite sitting a stone’s throw south of Cape Canaveral, Cocoa Beach sits on 5 pristine square miles of highly sought-after beaches and seclusion, enjoying the Atlantic surf to the east and calm Banana River waters to the west.
Numerous boating channels have been cut through the region, providing some of the best launching areas and marinas to explore the waters that surround this hidden gem in almost every direction. Port Canaveral is also a short drive north where some of the largest cruise ships in the world set sail; some heading to Bermuda and a host of other Caribbean destinations south and southeast.
If you’ve been wondering where you should spend your holidays, even if you’ve been dreaming of taking the kids to Disney or any of the other high-ticket destinations in Orlando (or, let’s be honest … you don’t need to be a kid or have any to enjoy those destinations) or whether you simply want to relax at the seashore, basking in the warm embrace of an autumn, winter, or spring sun, or catch some incredible waves during the peak of the summer season, Cocoa Beach, Florida is definitely a place to consider.
Perhaps you’re keen on checking out a thriving art scene with a healthy dose of nightlife. You can find that, an amazing amount of rich history and culture, and some wonderfully outgoing and friendly people at Cocoa Beach.
Florida is home to more than 1,300 miles of coastline, which means you won’t have any trouble finding amazing beaches that will fit your fantasies, desires, and, of course, vacation needs. One thousand three hundred! It is the perfect destination for beach lovers, but the Sunshine State certainly offers far more than just a few great places to pitch your beach umbrella (or your gazebo tent for an entire day or weeklong stay), but for those who want a blend of excitement, relaxation, and a quick trip to the heart of Orlando, there’s no better place than Cocoa Beach.
If your main motivation to vacation in Florida happens to be the excitement that awaits in Orlando, but you still yearn for a day at the beach, then be sure to put Cocoa Beach firmly on your radar. You simply won’t be disappointed by what it has to offer.
And, you will not find an easier trip (or shorter one) to any of Florida’s beaches from Orlando than you will here.
If you are wondering where to spend your holidays, whether you are looking just to relax and chill at the seashore or enjoy a thriving art scene with a healthy dose of nightlife, you can’t go wrong with Cocoa Beach, Florida.
With a coastline that stretches on for hundreds of miles, Florida is especially perfect for the beach lovers out there. Florida has a lot of beaches to offer, but if you are staying in Orlando, you cannot miss out on the scenic sights of Cocoa Beach.
About the city
A family vacation (or adults who just want to let loose and have some roller-coaster style fun at any number of the theme parks) isn’t complete without a visit to Orlando. Many vacationers choose a single hotel for their entire stay, most often close enough to the major theme parks that they don’t have more than 20 or 30 minutes to drive there in the mornings.
Orlando boasts numerous excitement rich attractions, including Sea World, the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios, the new Pandora exhibit at Disney’s Animal Kingdom (of Avatar fame), Magic Kingdom and Epcot Center, Gatorland where even you can ‘wrestle’ a live gator, and a number of museums that spark imagination and curiosity, like the Orlando Museum of Art and Ripley’s Believe It or Not. Orlando is truly a prime choice for kids and adults.
Cocoa Beach may not offer those kinds of thrills, but the city that was founded in 1925 on lands purchased following the Civil War to allow freed slaves a new start in life offers riches of its own, and some of which Orlando could never boast.
Because it’s just a quick drive away along Route 520 or 528 (depending on where you stay in Orlando), you could be at the beach in about an hour’s time, even with the usual traffic Orlando sees daily.
For fans of I Dream of Jeannie, Cocoa Beach was home for this series, though no actual episodes or scenes were filmed here. Also, the little heralded 2002 movie Race to Space was partly filmed at the Cocoa Beach High School.
Cocoa Beach is a vibrant city that offers a day (or more) of rejuvenation and some wonderful attractions that will enhance any Florida vacation.
How Do You get there?
The closest beach to Orlando, Cocoa Beach is only an hour’s drive away from the city. It is perfect for a one-day trip, a weekend getaway, or as a spot to add to the itinerary for your trip to Florida.
There are numerous shuttle/bus services that cruise back and forth all day and well into the night between Cocoa Beach and Orlando. If you’re tired of driving, fighting for parking in Orlando and simply want a chance to (finally) relax, you can let any one of these awesome shuttle/bus services take care of the driving.
See some of the reasonable packages here.
If you’re landing at Orlando International Airport and are ready to jump right into the surf and feel the power of the Atlantic Ocean waves slamming into you or ride a body board, jump right on Route 528 and keep on heading due east. 528 will become A1A right near the coast, as you cross the causeway, and a few more miles through Cape Canaveral and you’ll arrive in Cocoa Beach.
Rent a car at the airport and roam around at your leisure. If you want to cover a lot of sightseeing in a limited time period, booking a tour is the best option for you.
You could also slip off 528 onto 520 and head over the West Cocoa Beach Causeway and you’ll end up at A1A by Shepard Park, near Ron Jon Surf Shop and Four Points by Sheraton at Cocoa Beach.
If you happen to stay in Downtown Orlando, pick up Route 408 due east, turn right onto 50 and then merge onto 520. Again, 520 will bring you straight to the heart of Cocoa Beach and the amazing beaches stretching for miles. Keep in mind, though, that 528 and some of these other highways are toll roads.
You don’t need a Sun Pass, but you will have to make a few stops to pay the tolls along the way. All in all, these minimal tolls are more than worth it when you realize you’ll be at the beach from your Orlando hotel within an hour!
Best time to visit
This beach town has fairly mild weather all year round, and no month is a bad time to vacation there. April is a lovely time to visit, and the end of August is perfect if you want to enjoy the hot and humid Florida climate.
You can go online and read a number of reviews tourists and vacationers alike report about the beaches (and Orlando) and different times of the year and one thing you’ll come to realize: there’s no such thing as a bad time to visit! July and August are often the hottest, on average, and also the busiest, but if you have children, that happens to be when they’re out of school on break.
If you’re looking to avoid the intense summer heat and humidity (along with the typical intense thunderstorms that seem to roll through on many an afternoon), you could plan your trip for early autumn, such as late September and into October. You’ll enjoy the Halloween decorations and festivities in Orlando and Cocoa Beach. Early November and late January/early February tend to be the slowest months for the theme parks and while the ocean waters will be cooler, it’s swimmable and a lot of fun with far fewer people crowding some of the beaches.
January tends to be the coldest month in Florida, which means you might actually experience some freezing temperatures overnight. April is absolutely glorious for beach time in Florida as the sun is heating the waters up following winter’s wrath and Spring Breakers are flocking to Daytona and other points of interest well north of Cocoa Beach.
So, in short, if you want the best combination of reduce theme park crowds (and prices), wonderful beach weather, and a relaxed atmosphere, late September through mid-November is absolutely perfect, as is April, May, and early June.
Sight seeing and attractions
Cocoa Beach is a classic beach town, and along with the surrounding Space Coast, it offers a variety of activities and sights that will make you fall in love with it. There is no dearth of fun and exciting things to do. And the best part?
You can have a great time even if you are on a budget! There are plenty of affordable hotels on or close to the beach, where you can spend a night or two as you explore everything the place has to offer.
Cocoa Beach is located at a short distance from Cape Canaveral and Kennedy Space Centre. While both Daytona and Cocoa are close to Orlando and Disney world, Cocoa wins out in terms of ease of transport, easily-available beach accommodations and its relaxing and peaceful atmosphere. Cocoa village is a historical, quaint little place with restaurants, galleries, and art studios.
One of the most amazing sights to behold, if you have the fortune of being here at the right time, is a rocket launch from Cape Canaveral. Not precisely a rarity and though you won’t be seeing Space Shuttles heading to space any longer, many satellites and research vessels (along with some replenishment supplies for the International Space Station) head out from this region throughout the year.
If you schedule your trip with the hope of witnessing a launch, you will be hard-pressed to find a better viewing area than along Cocoa Beach. You’ll be close enough to hear the roar of the engines and be able to track the rocket as it heads into space. Of course, launches are dependent on good weather conditions and no other unexpected glitches coming up beforehand, so it’s best not to plan your entire trip around one of these spectacles (but if you’re here at the right time … Cocoa Beach is the prime viewing location).
Places to visit
You have a lot of places to choose from if you’re visiting Cocoa Beach. From parks to museums to even sanctuaries, you can go where you want – there is a lot happening near Cocoa beach too.
1. Kennedy Space Centre
If you want to go somewhere that you would remember for a lifetime, try out the Kenedy Space Centre. It is the perfect place to go with your children or if you love science – there is just so much to try out.
It is another great place for those fascinated by the mysteries of deep space, this place offers you the rare opportunity to tour launch-pads, see giant rockets, try being in spaceflight simulators, and – if you are lucky – watch a launch.
2. Cocoa Beach Pier
Address: 401 Meade Ave, Cocoa Beach, FL 32931
The 800 foot long beach pier is a busy, bustling place. It mostly consists of a lot of restaurants, including a tiki bar! The actual ‘pier’ part of it is rather insignificant, but Cocoa Beach Pier is a great place to grab a bite to eat or have a drink while enjoying the view of the waves. While it is a very family-friendly place during the day, it has great nightlife and is a good place to go to party and drink and dance, especially on weekends and holidays.
The pier is generally crowded with tourists, and is a cultural hub. Since it is pretty tall, you can enjoy the scenic, quintessential beach view of the waves, the surfers, and people sunbathing on the beach. With its cheerful and laid back atmosphere, even a Monday feels like a Saturday on the Cocoa Beach pier!
3. Jetty Park in Cape Canaveral
Adjacent to Cocoa beach, Jetty Park is a great place to go for a quiet day of fishing. It has a fishing pier, a fully-equipped bait shop where you can rent beach equipment, a beautiful beach, safety measures and a camp ground. All of it can be accessed at the nominal fee of 5 dollars.
You can often see aquatic animals in the distance if you stand at the pier – sea turtles, manatees, even dolphins. The launch structures of the Kennedy Space Center complete the picture.
4. Shepherd Park
On the plus side, it is closer to Cocoa Beach than Jetty Park. On the downside though, it offers similar facilities, it is usually pretty crowded. You might want to head off to the park on a weekday though.
5. Lori Wilson Park
The beach here is a lovely access to Cocoa Beach. It is a lovely place for taking a stroll along boardwalks through the forests and dunes or enjoying a picnic at the seaside. It is also a popular choice for beach weddings.
6. Ron Jon’s Surf Shop
As the world’s largest surf shop, Ron Jon’s Surf Shop is the commercial king of the surf-loving community of Florida’s Atlantic Coast. From beach tees, bikinis and backpacks to high-end surfing equipment and skateboards, you can find it all at Ron Jon’s.
Things to do When You’re At Cocoa Beach
There are different activities that you can try at Cocoa. Deep-sea fishing, an eco-adventure in the form of a kayak tour, enjoying a few rounds of golf, testing your courage and trying your hand at water and wind sports, and embarking on a cruise from Port Canaveral (located a few minutes away from Cocoa) are just a few of the things one could do here.
Cocoa Beach has some amazing restaurants that serve seriously delicious food. You will find yourself coming down to the beach for every meal you have here.
The Cocoa Beach Skate Park is an excellently designed skate park, home base of Team Pain, and is open for enthusiasts of the sport. With an awesome and smooth bowl section and street course, this park is a great place to head to for an adrenaline rush. If you love to strap on a pair of skates whenever you get the chance, don’t forget to pack yours for your trip to Cocoa Beach!
Cocoa Beach offers the chance to go on some of the best deep-sea fishing charters for sailfish, yellowfin tuna, grouper, etc., as well as inshore flat fishing for snook, trout and redfish.
At cocoa beach, you can enjoy an eco-adventure in the form of a kayak tour. Visitors can learn kayaking and get up and close with amazing native aquatic wildlife like Florida manatees and Bottlenose dolphins.
If you want to ease into your holiday with a leisurely round of golf, Cocoa Beach has a beautiful mini golf course where you can enjoy a game or two with some friends.
Wind and water sports
Surfing is the heart and soul or the Cocoa Beach community, and wind and water sports are an integral part of the beach experience. Surfing and kite-boarding are both exhilarating ways to enjoy the wind and the waves.
Tourists who just want to unwind and relax often opt for one of the many cruises leaving from Port Canaveral, a few minutes away from Cocoa Beach. It is a fulfilling, calming experience.
The shells strewn about Cocoa Beach are a big attraction for most of its younger visitors, as well as the occasional shell collector. Although there aren’t many conch-like shells, there are plenty of pretty clam-like shells to keep your little one amused.
Cocoa Beach has some amazing restaurants that serve seriously delicious food. You will find yourself coming down to the beach for every meal you have here. Places like Pig and Whistle, Fat Kahuna’s Beachside Grille, etc. are known for their exquisite seafood. If you can’t resist a plate of crispy fish with salt and vinegar fries, you have come to the right place.
All in all, Cocoa Beach is worth a visit. You cannot go wrong with this little beach town!