Last month we family vacationed in Florida for a week before heading off on the Carnival Magic for a 7 day Western Caribbean Cruise. We wanted to take advantage of our time in Florida seeing some of the usual spots, such as theme parks, but also genuine Florida sun fun. We spent a family day at Cocoa Beach on Florida’s Space Coast exploring the beautiful beach and pier, eating delicious fresh catch and a little shopping at the World’s Largest Surf Shop, Ron Jon Surf Shop.
Cocoa Beach is only an hour drive from Orlando and worth the drive for a more relaxed beach day. We decided to take a break from the busy theme parks on a summer weekday so although there was less population on the beach. Of course there are several people enjoying the beach but there is a large stretch of beach big enough to find a good spot. Tip: If you are looking for a quieter day, avoid going on a major holiday.
Tips for a Great Day at Cocoa Beach
- If you are driving for Orlando, avoid rush hour and be prepared with enough change for toll booths. They don’t cost a lot but there are several on the way there and back, ranging from 75¢ to $2.50.
- If you are heading out on a cruise at Port Canaveral, Cocoa Beach is very close and the perfect pre-cruise day spot destination. Cocoa Beach is only about a 6 minute drive from Cape Canaveral; you will enjoy watching the cruise ships go by.
- Arrive early enough to find parking. Parking cost us $15 for the day per carload at the pier parking lot; this allowed us to have access to the pier without having to pay.
- You can rent beach chairs with an umbrella but for a large family like ours, it can get expensive quickly. They also pack up the chairs by suppertime; you may want to bring a blanket, chairs and an umbrella. We weren’t completely prepared with chairs and chose to just sit in the sand but a nice couple sitting beside us left us their chairs when they left. They had picked up a few loungers at a nearby garage sale at the beginning of their week and paid it forward when it was time for them to leave. I loved this idea.
- Bring a cooler with enough snacks and drinks for the day. You can purchase drinks at the pier but it’s a bit of a walk, depending on where you place yourself on the beach.
- Bathrooms and outdoor showers are available at the pier which makes it easy to rinse off sandy feet.
- Bring sand toys and water floaties for the kids and don’t forget the sunblock.
Things to Do
There are many things to do in the Cocoa Beach area but here are the ones that intrigued us as a family most.
- Rent bikes and surf boards or schedule a surf lesson with Cocoa Beach Surf School by Flohana. Surf lesson? Heck, yeah!
- Beach volleyball. There happened to be a camp or tournament happening while we were there which our teens, as sports fanatics, were very excited to see.
- Shop at the World’s Largest Surf Shop, Ron Jon Surf Shop. This place was big with everything you need for all the beach needs. Our teens were in heaven with all the cute bathing suits. We learned the store is open 24/7, even on Christmas.
- For those dinosaur fans, like our 3-year-old, head to the Dinosaur Store; they have a new interactive Adventure Zone with reptiles and fossil digs. This would be a perfect stop for time out of the sun.
- Visit the nearby Kennedy Space Center where you can see the Atlantis shuttle exhibit, a simulated launch and meet an Astronaut. Young ones love the play dome. It’s about a 30 minute drive from the Cocoa Beach Pier.
- If you are feeling adventurous, schedule a Cocoa Beach Parasail experience and enjoy the view above the water. I parasailed as a teen and knew my teens would love to experience this adventurous activity.
What to do at Cocoa Beach Pier
With your parking pass mentioned above, you are able to walk out to the end of the pier where you can take in the ocean view 800 ft over the water sitting on Southern porch style rocking chairs while you sip on a beverage from the Rikki Tiki Tavern at the end of the pier. The view is beautiful, the atmosphere all-encompassing and the people are friendly.
For those fishing enthusiasts, you can rent fishing rods and fish for your meal of the day or simply catch and release. Cleaning stations are provided right on the pier to allow you to filet the fish before you leave.
Where to Eat
Before heading back to Orlando from our day at Cocoa Beach, we had to try the delicious fresh seafood at the Boardwalk Bar restaurant which is family friendly. We each tried something different, the little ones off the children’s menu, and the Shrimp Taco’s, Fish Sandwich and Grilled Fish and Coleslaw Sandwich were absolutely delicious.
Other Restaurants to Choose From
Whether you’re heading out on a cruise from Port Canaveral or needing a break from the busy theme park days in Orlando, Cocoa Beach on Florida’s Space Coast is a great destination for families to explore.
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