Located in Brevard County near Palm City, Cocoa is in the middle of Florida, approximately 200 miles from Miami and just 46 miles from Orlando. If you have children and are looking to also visit the theme parks, then this relatively small town with a population of only 17, 000 can be a great escape from the big city and bigger resorts at the end of your trip.
Spread over a large area, the town – founded largely by fisherman prior to the Civil War – is said to have originally been called Indian River City. But due to complainants from the U.S Postal service about the length of the name, it quickly adopted a new name. ‘Cocoa’ is believed to have derived from the fact that residents used to get their mail by boat, and the box used to deliver it was a Baker’s Cocoa box.
Here are 15 interesting things to do in Cocoa, Florida.
1. Historic Cocoa Village
Take a step back in time to the 19th century to visit one of the earliest settled areas of Cocoa. Here, you’ll find a variety of shops and eateries to meet your every need, as you marvel at the history all around you on the historic streets.
Every type of dining experience is catered for – from fine dining and casual to cute little bakeries and milk tea shops. But the village isn’t just for shopping; it also hosts events. From fine arts to book festivals, there is even a unique festival called ‘Christmas in July,’ maybe not for those who are superstitious.
2. Cocoa Riverfront Park
Florida is known for its incredible climate, so chances are, if you go down to Cocoa Riverfront park, the views will be spectacular. Go for a stroll and see where the world takes you and who you meet. Be sure to check out the water fountains, which are great for kids to play in and cool off.
The park is not huge, but there are plenty of walking trails to keep you busy, and a view of the harbor where many boats are moored.
3. Brevard Museum
This museum of history and science is the perfect intellectual retreat from the slow and relaxed Floridian beach life. There are currently some great exhibitions, such as the Apollo journey and the Cape Canaveral lighthouse 150th-anniversary celebration. There are also some great nature walks in this huge site that covers more than 22 acres, to satisfy your desire to be at one with your environment.
The museum is also the home of the Florida Historical Society Archaeological Institute, whose aim is to educate the public on important archaeological discoveries in Florida.
4. Lee Wenner Park
This is a great park to spend half a day at. It has a number of facilities for you to enjoy with your family, including a playground, a picnic pavilion – which is a great place to escape the sun and enjoy a family meal in the shade – and four boat ramps. This is perfect if you are looking to launch a speedboat or want to rent one for the day.
There is also access to the Indian River boardwalk.
5. Indian River
The 121 mile (195 km) Indian River in Cocoa is the perfect place to sail along if you want to explore the beautiful coastlines of Florida – surely some of the most incredible in the world. It is technically a lagoon even though it is known as the Indian River.
There are many private companies who can rent you a boat for you to meander down the river on. There are also lots of tour companies who do public tours that you can join. This is cheaper, and a great way of meeting new people if you are traveling solo, or you’re a couple looking for new friends.
Also, don’t forget about the volunteering opportunities at the river involving monitoring the wildlife and working to protecting the eco-system in general; it’s a great way of giving back to the world.
6. Travis Park
This 2.5-acre park is vibrant and happening. This is thanks in part to the park’s connection to the local high school, whose students make regular use of the community center. The center is known as ‘The Tiger’s Den.’
If you have children who are looking for playmates while on holiday, then this might be the perfect place for them to hang out. There’s a basketball court, a volleyball court, and even a gym. You can even explore the nature trail that links up to Clear Lake and the Brevard Museum.
7. Manatee Cove Park
This vast 29.4-acre park is a great place to explore some of the enchanting sea life that inhabits the Florida coast.
As the name of the park suggests, there is a lagoon here that is home to the local population of manatees. In fact, there are more manatees here than anywhere else in the world.
If you’re interested in getting a closer look at these awesome marine animals, you can hire a canoe and head out onto the lagoon.
If you’re looking for some interaction with animals on land too, there is also an equestrian center for the horse lovers among you.
8. Cocoa Beach Surf Museum
This museum is a great place to see the history of surf in Florida. There are famous surfboards and a history of the surfing community that grew up around the 1960s. Some of the exhibits include the Joe Nuzzo surf shop – which started life as the Suncoast Surf Shop – as well as a display all about the Sebastian Inlet, which was ridden for the first time in 1959.
There is also an exhibition on the Florida women in the waves, celebrating the contribution women have made to this sport.
9. Sam House at Pine Island
Part of the Pine Island conservation area which covers some 960 acres, Sam House at Pine Island is the best place to visit if you are interested in both history and nature. The house itself is a restored cabin that was first built in 1875, belonging to the Sam’s family. There are regular talks and exhibits at the house.
In terms of nature, there is a considerable amount to do. There are seven miles of nature travels and a variety of animals that live here, such as eagles and alligators.
10. Brevard Botanical Garden
This botanical garden stretches for two hectares and is the first botanical garden in Cocoa. Join the thousands of visitors each year who come to enjoy the wide array of flora.
This is a great place to bring the whole family for a picnic. There are several educational exhibits here too, so you can squeeze a bit of learning in while you enjoy the natural wonders on show.
11. Fay Lake Wilderness Park
Stretching over a distance of 27 acres, Fay Wilderness Park is primarily a fishing park. This is the best place to come and relax. You can sit for hours waiting for a catch without interruption, so be sure to bring a sunhat to avoid the blazing heat of the sun.
Within the park, there is also a park built just for dogs – Port St.John Dog Park.
12. Twister Airboat Rides
Another relaxing activity to do in Cocoa takes place at Twister Airboat Rides. These are motorized boats you can take down the Saint Johns River and Lake Poinsett.
You can speed along at 45mph, meaning you’ll cover a lot of ground and spot some of the amazing wildlife as you take in the breathtaking beauty all around you.
Be sure to look out for eagles, alligators, wild hogs, and cows. There is the option to do an extended trip for 60 or 90 minutes.
13. Lake Poinsett
This is the widest lake in Brevard county at nearly five miles (eight km). It’s the perfect place to rent a boat, turn off the engine, and enjoy the silence and cool blue waters surrounding you.
14. Intercoastal Waterway Park
This Waterway Park is based on Merritt Island, halfway across the Indian River. It is the perfect place for some gator spotting. If you have young kids who are obsessed with the toothy critters, be sure to take them along.
As well as alligators, if you’re lucky, you might see some Atlantic Bottlenose Dolphins frolicking around, and there is also a variety of bird species to look out for. All-in-all, this is an excellent place for animal lovers.
15. Banana River Aquatic Preserve
Located halfway between Merritt Island and Beach Barrier Island, the Banana River Aquatic Preserve is in an area that is more built-up than some of the other parks in Cocoa. Here you will find even more exotic creatures; there’s a large Pelican Rookery and even some diamondback terrapin turtles.
You could easily combine the Banana River with the Intercoastal Waterway Park in a day devoted to the great nature and wildlife that Cocoa has to offer.