For many well-seasoned Florida visitors, Cocoa Beach captures the essence of the Florida beach town like no other.
It’s located in Brevard County and had a population of just slightly more than 11,000 residents at the time of the last census.
Perhaps more than any other town, it offers visitors a wide range of activities, including world-class theme parks, the space-related attractions along the Space Coast, and some of the state’s most natural and scenic expanses of beach.
The only problem with visiting Cocoa Beach is that it’ll make going home seem like a forced march to the abyss.
Below are 15 things to do in and around Cocoa Beach, Florida.
1. Cocoa Beach Pier
Cocoa Beach Pier may be the famous beach town’s most iconic attraction, and rumor has it that it draws more than a million visitors annually.
Jutting out nearly 1,000 feet into the Atlantic’s blue waters, the pier is a popular place for walkers, fishermen, and sunset seekers.
Anglers may bring their own tackle, but for out-of-towners who don’t have their own, it’s available to rent as well; snapper, redfish, and bluefish are common catches.
For those who’d rather sit with a chilled cocktail or dine on seafood, there are a number of bars and restaurants, and most have covered outdoor seating.
2. Florida Surf Museum
Florida’s Atlantic coast provides some of the best surfing on the entire American east coast, and Cocoa Beach is one of the state’s most popular surf destinations.
The Florida Surf Museum is located on North Atlantic Avenue in Cocoa Beach, and according to those in-the-know, it’s the best surf museum of its kind in the state.
The museum’s exhibits include surfboards, bios of local and national surf legends, and an extensive array of photographs and first-hand accounts of historic surfing stories and milestones.
The museum frequently hosts temporary exhibits and special events as well, and much of what visitors will see is dedicated to the achievements of women surfers.
3. Historic Cocoa Village
Historic Cocoa Village is located along Florida Avenue, and for most visitors, it’s one of those must-see attractions that graces the top of their Cocoa Beach itinerary.
The village was founded more than 150 years ago and includes several historic homes, as well as shops and restaurants. They also host a variety of annual events and festivals.
The village’s shady streets are perfect for those looking to stretch their legs, and there are popular sip-and-stroll tours where guests can enjoy an adult beverage or two while they’re being led around by a local guide. There’s also a local playhouse, and even automobile and arts and crafts shows.
4. Banana River Aquatic Preserve
At 30,000 acres, Banana River Aquatic Preserve is one of the Cocoa Beach area’s largest parks. It’s located around Merritt and other barrier islands along the coast.
The preserve’s amenities include several distinct recreation areas that offer visitors chances to explore by foot or on bike. For the more adventurous types, kayaks are available to rent on-site as well.
Though much of the preserve is water, it’s possible to see a variety of wildlife from the trails and waterways. There’s even a resident population of manatees in addition to turtles, gators, and a huge variety of both land and sea birds.
5. Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex
Since the inception of the country’s space exploration, the area around Cape Canaveral has been its epicenter.
The drive to the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex takes less than an hour from Cocoa Beach, but for those who’d rather let professionals handle all the driving and details, there are a variety of tour options to choose from.
The complex includes historic spacecraft, the Astronaut Hall of Fame, and a huge variety of space equipment and memorabilia that frequently shed new and in-depth light on parts of the program that most visitors aren’t familiar with.
Some tours include stops at nearby outlet centers for food and retail therapy as well.
6. Lori Wilson Park
Lori Wilson Park is smaller and slightly more secluded than some of the area’s other beach parks, and therein lies much of its charm and allure.
From the parking area to the beach, guests will have to follow one of the short trails that lead through both forest and dune areas, but the secluded beaches are just what the doctor ordered for those who’ve tired of the area’s more touristy beaches and attractions.
Amenities include picnic tables, covered seating areas, an elevated boardwalk, and nature trail, as well as volleyball courts, barbecue grills, and abundant restrooms.
The park and facilities are free, and located along North Atlantic Avenue.
7. Cocoa Beach Brewing Company
Located among a group of historic naval buildings that are no longer serving in an official capacity, Cocoa Beach Brewing Company was founded in 2008 and was one of the pioneers of the microbrew industry in the Space Coast area.
Cocoa Beach Brewing center their attention on brewing small-batch beers in a variety of styles and flavor profiles; many of them have won prestigious awards over the years.
From dark stouts to light and hoppy IPAs – and a little bit of everything else in between – there’s probably something on-tap at their taproom to tempt most taste buds. The area around the brewery is full of quaint shops, eateries, and historical attractions as well.
8. The Dinosaur Store
Located on West Cocoa Beach Causeway, The Dinosaur Store is purported to house one of the world’s largest collections of ancient fossils and minerals. Most guests who’ve taken the time to check it out agree that it’s an impressive and unique attraction that shouldn’t be missed.
The facility is part museum and part store, and it’s possible to buy a variety of authentic fossils, some of which are millions of years old.
Of course, there are lots of plastic toys and reproductions too, and there’s a dedicated kid’s zone where little ones can get creative, play games and build their own skeletons.
9. Ron Jon Surf School
Though saying ‘hang-ten’ over and over and reciting funny lines from ‘Fast Times at Ridgemont High’ aren’t necessary prerequisites for enrolling in the Ron Jon Surf School, most guests choose to do both anyway.
Opened in 1993, the school’s instructors include some of the most accomplished surfers from around the country who have dozens of years of surfing experience, and are therefore able to teach either beginners or advanced surfers.
Lessons are offered both privately and in small groups. For kids from seven to 18, there are multi-day camps during the summer months when schools are closed.
10. Astronaut Memorial Planetarium & Observatory
The Astronaut Memorial Planetarium and Observatory is located on the campus of Eastern Florida State College and has been open to the public for more than four decades.
Many advanced stargazers consider it one of the country’s best planetariums, and it’s home to one of the Sunshine State’s largest telescopes as well.
The staff offers a variety of sky and heaven exploration programs, including indoor planetarium events and outdoor ones, where guests can peer into space while getting assistance and fascinating insights from staff and accomplished local astronomers.
Laser shows and a variety of entertaining movies are frequently shown in the observatory’s two theaters.
11. Florida Key Lime Pie Company
Claiming to have the best key lime pie in Florida is like bragging about having the best potatoes in Idaho.
Such claims are made by countless restaurants and bakeries, and usually fall on deaf ears, but the Florida Key Lime Pie Company has actual awards to substantiate their claim.
Previous guests have noted that it’s like a taste of Key West without the long drive. In addition to key lime, they offer other tasty pies and sweets that are made onsite daily.
They’re located on Dixie Lane in Cocoa Beach and are close enough to other area attractions to make it the perfect afternoon cake and coffee stop after a long day on your feet.
12. Cocoa Beach Pirate Fest
For ages, the waters off the Florida coast were teeming with treasure seekers, rum runners, and other nautical miscreants that caused lots of problems for law-abiding Floridians. Though those days are mostly in the history books, it’s still possible for little ones to experience pirate life in a safe and exciting environment.
Cocoa Beach Pirate Fest is an annual event held at the International Palms Resort, and though it’s all about the kids, grownups usually end up having a blast too.
The festival is chockfull of food, activities, souvenirs, and arts and crafts. There are even educational areas where guests can learn about the area’s history.
13. Island Boat Lines
With endless expanses of sea and a variety of waterways dotted with barrier islands of all shapes and sizes, the Cocoa Beach area is really best explored by boat, and Island Boat Lines is one of the area’s most popular tour providers.
Their tours generally include historical narration as well as the opportunity to see the coastal environment and its animal inhabitants from a unique perspective.
Manatees, dolphins, sea birds, and even gators are common. The vessel and captain are Coast Guard certified, ensuring that each trip is fun, informative, and safe.
For a romantic, adults-only evening, consider a sunset cruise. Though they don’t serve food or drinks, guests are encouraged to bring their own.
14. Cape Canaveral Lighthouse
At more than 150 feet tall, the Cape Canaveral Lighthouse is one of the Atlantic coast’s tallest, and was originally constructed more than 150 years ago.
The lighthouse started its working life at just 60 feet, but it was soon discovered that the height was inadequate, so construction was restarted and another 90 feet were added.
During its heyday, the lighthouse’s beacon reached more than 20 miles out to sea. Today, its brick and steel plate structure has been preserved to near-original condition.
Guided tours are available; it’s one of the most photogenic of all the area’s manmade structures, so don’t forget your camera.
15. Space Coast Segway Tours
It’s a little-known fact that most people who take guided Segway tours secretly pretend that they’re airport security officers instead of listening to the tour guide.
Located on Mullet Road in downtown Cape Canaveral, Space Coast Segway Tours offers guests a unique look at the Florida Space Coast that’s both safe and exhilarating. It’s an excellent option for those who prefer to let a machine do all the work.
For first-time users, there’s an orientation so you’ll know how to use the nifty gadget. From there, you’ll be whisked away to take in the views of the sea and the area’s significant historic sites.