VIBE: Active, Busy Beach
1500 N Atlantic Ave, Cocoa Beach, FL 32931
If you're visiting central Florida in winter, you may encounter chilly weather. However, you can still enjoy warm temperatures by heading to the coast. One great destination is Lori Wilson Park in Cocoa Beach, located just a short drive down the east coast. Not only can you enjoy fine weather, but you can also take advantage of free parking and numerous nearby restaurants and hotels.
As beach lovers, we have visited many Florida favorites. We were a bit skeptical about Cocoa Beach since we've heard it is very touristy, similar to Daytona Beach. It was busy but it had everything you could want for a day trip or a week-long vacation near the beach. Tons of restaurants and hotels are located along the strip, as well as the historic Cocoa Beach Pier, but you'll have to pay for parking there. Cocoa Beach offers a quick drive to the Kennedy Space Center. One thing is certain: Cocoa Beach is great for families!
It's only a one hour drive from Orlando International Airport so it's easy to rent a car and head to the Atlantic coast, especially if you book ahead. We love to drive by Port Canaveral and see the cruise ships getting ready to go out to sea. This time it was the Carnival Freedom sailing to the Bahamas. Ships usually depart the port around 4 pm. The Carnival Freedom is a "smaller" cruise ship but you can still see just about all of it driving by the cruise terminal.
Cocoa Beach Sand
The sand is cocoa-colored: surprise! Yes, it is darker than Daytona Beach sand but it is thick and soft near the dunes. At the shoreline it is firm enough for riding a bike when the tide is out. One of the nice things about this Cocoa Beach park is the city did not allow condos and hotels to be built on the oceanfront vegetation. They left dunes and natural areas which protect the beach from erosion. So there is lots of sand.
Cocoa Beach Water
Since it was January, we did not go into the water which was about 70 degrees. But lots of people were swimming! With the tide out, the beach is pretty flat so you don't have to worry about a big drop-off into the ocean. You can walk out through the waist-deep water and float around. The water is an appealing blue-green color. The lifeguard area is clearly marked so make sure you stay in that area for safety. Check this resource for tide times at Tideschart.com.
Cocoa Beach Parking and Amenities
Lori Wilson Park has tons of free parking. It is a very short walk to the beach so you don't have to walk for miles with your gear. There are bathrooms (which are being renovated), showers and covered areas for a shady picnic. Chair rentals are available for a reasonable $25. We did not see any concessions but apparently they do have food trucks occasionally. There is also a small playground area and a dog park with even more parking. No dogs are allowed on the beach, unless it is a service animal.
Activities at Cocoa Beach
Cocoa Beach is great for biking, but it's famous for waves and surfing. Kelly Slater (who was on Baywatch) is a native of Cocoa Beach. You can visit the iconic Ron Jon Surf shop which has a huge presence here (and a huge building). If you are interested in space exploration, then the Kennedy Space Center is a short 30-minute drive north. Even if you've been there before, there is always something new to see. At the time of publishing this blog there were 4 new space journeys to explore: Red Planet, Daring Explorers, Cosmic Wonders and Uncharted Worlds. Complete with rides, these exhibits take you up close to virtual planets, stars, dust clouds and Mars. You may even be lucky enough to be on the beach during a space coast launch (we have seen several over the last 30 years) and it's the experience of a lifetime!
We were delighted to find that the shelling here is really good! We walked the shoreline for a few hours and found a variety of colors, sizes and types of shells. Yellow, brown, blue, and even pink shells can be found. Susan likes to use them in crafts such as beach signs and wall decorations. Even a broken shell can be used for art!
Look Out! This Could Happen...
Since this beach has waves, it can be hard to see down to the bottom. Jellyfish can be found at every Florida beach on both coasts. On the Gulf beaches it may be easier to see them coming due to calmer water (they don't swim, they just float). The clear water in Miami Beach, Daytona Beach Shores and Ponce Inlet help you see jellyfish too. Some months there are more jellyfish than others. Just be aware that if you see some in the sand then they are in the water too. Don't touch them even if you think they are dead: they can still sting!
What We Really Think About Cocoa Beach
After spending two hours walking and picking up shells at Lori Wilson Park, we decided we needed to come back for another visit. The beach has a great environment and we would love to go swimming when the water temperature goes up. We enjoyed seeing ships in the distance, surfers and kite-surfers. There is also some great mini-golf nearby including one where you can hold a baby alligator. Read this post to find out how much we love gators!
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Susan and Bruno are travel bloggers. We write about Florida beaches on every coast. Our opinions only.