Cocoa Beach

Where surf culture meets rocket science

cocob (30)BCocoa Beach from the pier

Cocoa Beach bills itself as the closest beach to Orlando (a distance of around 60 miles). Along with the nearby Kennedy Space Center, the city is the tourism anchor of Florida’s Space Coast region.  That said, Cocoa Beach is perhaps also the most marketed city along Florida’s stretch of Interstate 95, thanks largely to the ubiquitous billboards advertising the city’s most famous landmark, Ron Jon Surf Shop.  While I have only explored Cocoa Beach on a couple of occasions, I do have a special affinity for the place.  My wife was actually born in Cocoa Beach, even though she actually grew up farther south in a place far less distinctive.

cocob (1)Ron Jon Surf Shop

One could make the argument that Cocoa Beach is the surf capital of America’s East Coast.  Many surfers feel at home in the waves off Cocoa Beach.  In fact, one of the most famous surfers of all time, Kelly Slater, was born in Cocoa Beach.

cocob (35)B.jpgRon Jon Surf Shop

Ron Jon Surf Shop adds to the city’s surf culture identity.  Located a couple blocks off the beach along A1A, is a “destination” store in the sense that Hard Rock Cafes are considered destination restaurants.  Ron Jon branded T-shirts and bumper stickers make for very popular souvenirs.  Of course, while Ron Jon carries quite an array of self-branded shirts and trinkets, the store’s two stories of inventory includes numerous brands and styles of surfboards, swimwear, clothing, and various kinds of other products related to beach culture.

cocob (18).jpgCocoa Beach from the pier

The Cocoa Beach Pier is the city’s other iconic landmark.  A central focal point along the beachfront, the pier is for more than just fishing.  It actually has a couple of restaurants offering great over-the-ocean views and an arcade area.  A second, more traditional pier can be found farther up the coast in Jetty Park, where visitors can watch cruise ships embark from nearby Port Canaveral.

cocob (33)BCocoa Beach

Of course, one does not need to leave the sands of Cocoa Beach itself in order to witness something much rarer than a cruise ship taking off.  The launch pads at Kennedy Space Center are actually visible along the northern horizon.  Space shuttles used to blast off from these launch pads, but they are still used for rocket launches.  Some people plan a trip to Cocoa Beach for the unique opportunity to catch a scheduled rocket launch.

cocob (4).jpgThe Atlantic Ocean at Cocoa Beach

Sure, Cocoa Beach is a little touristy, especially around Ron Jon Surf Shop, but it is not even close to being as overbuilt as rival Daytona Beach is (about an hour to an hour and a half farther to the north).  Instead, Cocoa Beach has managed to retain its authentic small beach town feel, which helps to make it perhaps the best place to spend the afternoon along Central Florida’s Atlantic coast.

cocob (8)bB.jpgCocoa Beach from the pier
cocob (8.5)Cocoa Beach from the pier
cocob (19)BCocoa Beach from the pier



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