Orlando to Cocoa Beach: Easy Florida Road Trips
By Helen Wright
If you are looking to escape Orlando and head to the beach during your Florida trip, one of the easiest beaches to get to from the Disney World area is Cocoa Beach. Orlando to Cocoa Beach is only a one-hour drive and known for its blue waters, Atlantic waves, and general ‘cool dude’ vibe. Even if you’d prefer sandcastles to surf camp, Florida’s Space Coast is blessed with 72 miles of golden coastline, so it’s an easy-to-get-to spot to soak up the Florida sun.
Easy road trip from Orlando to Cocoa Beach
Part of Florida’s Space Coast – named for being the stretch of shoreline famous for it’s Cape Canaveral rocket launches – Cocoa Beach is the cool side of Florida many tourists miss. In the 60s, Cocoa Beach burst into life as people flocked to the area to be part of America’s Space Program. The famous Kennedy Space Center is just down the road and if you’re planning to visit the famous Nasa spaceport (we loved it), Cocoa Beach is a great base to stay overnight.
Nowadays Cocoa Beach is a surfer’s paradise, but most of us Brits are happiest on dry land with some warm sand and sunshine thrown in for good measure. The drive from Orlando to Cocoa Beach is only an hour, so you could easily come for a beach day, but I recommend booking a cheap hotel and staying overnight. Unlike trendy destinations, like Miami and Fort Lauderdale, this beach destination is budget-friendly with a casual, chilled-out vibe. There is a choice of flipflop-friendly beachfront bars, many with live music and – of course – fresh seafood.
Getting from Orlando to Cocoa Beach by car
Driving from Orlando to Cocoa Beach is so easy, it’s pretty much just one straight road! If you are staying in the Kissimmee (Disney) area, you can take the highway 535 almost the entire way. Getting to Cocoa Beach from Orlando takes one hour.
Without a car, it’s more tricky to get from Orlando to Cocoa Beach and you may find yourself stuck to one area with no transport to get around. I highly recommend renting a car for this trip. If you are unsure about driving in the USA, this detailed post tells you everything you need to know.
Have fun as a beach bum
You can find a good spot on the beach almost anywhere along Florida’s Space Coast. Locals head to Robert P. Murkshe Memorial Park, a two-acre oceanfront park with parking and toilet facilities. It’s a great spot for families to put down a towel and a cooler and stay all day.
Another great beach for families is Lori Wilson Park. This seaside park is at the centre of Cocoa Beach. With full-time lifeguards present during the day, sand dunes and calm and shallow water, it’s ideal for younger children to play safely. There are also shady pavilions, a playground, and public barbecue grills. For something else to do, try taking a nature walk on one of the six dune crossovers or along the boardwalk.
Surf’s up dude
Cocoa Beach is the place to go surfing on the East Coast of Florida. It’s actually home to Kelly Slater, 11-time ASP World Tour Champion and considered one of the greatest surfers of all time. There is even a statue of him in Downtown Cocoa Beach. Even if you’re not on board with the idea of surfing, do visit the original Ron Jon Surf Shop. The world-famous brand started here and at last count, over two million visitors per year come to explore the largest surf shop in the world. The emporium also doubles up as a surf museum
If you do want to learn how to surf, there is a wide choice of surf schools with experienced instructors, including Ron Jon Surf Shop itself. Lessons are geared towards beginners so anyone is welcome, but you need to be a confident swimmer. Group sessions for ages 7+ are around $65 per hour. Children between 5-7 are required to have a private lesson for safety ($95).
If you’re not sure you’ve got the balls (or knees) to go actual surfing, finding a spot on the sand and watching the pros can provide hours of free entertainment. If you are traveling from Orlando to Cocoa Beach, keep an eye out for Surf festivals that take place throughout the year. These bring in a lot of people to the area, with pop-up stalls and food trucks, making for a fun day out – and certainly something different if you’re coming from Orlando to Cocoa Beach for a change of scenery! The famous Easter Surf Fest has been hosted in Cocoa Beach since 1946.
Cocoa Beach Wall Murals
I don’t know about you, but I LOVE a wall mural! As well as celebrating the work of local artists, striking wall murals are a great way to add some colour to your holiday snaps. There are loads in Cocoa Beach, as well as neighbouring Space Coast destinations Titusville and Melbourne, and I actually wish we had dedicated more time to finding them, so don’t make the same mistake! The Trent Art Gallery offers a downloadable digital tour, which is well worth signing up for. As well as directions to all the best art works, the tour also recommends some local art galleries and excellent food stops.
The one not to miss is the awesome turtle mural on the side of Fat Kahuna’s Beachside Grille. As well as being an ace artwork, the food served inside is fantastic too. They are famous for their shark tacos, but everything is good.
For a full list of the best places to eat at Cocoa Beach, see our post on Cocoa Beach Restaurants.
Orlando to Cocoa Beach – what attractions are there?
The beach and beach life is the main reason to go, but there are some brilliant attractions in Cocoa Beach if you want to explore (or, if it’s raining, which is does in Florida sometimes!)
Kennedy Space Center is, of course, the biggest attraction near Cocoa Beach and the reason this thriving beach community exists today! Cocoa Beach to Kennedy Space Center is an easy 25 min drive, with lots of fun things to spot along the way (such as the Exploration Tower in Port Canaveral and some of the epic Cruise ships preparing to set sail). We absolutely loved Kennedy Space Centre, which has fascinating memorabilia, attractions and immersive spaces for all ages. See our full post on Kennedy Space Center for all the inside tips.
Cocoa Beach for kids
There is lots for kids to do in Cocoa Beach (mine loved Ron Jon’s), but the top spot in Cocoa Beach for younger ones has to be The Dinosaur Store! Yep, you heard right, this is a huge museum and excellent gift shop, hidden away in the middle of Cocoa Beach. Ideal for a rainy day, the Museum of Dinosaurs and Ancient Cultures has real fossils, ancient artefacts and reconstructions of King Tut’s Tomb and the Terracotta Soldiers. This unassuming and unexpected museum is actually really good, but prepare to part ways with your cash in the gift shop – especially if you have dino fans on your hands.
Unfortunately, we only spotted this as we were leaving on our Florida Road trip, so didn’t get to experience first-hand, but Cocoa Beach Arial Adventures is definitely something families would enjoy. Swing from the trees in a Tarzan-style obstacle course, featuring high ropes, swings and rope bridges (Adults $47.99, Teens $37.99, Kids aged 5-6 $27.99). It’s for age 5+ but there is a mini rope adventure for the 3-5s ($24.99 with parents free).
If you like weird museums, this one is worth a stop too. The Wizard of Oz museum is a quirky, home grown fan gallery for all things Dorothy and Co. It’s very low budget, but the owners have lots of personal merchandise on display, some passionate commentary and a surprisingly impressive immersive room, allowing you to skip along the yellow brick road. The disappointing thing is, it’s pretty expensive ($30 entry for adults), so you’d probably only go if you really loved the movie.
Cocoa Beach Boat tours
For adults or older children, you can also take to the water on a boat tour of the Banana River Lagoon, the waterway around Cocoa Beach. Cocoa Beach Dolphin Tours offer a two-hour tour in which you can spot plenty of birdlife and (weather-permitting) wild dolphin and manatee nearby. It’s a chilled-out tour, which was very informative but I wouldn’t recommend it for energetic young children who get bored easily. The duration is a bit long for my children’s ages (3 and 5) and they couldn’t really appreciate the wildlife, which was too far away to capture a child’s interest. In season, the company offer a Bioluminescence tour through the Cocoa Beach Thousand Islands. Dinoflagellate plankton are naturally glowing organisms that light up the water, which is pretty incredible to see. Tours start from $40 (adult), $30 (children).
We had a great time on Florida’s Space Coast and gertting from Orlando to Cocoa Beach is so easy, we will definitely head back during our next Orlando trip for some beach time and a few chill days.
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