This past year has really changed my travel plans as it has with all of us but I’m again jumping on a plane and exploring. After almost eight months I finally got on a plane and took a trip down to Cocoa Beach, Florida for my birthday and to enjoy visiting beaches, seeing rockets, and checking out the many fabulous places to eat and drink in town.
I choose Florida in general because of it’s “openness” in regards to the opportunities to see and do things during this post-pandemic world. Florida is one of the top travel destinations in the world and there are currently no travel restrictions in place.
I was due for some R&R and that’s exactly what I got… well – sort-of. Being my own boss and an overachiever, I actually did some project work I had planned do due when returning during a rainy day, in addition to attending a really awesome virtual conference. But I still enjoyed so much during our visit to Cocoa Beach and will highlight a few things for you! If you are going to Cocoa Beach, here are some “not to be missed” sites.
Beach & Chill – The best beaches in Cocoa Beach area
Check out the Historic Cocoa Beach Pier as many activities are open and available to visit, tour, and enjoy. Visiting in the evening during the week and you’ll get an amazing view without a crowd. During the day this area is packed and there’s a limit to the amount of people allowed on the pier itself, so if you want to go during the day, plan to get their early and be aware of lines to access the pier with an average wait time mid-day of 30 minutes to 45 minutes.
The Canaveral National Seashore is part of the National Park Service and admittance is $20 per vehicle for day use only. I enjoyed driving from the entrance to the end of the park and back, which took about an hour. I didn’t go swimming but this water looks amazing and would be enjoyable for anyone who loves the beach!
If you have an annual NPS pass and remember to bring it with you it is included in the list of parks that are a part of the membership. I have a pass but forgot it at home. I explained to the women at the gate that I did have a current membership but had left it at home and she kindly let me in without paying the fee. This isn’t something I’d try if you don’t have your pass, but if you do, remember to bring it! I am putting mine in my wallet so I always have it from now on!
I enjoyed spending a few hours sipping on a drink while sitting on beach, taking a stroll into the ocean, being alerted that there was a shark, and promptly exiting the ocean! Yes, watch out for sharks.
Favorite dining experiences in Cocoa Beach
El Leoncito Mexican and Cuban Restaurant was my favorite meal of the trip with amazing margaritas and a fantastic menu. The service was great and our meal came just as we finished our appetizer. We enjoyed a few drinks and had a delightful time. This is about 30 minutes north of the Cocoa Beach Pier listed above. There is a bar in the back as well if you just want to stop in and enjoy some drinks and a light lunch or dinner. The staff was very friendly.
We had a late lunch/early dinner at Grills Seafood Deck & Tiki Bar and picking just one thing was so hard so we tried a few things on the menu. I was hoping that Grilled Shark would be available, but alas I was out of luck. This is located in Port Canaveral and sits right next to and is attached to the docks. You can see them bringing in freshly caught fish as you enjoy drinks and many enjoyable fin or finless foods. I’d recommend going in the evening to enjoy the view and if you are sitting outside, it will eliminate the direct sunlight which had bothered me a bit when I was sitting outside. There was no wait when we arrived but I imagine that this place gets backed for dinner so I’d recommend calling ahead to see if they are taking reservations.
Pier 220 Seafood and Grill was a stop for dinner after we spent most of the day driving and we had a big appetite. Settled right under the A. Max Brewer Bridge and offers a spectacular view however it gets really windy depending on the weather, so bring a jacket or plan to eat indoors if you decide to venture on a windy day. I’d recommend going in the early evening and enjoying a drink inside by the window so you can enjoy the view without the wind.
Non-beachy things to do
Without a doubt, the Kennedy Space Center was the biggest attraction to booking the trip to Cocoa Beach, Florida. I’d been here as a kid, but couldn’t remember much from that visit. This time I really enjoyed the exhibits and so many of interactive activities with virtual reality features that it blew me away! My favorite part of the visit was standing under the Apollo rocket. To see the Apollo, which is at a different part of the visitors complex, a reservation is needed, but we were able to sign up for a bus in the afternoon.
There isn’t any kind of social distancing on the bus to and from the complex but inside many of the KSC exhibits there are signs for staying six-feet apart from other groups. To enter into the KSC we purchased tickets online before traveling to Florida and planned it for the first day of our arrival in Cocoa Beach. The day we went it rained a bit, and at times there was significant downpours so I’d recommend taking an umbrella or packing a raincoat as these storms are common and pop up at any time.
Golf N Gator – Mini golf and go carts
If you want to challenge yourself to a round of mini golf, Golf N Gator is the place to go and are open! Masks are optional in most areas if you aren’t around others and able to maintain six-foot distance. After winning the “worst golfer” award we hit the go carts, which was an short but enjoyable time traveling up and down the track over special buttons, which I didn’t really figure out until the end.
We decided to take this scenic peaceful drive after we left Canaveral National Seashore as it was on our way back to town and before we stopped for dinner. The drive takes about an hour and winds through the protected wetlands. Beware that if you are trying to photograph the SpaceX launch you can’t stay in the park after it closes. We attempted to do this (not knowing we were still in a part of the park) and were kicked out by police. The A. Max Brewer Bridge nearby offers a place to pull over and “camp” for the night to see the early-morning launch.
According to their website, The refuge traces its beginnings to the development of the nation’s Space Program. In 1962, NASA acquired 140,000 acres of land, water, and marshes adjacent to Cape Canaveral to establish the John F. Kennedy Space Center. NASA built a launch complex and other space-related facilities, but development of most of the area was not necessary. In1963 the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service signed an agreement to establish the refuge and in 1975 a second agreement established Canaveral National Seashore. Today, the Department of Interior manages most of the unused portions of the Kennedy Space Center as a National Wildlife Refuge and National Seashore.
Check out a launch, happening throughout the year. Visit the website for approximate launch dates. Camping out under the stars near the The A. Max Brewer Bridge nearby, which offers a place to pull over to see the early-morning launch. We were one of a handful of cars that parked in the grass in front of the launch site. There’s more info on the SpaceX launch website.