After spending a couple of months at this Florida destination, I have insights into the best things to do in Cocoa Beach!
When you think of the best places to visit in Florida, Cocoa Beach may not be at the top of your radar. But this central Florida beach town sure has a lot to offer. In this guide, I cover several activities on the water, nearby day trips, family-friendly attractions, and so much more.
And, of course, what’s a trip to Florida without beachfront dining? Read on to learn about my favorite spots for fresh seafood and colorful cocktails!
Table of Contents
- 23 Best Things to Do in Cocoa Beach
- Cocoa Beach Pier
- Ron Jon Surf Shop & Surf School
- Florida Surf Museum
- Historic Cocoa Village
- NASA’s Kennedy Space Center
- See a Rocket Launch
- Take a Cruise from Port Canaveral
- Take a Day Trip to Melbourne
- Eat at a Beach Bar
- Enjoy Fresh Seafood
- Go Surfing and Try Watersports
- Go on a Kayak Tour
- Lori Wilson Park
- Shepard Park
- Manatee Sanctuary Park
- Brevard Zoo
- Brevard Museum of History & Natural Sciences
- Go on a Dolphin Boat Tour
- Exploration Tower
- Do a Cocoa Beach Fishing Tour
- The Dinosaur Store & Museum
- Cocoa Beach Aerial Adventures
- FAQs About Cocoa Beach Attractions
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23 Best Things to Do in Cocoa Beach
Cocoa Beach Pier
Enjoy classic boardwalk fun with restaurants, shops, and beach activities all around.
Cocoa Beach Pier is an iconic part of the Cocoa Beach scene. Although touristy, this attraction draws in visitors for its fun and upbeat beach vibes. Cocoa Beach Pier is home to restaurants, bars, shops, and activities like volleyball and surfing.
The family-friendly beach is wide and perfect for a classic day of sun, sea, and sand. Head here to experience one of the absolute best beaches in Florida.
Ron Jon Surf Shop & Surf School
Dive into beach lifestyle and shop at the world’s biggest surf shop.
When it comes to beach lifestyle and all things surfing, Ron Jon Surf Shop is one of the most iconic things to do in Cocoa Beach. Located right off N Atlantic Ave between Cocoa Beach and Cape Canaveral, it’s situated close to many other Cocoa Beach attractions.
The surf shop itself is huge and filled with everything from surfboards to swimsuits and tourist merch. Ron Jon also has an official surf school that offers surf camps and lessons that are great for beginners.
👉 Pro Tip: If you just plan on stopping by, be sure to park in the 90-minute free parking lot. Otherwise, parking can get pricey.
Florida Surf Museum
Learn about Cocoa Beach’s unique surfing history at this small museum.
Located inside Ron Jon’s watersports building (adjacent to the main surf shop) is the Florida Surf Museum. If you’re a surfing enthusiast, a visit here is worth your while.
The museum itself is small and more of an exhibit, but it features historical surfboards and artifacts. These really bring surfing culture and stories to life.
🏄♀️ Heads Up: Note that the museum is currently closed for renovations. Call for updates.
Historic Cocoa Village
Explore the beauty and charm of Cocoa Beach’s historic downtown area.
Many people assume the barrier island where Cocoa Beach is located is all there is to this beach town. Well, less than 10 miles inland past Merritt Island is historic Cocoa Village. To me, visiting Cocoa Village is one of the best things to do in Cocoa Beach.
The charming downtown area is full of colorful buildings situated by the Indian River Lagoon. You’ll find unique shops, great restaurants, the Cocoa Village Playhouse, and more.
👉 Need a Hotel? Check out my guide to where to stay in Cocoa Beach.
NASA’s Kennedy Space Center
Embark on a day of science and discovery at this iconically American attraction.
Space enthusiast or not, NASA’s Kennedy Space Center is an absolute must. This world-renowned attraction is truly impressive. It’s home to historic and educational exhibits like Space Shuttle Atlantis. There are also interactive simulations and an IMAX theater.
Apart from the visitor complex, Kennedy Space Center is also the primary site of rocket launches and even human spaceflight. After all, KSC is what gives this area the name “Space Coast.”
It’s located about 20 miles north of Cocoa Beach on Merritt Island. It’s a pricer attraction than most, and you’ll want to dedicate an entire day here. But undoubtedly, visiting is one of the best things to do in Cocoa Beach—and it’s one of the best day trips from Orlando, too!
See a Rocket Launch
Witness NASA space exploration in action by seeing a rocket launch.
As mentioned above, Kennedy Space Center on Merritt Island has an active launch center apart from the visitor complex. Before you visit Cocoa Beach, I recommend taking a look at KSC’s launch schedule. If you’re lucky, you just might be in town for a launch.
You can watch these launches from viewing areas at KSC, but you can honestly see them miles away. This is truly a cool experience to witness. Do note, however, that launches often get scratched or rescheduled.
Hit the high seas and enjoy a fun-filled day, weekend, or week on the water.
Port Canaveral on Cape Canaveral is just a short drive north of Cocoa Beach. This is Florida’s premier cruise port. It’s home to major cruise lines like Disney, Royal Caribbean, Carnival, and more.
If you’re planning a longer vacation in the Cocoa Beach area, consider hitting the high seas—one of the best things to do in Florida! There are cruise packages and experiences for visitors of all ages.
Take a Day Trip to Melbourne
Enjoy a slight change of scenery in this low-key, yet charming beach town.
If you’re doing a longer Cocoa Beach vacation and want a little change of scenery, I recommend visiting the nearby town of Melbourne. This charming, low-key beach town is located about 30 minutes southwest of Cocoa Beach. It has unique shops and restaurants worth checking out.
Across the Indian River from the town of Melbourne (on the barrier island) is Melbourne Beach, one of the best south Florida beaches. It’s relaxing and less touristy than other nearby areas. Another close attraction is Sebastian Inlet, known for its surfing and fishing opportunities.
📚 Related Reading: Beach Packing List (17 Things You Might Forget to Bring)
Eat at a Beach Bar
Sit back and relax with drinks or a meal along the ocean.
What’s a trip to the Florida coast without oceanfront dining and drinks? Luckily, Cocoa Beach is home to some classically Floridian beach bars.
Coconuts on the Beach is probably the most popular joint with a full bar and menu. It’s located just steps away from the beach. Beach Shack is right next door, and has a more laid-back vibe and live music. Rikki Tiki Tavern at Cocoa Beach Pier is another great beach bar directly above the water that has beautiful views.
Enjoy Fresh Seafood
Indulge in fresh and locally-caught seafood, any way you like it.
It’d be a shame not to indulge in some fresh seafood while visiting Cocoa Beach, especially with so many great restaurants to choose from.
Popular options are Fat Kahuna’s, The Fat Snook, Squid Lips, and Florida’s Seafood Bar & Grill. Seafood is typically served seasonally. Some local seafood favorites include snook, speckled sea trout, pompano, and more.
Go Surfing and Try Watersports
Hang 10 (or at least try to) at one of the best surfing destinations on the east coast.
It’s no secret that Cocoa Beach is well-known when it comes to Florida surfing. The waters are shallow, and the waves are calm, yet consistent. These are great surfing conditions, especially for beginners. You can hit up the waves on your own, or take a lesson like the one linked above.
In addition, watersports like kiteboarding and jetskiing are popular and so fun. Overall, surfing and watersports are some of the best things to do in Cocoa Beach.
👉 Don’t Miss: If you’re planning a longer trip, bookmark Katie’s guide to the best things to do in central Florida!
Go on a Kayak Tour
Paddle through ocean waters and among mangroves full of wildlife.
On the inner side of Cocoa Beach’s barrier island is Banana River Lagoon. This Atlantic Ocean waterway is scenic and calm, yet bursting with a vibrant ecosystem. During your visit, consider taking an adventure kayak tour along the Banana River.
Lori Wilson Park
Spend a relaxing afternoon at this expansive beach and nature park.
If you’re looking for a calmer, more secluded beach, look no further than Lori Wilson Park. Located on N Atlantic Ave, this picturesque beach and nature park has free parking, tons of open beach space, and calm, shallow waters.
Lori Wilson Park also has extensive boardwalks, forested areas, and nature trails, There’s even a dog park!
Have some fun in the sun at this easy-going, family-friendly beach.
Located right behind Ron Jon Surf Shop off Ocean Beach Blvd is Shepard Park. The vibe of this beach falls somewhere between the energetic beach at Cocoa Beach Pier and the tranquility of Lori Wilson Park.
It’s family-friendly, situated with picnic pavilions, and has shower facilities. You can also rent chairs and umbrellas.
Manatee Sanctuary Park
Escape the bustle and crowds at this simple yet peaceful riverside park.
Looking for a tranquil place to relax, picnic, and get away from the crowds? Head to Manatee Sanctuary Park along Banana River Lagoon.
This secluded nature park up by Cape Canaveral has a boardwalk, shaded areas, picnic tables, and a small trail for walking. If you’re lucky, you may even spot some manatees or dolphins out on the water.
Connect with wildlife at this interactive, open-air zoo.
Located inland about half an hour from Cocoa Beach is Brevard Zoo. This 75-acre zoo is home to over 900 animals from around the world.
It’s incredibly interactive with tons of hands-on experiences. You can feed giraffes and birds, kayak beside the Expedition Africa exhibit, go ziplining through the trees, and so much more. It’s one of the best family-friendly things to do in Cocoa Beach.
Brevard Museum of History & Natural Sciences
Step back in time and discover the local history and science of Cocoa Beach, Florida.
From the Ice Age to the Space Age, this region of Florida has witnessed some truly remarkable discoveries and moments in history.
The Brevard Museum of History & Natural Sciences exhibits many of these moments. This includes Windover archaeological artifacts from the prehistoric past. This museum also borders 22 acres of nature trails.
Go on a Dolphin Boat Tour
Ride over gentle waters and glide past dolphins and other wildlife.
While visiting Cocoa Beach, consider doing a dolphin and wildlife boat tour. This is a great option for families and older visitors who want something a little more relaxed.
Tours take place on the Banana River Lagoon and explore the Thousand Islands mangrove forest of Cocoa Beach. This is a great way to see wildlife like dolphins, manatees, and birds.
Explore fun and educational exhibits, and take in views of Port Canaveral.
Just north of Cocoa Beach at Port Canaveral is Exploration Tower. Aside from being architecturally unique, this tower is home to interactive and educational exhibits that are great for visitors of all ages.
Exhibits range from space exploration to marine life, indigenous history, and more. The tower also has an observation deck and theater.
👉 FYI: The Exploration Tower is temporarily closed for construction, but is set to open back up in spring 2023.
Do a Cocoa Beach Fishing Tour
Fish rich waters ranging from rivers to the deep-sea aboard world-class charters.
From deep-sea fishing to inshore fishing, a trip with Fin & Fly Fishing Charters is sure to be memorable. These charters are led by experienced captains that take you through rich waters all along Florida’s Space Coast. This is a great thing to do for all fishing enthusiasts!
The Dinosaur Store & Museum
Uncover dinosaur history and ancient cultures at this store and interactive museum.
If you’ve got little kids, head over to the Dinosaur Store & Museum! It’s a fun, interactive space where your kids can shop, discover, and play.
The Dinosaur Store houses hundreds of fossils and artifacts from around the world, and tons of exhibits on dinosaurs and history. The Adventure Zone is a real highlight, though. Here, you can play games, go on a ride, see live animals, and go mineral panning.
Tee off at this family-friendly attraction that offers mini golf, treasure hunting, and more!
Golf-N-Gator has everything you need for an afternoon of family fun. Here, you can go mini-golfing on two exciting 18-hole courses: Gator Mountain and Swamp Cave.
You can also go hunting for treasures like fossils, shark teeth, and gems. Lastly, as its name suggests, this attraction has gators! You can even hold and feed them.
Cocoa Beach Aerial Adventures
Swing, climb, and zipline through aerial adventure courses set amongst the tree canopy.
📍 Google Maps | Phone: (321) 613-0047 | Website | Hours: 11 am – 6 pm Monday, Wednesday, Friday – Sunday, Closed Tuesday & Thursday | Entrance: $48 for ages 12+, $38 for ages 7-11, $28 for ages 5 & 6 | 👉 Cocoa Beach Aerial Adventures Tickets
Zip through a canopy of oak trees and climb through aerial challenges at Cocoa Beach Aerial Adventures. This is a great attraction for families and anyone who isn’t too afraid of heights. There are seven different aerial trails to take based on three varying levels of difficulty, so there’s something for everyone!
👉 Read Next: 14 Best Beaches in Cocoa Beach
FAQs About Cocoa Beach Attractions
What’s Cocoa Beach, Florida famous for?
Cocoa Beach, Florida is famous for its beautiful beaches and opportunities for surfing, as well as the famous surf shop, Ron Jon Surf Shop.
How do I spend a day in Cocoa Beach, Florida?
One of the best ways to spend a day in Cocoa Beach, Florida is by spending time on the beach with water activities. Visiting Cocoa Beach Pier and enjoying seafood are also musts!
Is it safe to swim in Cocoa Beach, Florida?
Generally, it is safe to swim in Cocoa Beach, Florida. You should, however, practice caution if the water is choppy and the waves seem rough.
I hope you enjoyed this guide on the best things to do in Cocoa Beach, Florida! Safe travels and enjoy visiting one of the best destinations in the Sunshine State.
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