15 Top-Rated Attractions & Things to Do in Cocoa Beach, FL

Written by Bryan Dearsley
Updated Dec 28, 2023
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The cities of Cocoa Beach and Cocoa, two neighboring communities separated by the wide Banana River, have no shiny skyscrapers, no traffic-clogged roads, and no hustle and bustle. Here, the pleasures come almost entirely from Mother Nature, who is kind enough to bestow this area with soft subtropical breezes, soothing waves on beautiful beaches, nesting sea turtles, and incredible sunrises and sunsets.

Not to say that there aren't a few manmade sightseeing opportunities here, though. Scratch the surface, and you'll find evidence of the early pioneers, along with a variety of modern attractions for all ages to enjoy.

Cocoa and Cocoa Beach are ideal places to relieve the stresses of modern-day life, to unwind and savor their cultural, historical, technological, and culinary surprises. You can take a cruise, see where modern pioneers fly into the heavens, peer into the galaxies, visit a historic pioneer village, get up close and personal with the local wildlife, and tee off at some of the greatest golf clubs in Florida. And when you're done, you can relax at one of the best resorts in Cocoa Beach.

Whatever your preference, you'll see there's no end of fun things to do in Cocoa Beach.

See also: Where to Stay in Cocoa Beach

1. Explore the Kennedy Space Center

Kennedy Space Center
Kennedy Space Center

Located on a barrier island just north of Cocoa Beach is the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex, the site of a glorious path of exploration, as well as some touching human tragedies and memorials. Here, the first Americans to orbit the Earth and land on the moon shot off into space.

Today, the public face of the Kennedy Space Center tells the story of humankind's march into space: step by step, personality by personality, and mission-impossible by mission-impossible. This fascinating facility not only offers us the opportunity to follow that path but also allows visitors to experience some of the sights and sounds, movements, and sensations experienced by these pioneers, on interactive and totally realistic attractions.

Other highlights include displays of historic aircraft and rockets, artifacts and memorabilia, space-related Imax movies, as well as the chance to meet a veteran astronaut. For the truly adventurous, fun-filled astronaut training experiences are also available.

Address: Space Commerce Way, Merritt Island, Florida

2. Spend a Day at the Beach

Lifeguard tower on Cocoa Beach
Lifeguard tower on Cocoa Beach

As its name suggests, Cocoa Beach has plenty of sand. In fact, using Cocoa Beach as a base for your Florida family vacation will give you access to no less than 72 miles of shoreline, much of it consisting of first-rate beaches.

Whether you're here for a week of sun and relaxation or simply taking a break from the hustle and bustle of the theme parks of Orlando just an hour's drive away, Cocoa Beach has a stretch of sand for you. It's also a great place to experience an adrenaline rush of a different kind, one fuelled by water pursuits such as surfing, as you'll find some of the best waves anywhere on the East Coast here.

A favorite for tourists is the always-popular beach adjacent to the iconic Cocoa Beach Pier. It's a safe stretch of beach with lifeguards, where you're as likely to catch glimpses of surfers hitting the waves as you are families and friends engaging in a game of catch or beach volleyball.

Beach path at Lori Wilson Park
Beach path at Lori Wilson Park | Photo Copyright: Bryan Dearsley

Just two minutes by car or a 25-minute stroll farther up from the pier is pretty Lori Wilson Park, which offers easy beach access. In addition to offering ample free parking, this 32-acre park features a boardwalk and restrooms, as well as a dedicated dog park and a long boardwalk with six beach access points across the dunes. There's also easy access to Ron Jon Surf Shop which offers both retail and rental services.

Alan Shepard Park is also good for families. Here you'll find plenty of picnic space and changing rooms, all within easy walking distance to restaurants and shopping.

Although a little further afield, Playalinda Beach at the Canaveral National Seashore Reserve is worth visiting. In addition to its 24-mile-long stretch of quiet sandy beach, you can also explore the dunes, marshes, and lagoon without ever feeling crowded. Camping permits are available.

3. Take a Trip Back in Time at Historic Cocoa Village

Cocoa Village
Cocoa Village | Photo Copyright: Bryan Dearsley

Many towns refer to themselves as "historic." But Historic Cocoa Village, the old downtown core of the city of Cocoa, truly is, and was in fact first settled in the middle of the 19th century. Now, in addition to being a shopping and entertainment district that retains its heritage ambiance, it has also become a legitimate 21st-century tourist attraction. Here, the way it was, is the way it still is.

This is a colorful, historic old-time village made for walking, with surprises behind every colorful doorway and window. It's also a tree-lined riverside community of local merchants and artisans eager to sell their wares.

Dining in any of the many restaurants here is a truly gourmet experience, while other casual eateries and cafés offer hearty fare. A favorite for those who enjoy a world-class fine-dining experience is Café Margaux, a steakhouse specializing in European flavors, while OSSORIO Bakery & Cafe is a delightful lunch or snack stop.

If time allows, be sure to visit the Florida Historical Society with its displays in the Library of Florida History. There's also plenty of information on the other fun things to do and discover about this little piece of heaven.

Author's Tip: There's plenty of free parking available located just behind the shops and businesses of Historic Cocoa Village, so take your time and truly get to know the neighborhood. If you're not in a rush, grab a Cuban sandwich take-out from Cafe de Havana and sit yourself down in one of the squares or alleyways leading off from Brevard Avenue. Bench seating is easy to find, and these quiet spots are great for a bit of introspection as you eat al fresco.

Address: 434 Delannoy Ave, Cocoa, Florida

4. Take in a Broadway Show at the Historic Cocoa Village Playhouse

Cocoa Village Playhouse
Cocoa Village Playhouse | Photo Copyright: Bryan Dearsley

Situated in the heart of Historic Cocoa Village, the Village Playhouse opened in 1924 and remains one of the most important old buildings in the city of Cocoa. Originally named the Aladdin Theater, it's also one of the top venues on Florida's east coast for those who enjoy musicals, with its regular roster of Broadway performances leading to its having earned the nickname "Broadway on Brevard."

The attractive red-bricked building, with its white brick accents, is certainly photogenic. And it's equally appealing inside, too. With its plush red-upholstered original wood seating, red velvet curtains, and lovely plaster cornices, taking a seat today is like stepping back in time.

More than 55,000 audience members support the theater's performances each year, leading to it being one of the most successful community theaters in Florida. In addition to a regularly rotating roster of Broadway shows, guests can enjoy musical concerts and tributes, children's programming, as well as movie screenings.

Address: 300 Brevard Ave, Cocoa, Florida

5. See the Wild Things at the Brevard Zoo

Alligator, Brevard Zoo
Alligator, Brevard Zoo

Just 25 minutes drive from the beach, the Brevard Zoo is a great place to visit for interactive learning, as well as just good ol' family fun.

In the zoo's Paws On Play section, you can meet a variety of jumping, creepy crawly critters from various regions of the world; in Wild Florida, you can get up close and personal with the diverse animals native to Florida; and in the Expedition Africa section, you'll find yourself in the wilds of the continent.

Brevard Zoo
Brevard Zoo | Photo Copyright: Bryan Dearsley

Be sure to also take the kids to La Selva. If it flies, crawls, or hangs upside down from tree branches (like the two-toed sloth), you'll find it here.

In addition, be sure to visit the fantastic Australasia section, and check out the many additional adventure experiences, among them kayaking tours and ziplining over the zoo grounds.

Address: 8225 North Wickham Road, Melbourne, Florida

6. Brevard Museum of History and Natural Science

Brevard Museum of History & Natural Science
Brevard Museum of History & Natural Science | Photo Copyright: Bryan Dearsley

A visit to the Brevard Museum of History & Natural Science in Cocoa is a perfect additional excursion for those planning on also visiting Brevard Zoo and spending the day away from the beach (they're just 15 minutes drive apart). Set in a leafy neighborhood with plenty of free parking, this large museum features numerous artifacts and exhibits dealing with local history and science.

Among the museum's interesting displays are the remains of the oldest human discovered to date in North America, the Windover Woman. There's also a fascinating recreation of the Windover dig, which unearthed the remains in nearby Titusville in 1982. Other exhibits detail the lives of Native Americans and the early pioneers, as well as the early days of the railroad in Cocoa.

Be sure to allow time to explore the excellent trail network that surrounds the museum. Covering an area of some 22 acres, the trails include well-marked routes over wetlands and sand dunes, with options to choose easy routes of just a half mile to longer two-mile sections. There's also a nice little butterfly garden that's worth a visit.

Address: 2201 Michigan Ave, Cocoa, Florida

7. Tee Off at a Cocoa Beach Golf Course

Tee Off at a Golf Course
Tee Off at a Golf Course

Golfing is one of the most popular things to do in the Cocoa Beach area, and the county offers dozens of top-notch courses. Each is characterized by natural beauty, with grassy dunes, crystal-clear waters, bright sunshine, and challenging holes.

At Baytree National Golf Links, for example, you'll have to navigate through mounds and moguls and uneven lies, as well as 74 white-sand bunkers, and water hazards galore.

At Viera East Golf Club, the 527-yard, Par 5, #14 sure is a challenge, as it requires an approach shot over water to an island green. The Savannahs At Merritt Island requires some deft navigation, too, with water hazards on 14 of the 18 holes.

8. Paddle with the Manatees on a Cocoa Beach Kayaking Tour

Manatee in the wild
Manatee in the wild

If you want to get up close and personal with manatees, Florida's beloved "sea cows," consider a kayaking trip.

You'll find that these cartoon-like, bulbous creatures will swim right up to you, as they have no fear of humans. In addition to the manatees, you're likely to see bottlenose dolphins, colorful migratory birds, and other wildlife in the Central Florida ecosystem.

Cocoa Beach Kayaking will take you out to see these wonderful 2,000-pound creatures on a guided kayak tour through the beautiful Thousand Islands or the Indian River Lagoon.

If you've never kayaked before, don't worry, they will give you a quick lesson before you embark, and guides will be right alongside you or in your craft the entire time. You don't need to bring any gear, either. All you have to do is show up with your camera, and they'll do the rest.

Address: 5000 Tom Warriner Boulevard, Cocoa Beach, Florida

9. Take a Stroll over the Ocean on the Cocoa Beach Pier

Cocoa Beach Pier
Cocoa Beach Pier | Photo Copyright: Bryan Dearsley

You can't really say you've been to Cocoa Beach until you visit this legendary landmark. The Cocoa Beach Pier is an honest-to-goodness, old-fashioned, woodsy structure that's right out of the history books and where you can walk over water for some 800 yards. Along the way, you'll pass funky restaurants, gift shops with unique items and souvenirs, and great local bands performing outside.

There are also beach volleyball courts nearby and, in the waters around the pier, some of the best fishing in the United States. There are fishing-equipment rentals and beach rentals for whatever the family might need. It's also popular for its surfing, a fact that's led to the area being called the "East Coast Surfing Capital."

Sunrises over the ocean are spectacular here, and the rainbow of brilliant colors changes virtually every minute. There's also an arcade for the younger set and soothing ocean breezes for everyone.

Address: 401 Meade Avenue, Cocoa Beach, Florida

10. Whiz along Local Waterways on an Airboat

Airboat on the Saint John's River
Airboat on the Saint John's River

Twister Airboat Rides, deep in the interior at Lone Cabbage Fish Camp, will whiz you along the Saint John's River and Lake Poinsett. You'll have an intimate look at an ecosystem and its hundreds of plant and animal species that most people see only from afar.

Your boat captain will slow down when he spots wildlife, so you can see it and take pictures. You'll most likely see some American alligators, bald eagles, and wading birds, perhaps even rarer species such as wild hogs.

Twister Airboat offers a number of different tour lengths of experiences, including 30- and 60-minute offerings. But when it's over, you'll have had so much fun you might not want to get off the boat.

Address: 8199 W King Street, Cocoa, Florida

11. Haul in a Big One on a Fishing Adventure

Snook and lure
Snook and lure

When in Cocoa Beach, you're actually sitting near one of the greatest fishing grounds on the planet, and it would be a shame to let all that ocean bounty go to waste. Cocoa Beach has many great fishing-charter outfits, any of which will know where the best fishing is on any given day.

One of the most popular charter companies is Fin and Fly Fishing Charters, which specializes in sport fishing for redfish, snook, tarpon, black drum, and speckled sea trout. The fish are simply huge in these waters, and your crew will provide all the equipment you need to catch your share.

If you're in Florida, there's nothing quite like a day out on the water, and, who knows, you might even bring home your dinner.

Address: 951 Bali Road, Cocoa Beach, Florida

12. Find Your Inner Surfer at Ron Jon Surf Shop

Ron Jon Surf Shop
Ron Jon Surf Shop | Photo Copyright: Bryan Dearsley

You know those Ron Jon stickers you've been seeing on beat-up old Volkswagens every time you come to Florida? Well, this is the place they come from – the world's biggest surf shop, the Granddaddy of 'em all: the Ron Jon Surf Shop. If it's related to surfing or water sports and you can't find it here, you may as well give up searching.

The original flagship Ron Jon's consists of 52,000 square feet of watersports goodies, and wandering its well-stocked aisles and departments will certainly get you in the mood to hit the water.

Also of interest is the Florida Surf Museum located within the store. When it's time to hit the water, the Ron Jon Watersports rental shop is right next door. So, too, are those big ocean waves, which can be accessed through Alan Shepard Park.

Address: 4151 North Atlantic Avenue, Cocoa Beach, Florida

13. Hit the High Seas at Port Canaveral

Hit the High Seas at Port Canaveral
Hit the High Seas at Port Canaveral

For a great getaway while you're already on vacation, consider a high-seas jaunt into the azure-blue waters of this region, with cruises starting at three days to The Bahamas and some longer ones to the Caribbean.

On the Disney Dream and Disney Wonder, you'll get to explore the many colorful islands of the Bahamas, which include stops at the historic capital city of Nassau, where you'll want to hit the Straw Market for wonderful handicrafts to bring back home; the sublime out-island of Castaway Cay, and the totally-different vibe of Freeport. Of course, on a Disney cruise, the cast of characters will all be there, including Mickey and Minnie, Goofy, Pluto, Donald, and the rest of the gang.

Carnival Cruise Lines also leaves from Port Canaveral, with stops including the Bahamas and the Turks and Caicos, and Royal Caribbean also plies the islands of the Bahamas.

14. Climb Canaveral's Exploration Tower & Lighthouse

Exploration Tower in Port Canaveral
Exploration Tower in Port Canaveral | Photo Copyright: Bryan Dearsley

While in Canaveral, be sure to make a beeline for the Exploration Tower. Thanks to its distinctive design which resembles the billowing sails of a vessel at sea, this attractive building certainly stands out from its pleasant parklike setting. Standing seven stories tall and within easy reach of the port, the tower is one of the area's newest, and most popular, attractions.

Highlights include interactive exhibits showcasing the area's diverse wildlife, the indigenous peoples who lived here, the first settlers from Europe, as well as the environment. Also, be sure to linger at the fascinating exhibit relating to the history of Port Canaveral, including a fun game that allows you to practice steering a ship.

The top two floors of the tower include observation decks (one indoor, one outdoor), offering panoramic views toward the Kennedy Space Center and over the bustling port. A café and souvenir shop are located on the premises, as well as a small movie theater.

From here, you can also join a tour of the nearby Cape Canaveral Light. Built in 1868, this historic lighthouse stands 151 feet tall and offers a fascinating insight into the workings of these once-important structures.

Author's Note: Ample free parking is provided, so be sure to spend additional time exploring the lovely park-like grounds surrounding the tower. From here you'll also get some great views of the docked cruise ships. You may also be lucky enough to get to watch some of these impressive vessels come and go. A number of eateries are also located nearby, some of them looking directly over the docks and berthed ships, literally just a few yards away.

Address: 670 Dave Nisbet Drive, Cape Canaveral, Florida

15. Follow the Yellow Brick Road at The Wizard of Oz Museum

Just 10 minutes north of Cocoa Beach in Cape Canaveral, The Wizard of Oz Museum really needs no introduction. One of the newest attractions on the "Space Coast", this fun museum opened in 2022 and is time well spent.

Home to more than 2000 Wizard of Oz artifacts, this large collection of memorabilia covers all aspects of what's undeniably one of the world's best-known stories of all time. In addition to original film props and marketing materials, you'll find fascinating facts related to the book, The wonderful Wizard of Oz, written by L. Frank Baum in 1900.

The highlight of your visit will undoubtedly be the museum's immersive experience where, thanks to modern projection technologies, you'll find yourself literally walking the famous yellow brick road with your friends and family. You may also want to check out the museum's Immersive Van Gogh Experience which literally places you in the midst of some of the artist's most famous works.

Address: 7099 N Atlantic Ave, Cape Canaveral, Florida

Where to Stay in Cocoa Beach for Sightseeing

We recommend these great-value hotels near the soft sands of Cocoa Beach:

Luxury Hotels:

  • A quality stay can be enjoyed at the Hilton Cocoa Beach Oceanfront. Featuring contemporary-styled rooms and suites with classy furnishings, the hotel has a popular restaurant, a fitness center, beach volleyball, plus a fire pit.
  • Those seeking a quieter resort for a romantic couples getaway should consider the Beach Place Guesthouses, consisting of cozy studios with their own balconies, kitchenettes, and separate living areas, as well as standalone one- and two-bedroom cottages, all just steps from the beach.

Mid-Range Hotels:

  • The Courtyard Cocoa Beach Cape Canaveral is a good choice and features mid-range pricing with handy beach access, personal service, and a partially-shaded outdoor pool.
  • Also worth considering is the Hampton Inn Cocoa Beach/Cape Canaveral, popular for its affordable rates, rooms with ocean view, short walk to the beach, complimentary hot breakfast, and heated outdoor pool, along with the free tea and coffee in the lobby.
  • Another brand name hotel to consider is La Quinta Inn & Suites Cocoa Beach Oceanfront, featuring a great beachfront location near Cocoa Beach Pier, comfortable pillow-top beds, an outdoor swimming pool, plus free breakfast and parking.

Budget Hotels:

  • A favorite cheap motel in Cocoa Beach, the pet-friendly South Beach Inn features one- and two-bedroom suites with kitchens and living space, plus a great location steps away from the beach.
  • The Days Inn by Wyndham Cocoa Beach Port Canaveral is also popular for its budget rates, as well as for its handy location opposite Cocoa Beach Pier; it's just a five-minute walk to the beach. A continental breakfast is included.
  • Finally, be sure to check the availability at the Apollo Inn Motel, located just 13 miles from the Kennedy Space Center and featuring clean rooms with free parking and laundry facilities.

Cocoa Beach, FL - Climate Chart

Average minimum and maximum temperatures for Cocoa Beach, FL in °C
22 10 23 11 25 13 27 16 29 19 32 22 33 22 32 23 31 22 28 19 26 16 23 12
Average monthly precipitation totals for Cocoa Beach, FL in mm.
63 63 74 53 100 148 137 147 183 121 79 59
Average minimum and maximum temperatures for Cocoa Beach, FL in °F
72 50 73 51 77 55 81 60 85 66 89 71 91 72 90 73 88 72 83 67 78 60 73 53
Average monthly precipitation totals for Cocoa Beach, FL in inches.
2.5 2.5 2.9 2.1 3.9 5.8 5.4 5.8 7.2 4.8 3.1 2.3

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