No matter how much there is to do in the City Beautiful, there’s always an itch to get away – especially when you’re surrounded by water. Being in Central Florida comes with a lot of perks and being within an hour or so driving distance from multiple different locations, is at the top of that list.
While Disney World, Universal and local pubs and shopping malls entertain tourists and locals alike in Orlando, a car and a tank of gas can take you from the center of the Sunshine State and into a variety of surrounding cities, including the east coast, laidback town of Cocoa Beach.
Just a short 45-minute drive from Orlando, all you need for a day-trip to Cocoa Beach is your flip-flops, beach towel and a generally happy-go-lucky attitude. Taking the road early helps start the trip off right and diminishes any chance of traffic (probably easiest to take State Road 528 to A1A but there are other routes). With Cocoa Beach, you get exactly what you expect: Lots of sand, not a lot of clothes and a good mixture of people – adults, college students, families. If you’re looking for a party atmosphere on the beach from the moment your feet drown in the brown sand, head straight to Coconuts on the Beach. This outdoor/indoor bar is like a bee’s nest for college students. The patrons trickle out from the patio and onto the beach, covering it with makeshift beer pong tables, iPod docks and college colors.
Head a little west and you’ve got what seems like another beach in a far away town. Right in the backyard of the Resort on Cocoa Beach is a tamer, more family-oriented strip of beach. The resort itself boasts a large selection of vacation-style rooms with full kitchens, master bedrooms, living rooms and even twin-sized beds for the kids. It’s equipped with an arcade, ice cream machine in the lobby, direct access to the beach, and a pool with a splash zone and a volleyball net where adults and children can relax or get rowdy. However, its placement at the front of the resort and not overlooking the beach can be a bit of an annoyance. If you’re staying overnight with a large group of friends or a family, this resort, while not a 4-star establishment, will definitely meet your needs. Not to mention the $5 beach chairs brought out and set up for you make for a nice touch.
Resort On Cocoa Beach — Photo courtesy of Resort On Cocoa Beach
Snacking on the beach is a must, but if you’re looking for a quick lunch, there are plenty of options along A1A. Another plus to Cocoa Beach is the accessibility to the beach from the main road. Dinner, however, should definitely not be overlooked or rushed. If you can pull yourself away from the beach, make your way toward Port Canaveral – a 10 to 15 minute drive – to “The Port” where there are multiple restaurants and outdoor seating options right on the water. Could make for a beautiful view while eating an early dinner if you call and make a reservation first. Waits can last up to two hours. Milliken’s Reef, Rusty’s Seafood and Oyster Bar and Grills Seafood Deck & Tiki Bar all surround Fishlips Waterfront Bar & Grill right off George King Blvd.
While any of these could make for a good end to a beach day, Fishlips’ two-story restaurant on bottom, bar on top layout makes it easy to accommodate for any crowd. The wait on a Saturday was at least an hour but if you head up stairs, and find an empty table out on the patio or around the bar, it’s yours. The bartenders keep you entertained and the multiple TVs have every sporting event on. Just ask and they’ll turn the channel to make it even more convenient. You can use the bar to wait for your table below to be ready, or just eat upstairs for a more relaxed meal. The blackened Mahi sandwich couldn’t be any better to satisfy a hungry, suntanned beachgoer, but their scallop risotto can also do the trick.
Fishlips — Photo courtesy of Fishlips
If you’re not tired yet, you may be a little out of luck as Cocoa Beach isn’t known for its nightlife, but you can always head back down to Coconuts where a live band plays or walk across the street from there to Beach Shack Bar for another dive bar feel to end the night. Wherever you go, the people are enjoying themselves with their flip-flops on their feet, their drinks in their hands and music in the background.