Miles of coastline for sand castle building and surfing the "gnar" await beach-goers in Cocoa Beach. Many popular cruise lines run ships out of Port Canaveral to exotic destinations. Cape Canaveral is home to the Kennedy Space Center, which at this point is pretty much like a theme park. Bring the kids to the Brevard Zoo in Melbourne to check out over 500 animals. For culture, the Cocoa Village Playhouse is always producing great performances.
Take It or Leave It: Every traveler likes the ability to catch a movie while on vacation. Merritt Island has the best theater, with tons of screens showing all the latest flicks.
Hot Tips: Spending the extra money on the "astronaut experience" at Kennedy Space Center is worth it.
When planning to stay in the Space Coast area, you have three main options in Cape Canaveral, Cocoa Beach and Merritt Island. If you plan on taking a cruise, or spending multiple days at the Kennedy Space Center, it's wise to stay close and grab a room in the surrounding Cape Canaveral area. If the beach is more your thing, grab an oceanfront room in Cocoa Beach. If you plan to shop and catch some movies, cross the causeway and grab a room in Merritt Island.
Caution: There are some seedy parts in between the Port and Cocoa Beach, so check reviews and go with a namebrand hotel.
Hot Tips: If planning to stay in Cocoa Beach, the hotels surrounding Ron Jon Surf Shop are the newest, nicest and closest to surrounding attractions.
Cape Canaveral and the Port area have some of the freshest and most deliciously prepared Atlantic seafood available. Cocoa Beach is where to find great on-the-water dining and comfortable atmosphere. The Cocoa Beach Pier is a must-visit for a meal at dusk. Merritt Island has plenty of the known chain restaurants which are good for quick food preparation and friendly service.
Take It or Leave It: Some of the seafood spots in Port/Cape Canaveral may have grungy facades; don't let that deter you.
Be Sure to Sample: The Beach Shack. It's the preeminent "surfer bar" in Cocoa Beach.
Cocoa Beach is where to head for nightlife, though it is of the laid-back, "chill" variety. Grab a beer with locals and transplanted surfers while listening to the waves crash. Live music can be found at a number of places off Highway A1A, with jazz classic rock and "parrot head" genre music dominating the scene.
Caution: There isn't much, if anything, to do at night in Cape Canaveral except to watch the lights of cruise boats on the horizon.
Take It or Leave It: Places may seem to be heavily populated by locals, but that doesn't mean they don't want you there.
Surfing mecca Ron Jon Surf Shop and neighboring Cocoa Beach Surf Company are both half-day trips in themselves. Here you can buy boards, bathing suits, novelty items, etc. You can even rent boards and bikes to use for the day on the beach. Cross the causeway and head into Merritt Island for a large shopping mall with department stores and niche shops. About every 5 feet, you'll run into a "beachwear" or "towel" store so don't feel the need to pack these things. Downtown Melbourne is where you can find a lot of higher-end stores.
Caution: There is a tank with a live eel inside Cocoa Beach Surf Shop. It has been known to provoke bad dreams.
Best Local Souvenir: Anything that says "Ron Jon Surf Shop."