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Cocoa Beach

National Parks
Cocoa Beach
® Mike Leco /

The drive from the amusement parks in Orlando to Cocoa Beach is less than one hour. Cocoa Beach is the closest ocean beach to all the Orlando amusement attractions.

Cocoa Beach, Florida

Cocoa Beach, Florida is located along the Atlantic Coast less than 50 miles (85km) due east of Disney World. You can drive from the amusement parks in Orlando to this beach in less than one hour. It is the closest ocean beach to all the Orlando amusement attractions including Disney World, Universal Studios and Sea World. Cape Canaveral lies just to the north of Cocoa Beach and the city of Melbourne is just south of it.

Many visitors to the Orlando amusement attractions choose to drive over 100 miles (165 km) west to the Gulf Coast beaches at Clearwater rather than these closer Atlantic beaches. The west coast beaches are very nice with their warm shallow Gulf of Mexico waters, their powdery soft sands and their many tourist attractions, but these closer east coast Atlantic beaches also have much to offer.

Less crowded beaches with surf

The Atlantic Ocean waters tend to be cooler than the waters in the Gulf of Mexico; but during the summer months, they are certainly warm enough for comfortable swimming. The western beaches on the Gulf of Mexico tend to be very shallow, so you can wade out hundreds of meters from the shore and still stand in shallow water. This creates a good safe swimming environment for children, but is not suitable for surfing. On the Atlantic Ocean, one can find some very nice ocean surf, and Cocoa Beach is a favorite place for surfboard riders.

One of the nicest features of Cocoa Beach is its lack of tourist crowds. The communities of Cocoa Beach, Cape Canaveral and Melbourne are primarily residential neighborhoods populated by retired families and many workers from the nearby NASA space launch facility. There are some hotels, motels condominiums and vacation rental homes for tourists, but they are not as concentrated as at other Florida beachside communities. The thirty miles of sandy beaches at Cocoa Beach and the additional miles of beautiful beaches heading south through Melbourne are typically frequented by Florida residents with only a scattering of tourists.

Space shuttle at NASA John F. Kennedy Space Center © Mike Leco /
A few miles north of Cocoa Beach, the John F. Kennedy Space Center offers space flight museums, IMAX theaters and daily tours of the nearby launch facility.

Home of the NASA space launch facility

Cocoa beach has a small but nice selection of restaurants, bistros and shops that are frequented by the local residents as well as the seasonal visitors and the tourists. There are a few more in Cape Canaveral and a much larger selection in Melbourne. Cocoa Beach is the original home of Ron Jon's Surf Shop, a famous surfer supply store that has now grown into an emporium of surfing supplies, beach wear, and souvenirs.

Cape Canaveral is only a few miles north of Cocoa Beach. It has a large harbor facility that is best known as a major point of embarkation for many large cruise liners that offer excursions throughout the South Atlantic and Caribbean Islands. It also offers a casino ship with daily gambling cruises. Cape Canaveral is best known as the home of the NASA John F. Kennedy Space Center and its space launch facility. The NASA visitor center is located a few miles north of the town and is open to the public. It offers space flight museums, IMAX theaters and daily tours of the nearby launch facility.

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Melbourne attracts less tourist crowds

About ten miles south of Cocoa Beach lies the small city of Melbourne. It is primarily a residential community of retired folks, military families, NASA workers and other local Florida residents. It attracts seasonal visitors from the northern states, commonly called "the snow birds" and a few tourists. It also offers nice beaches unencumbered by droves of tourists. If you go to Orlando Florida to visit the many amusement attractions and you want to spend some time on an ocean beach, you should consider Cocoa Beach as an alternative to the more popular Gulf Coast beaches at Clearwater.

Written by: Mike Leco
Top Photo Credit: © Mike Leco /
Photo Description: A small flock of American White Ibis take flight along the shores of Cocoa Beach.