Cocoa Beach: Become Unhidden in Space Exploration
Exploring Space Camps and More
If you are into natural scenery, exploring history, or the future of science & space, then Cocoa Beach, Florida is an exquisite place to visit? This magnificent gem of a city encompasses adventure and opportunities that are endless.
I had forgotten how unique Cocoa Beach, Florida was until my little explorer watched the amazing movie, Hidden Figures. Three brilliant African-American women at NASA — Katherine Johnson (Taraji P. Henson), Dorothy Vaughan (Octavia Spencer), and Mary Jackson (Janelle Monáe) — serve as the brains behind one of the greatest operations in history: the launch of astronaut John Glenn (Glen Powell). This is notably one of America’s stunning achievements that restored the nation’s confidence all while, galvanizing the world. After that, it sparked my son’s little brain to want to know what other hidden figures could have been a part of space and how could he be a part of this adventure. His curiosity caused me to research the Kennedy Space Center Space Camp opportunities which brought us to Cocoa Beach, Florida.
Kennedy Space Camp is surrounded by one of the nation’s largest research parks. Its alumni include NASA astronauts, scientists, and engineers. The program is open to second grade through high school students. The day camp offers immersive experiences in space, aviation, robotics, and cyber technologies. Space Camp activities include rocket construction, simulated launches to the International Space Station, and the design and construction of a Mars colony.
Would you like your child to be more interested in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM)? Do they already have their head in the stars and dream about one day visiting Mars? Or one day returning to the moon? Here are some unique camp experiences relating to space in Florida, Alabama, and Virginia that your kids can begin their adventure in learning more about the past and future of space and opportunities for future careers in STEM.
Space Camp Experiences If your kids are visionaries about the stars or simply display an interest in wanting a more focused camping experience, one of these space camps may be a good fit.
Kennedy Space Center on Florida’s Space Coast is across the river from Cape Canaveral, the site of many exciting rocket launches. The Kennedy Space Center weeklong day camps immerse campers in STEM-based activities as they problem-solve for mission planning. Kids may tour the interactive Kennedy Space Center, participate in astronaut training and spend a virtual day on Mars. Sessions open in early June and run through July. Programs are available for second through eleventh-grade students. Tuition includes lunch and snacks. The camp offers transportation from Orlando, Satellite Beach, West Melbourne, and Viera, Florida.
Virginia Space Flight Academy
Virginia Space Flight Academy is designed for middle school students aged 11 – 15. This residential camp holds weeklong sessions that end with graduation from the Space Flight Academy. Campers learn rocketry by building their own rocket using CAD design and 3D printers. In the Robotics program, kids are challenged to design robots using Lego Mindstorm kits. Camp activities include field trips to the nearby NASA Wallops Flight Facility, the NOAA weather facility and the Navy’s Surface Combat System Center. In the evening, a variety of activities ensures campers don’t miss out on traditional summertime fun such as miniature golf, go-cart racing, and trips to the ice cream stand.
U.S. Rocket and Space Center The program is open to fourth grade through high school students. The residential camp offers immersive experiences in space, aviation, robotics, and cyber technologies. Space Camp activities include rocket construction, simulated launches to the International Space Station, and the design and construction of a Mars colony. Special programs are offered for hearing, visually impaired, and other special needs campers.
My son cannot stop expressing how much fun he had at this camp and learning about the amazing exploration adventures that NASA has planned for their future on earth and beyond. We are scheduled again for next year and look forward to the long-lasting memories we shared while visiting Cocoa Beach, Florida.
The nice thing about Kennedy Space Camp being in Cocoa Beach, Florida the Space camp experience can be an opportunity for a great family getaway for the parents! There were so many families who dropped off their children at Kennedy Space Center where they could relax knowing they were going to have an amazing time! Parents could have a relaxing time together exploring Cocoa Beach during the day and still make it back to pick up your children from camp all while still having time for a family outing in the evenings. You will not want to miss if you are looking for some adult time!
Cocoa Beach: Family Bonding Time
Adventures for You & Your Family
Cocoa Beach, FL is probably best known for its beautiful beach, famous surf breaks, and proximity to the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex. It is the perfect destination for a family vacation when their children are in a space camp. Cocoa Beach has so many activities you will not have time to do it all, but you can try! One of the must-see and do places when visiting this unique historic city is going to the Cocoa Beach Pier that stretches 800 feet over the Atlantic and features a variety of gift shops, bars, restaurants, and live music.
If you are a family who loves the water look no further Cocoa Beach has every kind of water adventure, from kayaking Banana River’s Thousand Islands to deep-sea fishing with Fin and Fly Fishing Charters to taking a few surf lessons from Ron Jon’s, is available here. There are some more unique treasures like The Dinosaur Store and the Exploration Tower.
Cocoa Beach: Splish Splash In The Sun
Exploring Cocoa Beach Water Activities
Banana River Aquatic Preserve is nestled between Merritt Island on one side and a beach barrier island on the other. The 30,000-acre preserve has a number of parks and boat ramps that provide direct, easy access to visitors with their own or rented boats and kayaks. These include Banana River Park, Kiwanis Island Park, Cocoa Beach Recreational Complex, and Kelly Park, among others. The north end of Banana River is home to a large manatee population year-round, but visitors will also see a large pelican rookery and significant numbers of diamondback terrapin turtles and alligators. Ulumay Wildlife Sanctuary in the preserve is a bird watcher’s paradise.
Fin and Fly-Fishing Charters offer enthusiastic anglers both deep sea and inshore fishing charters. Founder and Captain Jamie Glasner and Captain Alex Hughey grew up fishing the waters of Cocoa Beach, including the Banana and Indian Rivers and the Space Coast. Both captains specialize in nearshore and inshore fishing, along with deep-sea fishing. Anglers can also feel confident about their four charter boats. The 32-foot Blackfin Sportfishing boat is perfect for offshore fishing, while the 168 Phantom Ranger has superb shallow-water performance. The 16-foot Action Craft is a fly fisherman’s dreamboat, and the Skeeter 24-foot boat is the workhorse of the bunch going wherever the fish are. Fin and Fly-Fishing Charters offer deep sea, river, inshore, shark, and red snapper charters.
The World-Famous Cocoa Beach Pier draws over a million annual visitors. The iconic Central Florida landmark stretches 800 feet out above the Atlantic Ocean and has numerous gift shops, restaurants, and bars for visitors to enjoy. This family-friendly attraction is also known for its great fishing opportunities. Anglers are likely to catch redfish, whiting, snapper, wahoo, and many other types of fish. There is a fishing fee for those who bring their own equipment, and there is also an option to rent equipment at the pier. Some of the most famous surfers in the world surf here, and visitors can watch the action at Mai Tiki Bar at the pier’s end.
Adventure Kayak of Cocoa Beach I personally enjoyed using this company! My son and I did the bioluminescence tour which was simply an amazing experience. They are very accommodating with families with children as young as 4 years old! The staff of Adventure Kayak of Cocoa Beach are patient and will assist in any way to create an experience you and your family will remember!
Vacationers who want to see the natural side of Cocoa Beach can explore mangrove tunnels and islands on a kayak eco-tour of Thousand Islands. Daytime kayak tours are approximately two hours long. Kayakers should expect to see manatees, dolphins, white ibis, bald eagles, southern stingrays, and other wildlife on guided tours through a diverse ecosystem. Leisurely tours leave both mornings and afternoons from various locations and are appropriate for all skill levels – even those who’ve never kayaked before. For an even more unique experience, kayakers can choose a nighttime bioluminescence kayak tour or comb jelly tour (also bioluminescent) where paddlers will see these living lights emit an ethereal blue-green glow in the water.
Ron Jon Surf School began as Cocoa Beach Surfing School in 1993 by one of surfing’s champions, Craig Carroll. The establishment draws on 45+ years of surfing and coaching, so guests can be assured they’ll be well taught whether they are beginners or serious competitors. Ron Jon offers private and semi-private surf lessons for beginner and advanced surfers. Surf Camp for kids seven to 17 who can swim is held between May and August. Camps run for five days, perfect for a weeklong vacation. Ron Jon also provides stand-up paddleboarding instruction via private or semi-private lessons, along with stand-up paddleboarding eco-river tours and nighttime bioluminescent SUP tours. They have recently added kiteboarding instruction to their repertoire.
321 Kiteboarding and Watersports is a retail kiteboard and surf shop. They’re also the largest kiteboarding school in Cocoa Beach. Students learn to set up the gear and use it safely, then head out to the water to learn how to harness the wind for kiteboarding. The only requirement is the bit of endurance it requires for beginners to spend one to two hours on the water learning skills, along with some core and leg strength. Kiteboarding is an exciting sport for everyone, from kids to seniors. The best time for kiteboarding in Cocoa Beach is October to May. The store offers gear for purchase or rent and lessons in kiteboarding, SUP, and surfing.
Fin Expeditions offer personalized, small-group kayak eco-tours in the Banana River Lagoon. Local expert guides lead groups of ten or fewer kayakers through the labyrinth of the Thousand Islands mangrove forest. Groups are typically six kayakers to one guide who takes them off the beaten path and expertly leads them through the sometimes-confusing watery trails with ease.
Cocoa Beach: Learning The History
Exploring Cocoa Beach Museums
Exploration Tower is a must-do activity at Port Canaveral Jetty Park. The architecturally gorgeous seven-story tower is a recreational offering by the Canaveral Port Authority. Visitors enter the tower via a promenade that skims across a lake. The first floor houses the information desk, gift shop, and a café. The tower’s second floor is a 2,750-square-foot discovery center with interactive exhibits about local history. On the third floor, there is a 72 seat state-of-the-art theater to watch a one-of-a-kind historical movie. The Tower’s fourth floor hosts meetings and events. Floor five offers a simulated harbor boat pilot navigation experience, and floors six and seven are indoor and outdoor observation decks for Cape Canaveral launches.
Astronaut Memorial Planetarium & Observatory on the Eastern Florida State College campus has been serving both the college and the community since 1975. It is widely recognized as one of the best planetariums in the United States, and the rooftop observatory has one of the largest public telescopes in Florida. Planetarium staff and volunteers help visitors explore the night sky every weekend. The planetarium also has two theaters. Star Theater has the world’s first combined Digital & Optical Mechanical projection system for realistic views of the Brevard County night sky and presents live tours of the night sky. It also hosts laser/music shows. Discovery Movie Theater shows IMAX, National Geographic, and other science documentaries. The facility is currently closed and will be going under reconstruction since sustaining damage from Hurricane Irma 2018 stay posted by visiting website to stay connected to updates of re-opening of this fantastic facility.
Florida Surf Museum is dedicated to preserving the unique history of East Coast surfing. Visitors can expect to see exhibitions about the history and culture of Florida surfing, the evolution of surfing, great local surfers, five iconic local surf spots, and a fascinating array of boards. Besides the permanent collection of photos, videos, boards, and stories about surf legends and big Kahunas, there are always new temporary exhibits. Past exhibits have included Shortboard Evolution Revolution, Sidewalk Surfing, Locals Only, Florida Women of the Waves, Paipo: Prone to Ride, and Gary Propper–Surf/Art/Entertainment. Visitors can also purchase T-shirts and other souvenirs from the museum.
Sands Space and History Center is an extension of the Air Force Space & Missile Museum at Cape Canaveral, Florida. Since it is outside the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, there is no need for an access pass, and admission is free. The history center preserves and displays historic information for the Launch Complexes at Cape Canaveral. There is also a gift shop inside and a picnic area outside the building. Visitors can tour the history center every day except Monday. This is not the Air Force Space & Missile Museum itself, which is at Launch Complex 26 inside Cape Canaveral Air Force Station and can only be accessed via a bus tour called, Cape Canaveral Early Space Tour.
The Dinosaur Store is not a kitschy roadside stand with plastic dinosaur souvenirs – it’s the real deal. The world’s largest collection of fossils and minerals will inspire paleontology fans. Shoppers can pick up a 65 million-year-old authentic Pachycephalosaurus toe for $2400 or a 75 million-year-old real Tyrannosaurid tooth for $900, and there are many more one-of-a-kind pre-historic items. Families will love The Dinosaur Store’s Adventure Zone where kids can explore science center activities, play arcade games, watch dinosaur movies in the Movie Cave, pan for fossils in a working sluice, and visit live gators and reptiles in the Reptiles Run. The Dinosaur Store also presents a Museum of Dinosaurs and Ancient Cultures.
Cocoa Beach: The Great Outdoors
Exploring Cocoa Beach Nature Connection
The Helen & Allan Cruickshank Sanctuary is part of Florida’s Environmentally Endangered Lands Program, which was established to acquire land that is environmentally sensitive and bring it back to life for environmental education and passive recreation. Once a turpentine mine and farm, this 140-acre sanctuary is an example of conservation in action. The pine Flatwoods’ habitat is now home to raptors that circle above the pines or perch majestically at their tops. The restored land also includes oak trees and sand pine scrub, along with freshwater marshes. Visitors here can walk the mile-long nature trail that loops the sanctuary and observe native wildlife.
Shepard Park gets its name from astronaut Alan Shepard, the first American in space. Besides being an oceanfront park, it’s also the perfect spot to watch future Cape Canaveral launches. This five-acre park has a beautiful beach, picnic shelters, a children’s playground, 10 large picnic pavilions, barbecue grills, vending machines, and a bathhouse with showers, changing areas, and restroom facilities. There is also an option to rent beach chairs and umbrellas for a relaxing day. The paid parking lot with 300 spaces is close to the beach. This is the perfect set-up for a fun day at the beach.
Cocoa Beach: Embracing The Community
Shopping Experience in Cocoa Beach
The Historic Cocoa Village is a must-do on any vacation to Cocoa Beach. Cocoa Village is the in-demand entertainment and shopping district of Cocoa, Florida. Visitors meander tree-lined streets perusing a plethora of unique shops and casual dining establishments in a village atmosphere. Depending on the time of year, travelers to Cocoa Village may catch one of four annual art fairs, two car shows, or four annual Sip and Strolls. The Village, founded in 1860, has numerous historic attractions to see, like Porcher House and Cocoa Village Playhouse, both of which are on the National Register of Historic Places.
Cocoa Beach has long been considered the gateway to NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, and the Space Center Visitor Complex is 40 minutes outside Cocoa Beach. Visitors to the center will see historic spacecraft and memorabilia, the U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame, astronaut training simulators, a space shuttle launch experience, a close-up view of the space shuttle Atlantis, Space Mirror Memorial honoring fallen astronauts, and so much more. There are a number of add-on attractions at the Visitor Complex for an additional price. Some of these include photo opportunities with icons of NASA spaceflight operations, a guided tour with an astronaut, live action gaming featuring real NASA missions, and lunch with an astronaut.
South of Cocoa Beach Pier visitors will find picturesque, regional beachside Lori Wilson Park. To get to the semi-secluded beach, travelers take one of the short trails past the boardwalk, through the woods, and over the dunes to the beach. Park facilities include picnic tables, two pavilions, restrooms and changing areas with vending machines, a lifeguard stand, and an elevated boardwalk nature trail through an adjacent tropical maritime hammock (forest). Other park amenities for public use are a volleyball court, playground, barbecue grills, and a dog park. The park opens at dawn and closes at dusk. There is no park fee for any of the facilities or the beach.
The family-friendly Cocoa Beach and Thousand Islands Helicopter Tour provides an exhilarating birds-eye view of Cocoa Beach, Port Canaveral, and Thousand Islands in Banana River. The 30-mile, 15-minute flight leaves from a private helipad in Port Canaveral. Guests can expect to see miles of Cocoa Beach and Cocoa Beach Pier with tons of surfers and beach goers along the way. The inter-coastal Banana River has a labyrinth of natural and manmade islands, some freshwater manatees, and even a few river dolphins. Tours regularly accommodate two guests, who will each have headsets allowing them to clearly hear the guide’s live commentary.
Cocoa Beach: Fine Dining
The Best Local Restaurants in Cocoa Beach
Fat Kahuna’s features signature seafood selections, fine steak, chicken, and vegetarian options. In a fine dining, yet casual atmosphere, we welcome all to come to join us and taste the aloha!
The Fat Snook is a casual beachside restaurant that has been serving upscale dishes to the Cocoa Beach community since 2007. They specialize in showcasing local purveyors of fresh seafood and use seasonal ingredients in their amazing entrées like Poblano Pesto Shrimp with Canaveral shrimp, pumpkin cheddar grits, and chorizo cream sauce. Other menu standouts like their Florida Stone Crab starter, Grilled D’Anjou Pear & Baby Gem salad, and U-10 Seared Scallops entrée are local favorites. The casual-chic ambiance features a cool color palette of blues and greens with wood flooring, beachy accents, and modern bistro tables and chairs.
Cocoa Beach Brewing Company Cocoa Beach Brewing Company is tucked away in a historic building that was once 1930s Navy housing. Today, the repurposed former Banana River Naval Air Station provides retail space for a number of restaurants, bars, and local businesses. This family-owned-and-operated nano-brewery and pub, founded in 2008, was the Space Coast’s first brewery. Cocoa Beach Brewing Company specializes in traditional craft brews, plus unique seasonal beers. Their award-winning beers are handcrafted in small-batch brews. Three beers to try are the Cocoa Beach Pale Ale, Not Just Some Oatmeal Stout, and 888 India Pale Ale, all award winners.
Cocoa Beach: Where to Stay
Cocoa Beach Family Style Resorts
We recommend these great-value hotels near the soft sands of Cocoa Beach:
- Westgate Cocoa Beach Resort: high-end pricing, recent renovation includes complete upgrades to the 120 two-bedroom villas, hotel lobby, courtyard and heated outdoor pool. The family will enjoy the all-new Wakulla Falls Water Park, featuring best-in-class aquatic attractions.
- Holiday Inn Club Vacation: high-end pricing, ranging from one to four bedrooms, the spacious villas you’ll find at Holiday Inn Club Vacations resorts can make your stay extra-special. Many feature fully equipped kitchens, living and dining areas, patios or balconies and more. With plenty of room to spread out or come together, these villas are perfect for the whole family.
- Cape Crossing Resort & Marina: mid-end pricing, the resort features 47 island-style townhomes that are fully furnished and professionally decorated. Each has 2 stories, 3 bedrooms, 2.5 bathrooms and garage. The resort centerpiece is a six-story condominium tower with 35 water-view units that are also fully furnished, professionally decorated, and feature 3 or 4 bedrooms (Note: furthest away from Cocoa Beach but awesome for sailors).
- Radisson Resort at the Port: mid-pricing range, situated in the heart of Cape Canaveral, Radisson Resort at the Port makes it easy to stroll down Cocoa Beach at sunset or discover the world of space travel at Kennedy Space Center. Cruise passengers can book our Park and Cruise packages, which include round-trip shuttle service to Port Canaveral and free parking at the hotel.
- International Palms Resort Cocoa Beach: mid-pricing range, set on 13 pristine oceanfront acres in beautiful Cocoa Beach. Once the playground of astronauts, this 502-room beach resort overlooking the Atlantic delights with a pirate-themed pool, rescue gators in the lobby, live entertainment, and fire pits that beckon families to gather for s’more-making memories.
- Courtyard Cocoa Beach Cape Canaveral: mid-range pricing, beach access, personal service, partially-shaded outdoor pool.
- Hampton Inn Cocoa Beach/Cape Canaveral: affordable rates, ocean-view, short walk to the beach, complimentary hot breakfast, heated outdoor pool, free tea and coffee in the lobby.
- La Quinta Inn & Suites Cocoa Beach Oceanfront: budget-friendly hotel, beachfront, near Cocoa Beach Pier, pillowtop beds, outdoor swimming pool, free breakfast and parking.
- Days Inn Cocoa Beach Port Canaveral: budget rates, opposite Cocoa Beach Pier, five-minute walk to the beach, continental breakfast included.