Cocoa Beach, Florida. Not exactly a little-known quiet slice of paradise, right? Make note: We’re talking about South Cocoa Beach. There is a distinct, sigh-of-relief difference. (Also note it is not officially named South Cocoa Beach. It’s just south Cocoa Beach, but the difference is big enough for us to take matters into our own hands and name it thusly.)
Cocoa Beach is Ron Jon’s, the famous surf shop which is cool, and huge, and a must-visit kind of place like Graceland when you go to Memphis. Seen it, don’t need to go back multiple times. Also The Pier in Cocoa Beach is a landmark, and fun for drinking beer with bikers and watching the activity on the beach.
We used to go to the beach in Cocoa just because it was close, but we kind of cringed or snored as we drove down the A1A, and wished for a downtown with sidewalks and shops and restaurants; some kind of quaint, some kind of neighborhood. Fewer tourists, and more old timey-ness.
When we found it in South Cocoa Beach we said “Where have you BEEN all our lives??” We now know the residents there are trying their best to keep it a secret, but we don’t mind letting you in on it because if you’re here at our blog, you’re like us: seeking an offbeat, low-key, old fashioned place to do some relaxing. You won’t be shlocking the place up with your spring-breaker cigarette flicking friends!
South Cocoa Beach is part honky-tonk, part year-round residential, and mostly tranquil beauty. You drive by old, tiny fixer-uppers, and old, tiny, well kept bungalows.
The minute I saw this front yard hammock I wanted one!
Local businesses in cute renovated cottages and mini shopping centers.
Kelly’s Kustom Kurtains and Interiors
Historic buildings fixed up, cheerfully painted, and turned into restaurants.
Mango Tree Restaurant
There are some condo buildings but not tons. There are huge rich-people houses right on the beach, as there are in any beach town. Mom-and-Pop motels, boutiques, sidewalk cafes, locally owned surf shops, restaurants – a downtown! We love downtowns, don’t you?
People smile and say hello! Teenagers ride their bikes carrying their surfboards. Kids ride their skateboards carrying their boogie boards. Old stringy tan men with gray ponytails ride their motorcycles carrying their women.
Sandy the Beach Cat stretches out in the sun by Coconuts and gets petted and fed by the locals.
And here are our picks:
2 Minutemen Causeway
- PARK/WALK: Parking can be found along the streets, free. You may have to walk a block or two, or first drop off your stuff and your woman and go park, gentlemen. There are also public parking lots that charge per hour.
- GO/RINSE: There are many public beaches in Cocoa Beach with facilities; the beach here however does not offer public bathrooms or showers. We advise you go check into your hotel (see The Bungalow) which is close by and facilitate yourself there.
- CROWD FACTOR: While it is our thing to steer clear of crowds, there is such good people watching here, and the beach is wide and there is room for everyone. Volleyball nets, and Coconuts (The Bar!) RIGHT THERE. After a day of sunning and swimming you can walk right up in your bathing suit (people do!) and sit and order your drink of choice.
- GUARDS: Lifeguards at this street seasonally.
- IMBIBE: Yes, you may! Bring it in plastic; no glass is allowed.
- DOGS: Nope. There is a dog beach 20 minutes south, Canova Beach Park where dogs are allowed on leashes, more info here.
- WE LOVE: the people watching (be prepared for some sights, just saying…) the wide beach, the easy access to The Bar and The Bungalow.
2 Minuteman Causeway
- VIBE: The decor is island-y and tiki oriented. You’ll see lots of young lovelies, not-so-lovelies, not-so-young. Almost always crowded, everyone is having fun. The vibe isn’t quite WOO HOO SPRING BREAK but just about as close as it can get. Be ready for lots of music and people, and you’ll have a great time. Coconuts is RIGHT on the beach.
- ARRIVE: There is a tiny parking lot here but free parking, and parking lots that charge a fee, throughout the town. Go check into The Bungalow and walk!Live music just about every single day.
- SIT: Plenty of seating indoors but who sits there? Tons of outdoor seating as well.
- SIP: Happy Hour Monday through Friday from 4 – 7 p.m. There is also a late night Happy Hour.
- NOSH: Good food – award winning clam chowder. We almost always get their Coconut Shrimp; it’s great.
- LISTEN: Live music every day and twice on Saturdays.
- WE LOVE: the happy, party atmosphere.
181 N. Atlantic Ave. & N. 2nd St.
By the time we were ready to park it here the evening had turned cloudy, but the Sea Aire remained a bright spot in our day!
- VIBE: A quintessential 1950’s mom-and-pop. Old Florida, retro, hidden gem, amazing view… are some of the words that come to mind. Welcoming and friendly owners. (We saw the main owner guy helping the cleaning lady get the rooms ready! Love that.)
- WALK: Sea Aire is directly on the ocean with a lovely pathway leading down to a nice wide beach. You can also walk to the old-timey downtown shops and restaurants, and THE BAR is barely a block away!
- DECOR: Soft and soothing, somewhat updated but also old-Florida.
- SLEEP: Our beds were cozy and there were two of them in case we needed any alone-time :)
- EXTRAS: There is a covered picnic area great for parties, an outdoor barbecue, benches, a swing, or sit outside of your room and chat the night away like they used to do in the old days. Fully furnished kitchenettes, cooking and eating utensils, compact fridge and Wi-Fi.
- RATES: Our oceanfront room was right around $100. Affordable, and Not the Ritz. (I know. I always say that… see our Criteria.)
- WE LOVE: Besides the view and the friendly owners, one thing we really liked about the Sea Aire Motel was the cotton quilted bedspread. Sometimes the little things are the big things, and we just don’t enjoy the typical slippery hotel bedspread. Just a little pet peeve!
The next morning bloomed bright and happy:
More Cocoa Beach coolness:
Thrift for Life, benefiting Grind for Life, a non-profit helping people with cancer, grindforlife.org
Taco City is a food truck and a restaurant
Can you see why we fell in love with south Cocoa Beach? The snappy, ebullient colors…. the whimsical creativity of the residents and shop and restaurant owners… the fact that it’s not about fancy? It’s about a place so timeless, cozy and affable, you might just want to park it for more than a weekend. If so, I might just know the perfect realtor to hook you up with… just saying.
SOUTH Cocoa Beach is designated separately, by us, from Cocoa Beach, and is located in the historic Cottage Row District. This area is approximately several streets north and south of Minuteman Causeway, and the east and west borders are, loosely, the ocean, and South Orlando Avenue.