Orlando’s closest beach, Cocoa Beach on the Atlantic coast, is about 60 minutes from I-Drive and the theme parks. It takes less time to get there than it does to wait in line for some top theme park rides.
Bring your own beach towels to spread out on the sand and a small cooler of canned drinks. (Glass containers are forbidden on most Florida beaches.) There is little shade, so consider purchasing an inexpensive beach umbrella.
Head east toll road State Road 528, aka Beachline Expressway, which crosses Interstate 4 near SeaWorld Orlando. SR 528 becomes Astronaut Blvd after it crosses I-95, and from there it merges onto State Road A1A to Cocoa Beach. This map is helpful.
Cocoa Beach became famous in the TV classic comedy I Dream of Jeannie, which aired from 1965 to 1970. Although the show was set in Cocoa Beach, close to the Kennedy Space Center and its astronauts, it was filmed entirely in California.
Interested in learning to surf? Visit Ron Jon Surf Shop which claims to be the world’s largest surf shop and dominates the corner of State Road 520 and A1A. Register for lessons ahead of time.
Cocoa Beach, called the “small wave capital of the world,” is ranked as one of the Atlantic Coast’s best surfing areas. The small, fairly constant waves are ideal for learning to surf. Larger waves turn up when tropical storm or cold fronts kick up.
The city’s landmark 840-foot long pier is a half-mile north of State Road. It’s Cocoa Beach’s main commercial hub — filled with restaurants, boutiques, and gift shops — and offers the best vantage point for watching surfers. Westgate Resorts, which owns the pier, encourages pier fishing.
Parking near the pier is often a problem on weekends. Fortunately, parking and beach access is available on designated “stub-end” streets which stop near the beach. Be prepared to feed parking meters on these side streets.
For free parking and good beach access, drive a little farther south on A1A to a series of city-owned oceanfront public parks, all with restrooms, showers and picnic tables. Recreational areas heading south are: Alan Shepard Park, Sydney Fischer Park and Lori Wilson Park, which bordered on one side by I Dream Of Jeannie Lane. In Cocoa Beach, that TV show is not allowed to die.
Lifeguards are present on weekends from Easter through Labor Day. Alcohol is allowed, just not in glass containers.
Popular eateries along Cocoa Beach include Coconuts on the Beach, famous for its food and bikini contests. Next door is the Beach Shack where you can listen to live classic rock and blues while dining. The Shack caters to evening audiences. Saturday is the only afternoon it’s open.
Cocoa Beach Restrictions: No bottles on the beach. No pets, except service dogs.