Car Free Journey: Cocoa Beach and the Space Coast

BY STEVE ATLAS

For the past few weeks, my family and I have wished the ice and snow would go away-and so have many other people all over the United States. Don’t you wish you could escape it all in a warm setting with lots of great beaches that you can walk to.

Then you will want to check out Cocoa Beach and the Space Coast of Central Florida, the focus of this month’s Car Free Journey.

Cocoa Beach and the Space Coast of Florida

Cocoa Beach and the Space Coast: two great reasons to visit is the 72 miles of beaches along Florida’s Atlantic Coast. Stay in Cocoa Beach and walk to beaches and many other attractions, restaurants, and entertainment the area has to offer.

For a break from the beach, you can take a local bus to Cape Canaveral, home of the United States Space Program. Here the Space Shuttle ATLANTIS is on permanent display. Port Canaveral is the second largest cruise port in the United States. Local boosters claim it will beat Miami and become the largest U.S. cruise port by 2015.
The Brevard Zoo is one of the top 10 small zoos in the United States and it too is just a bus ride away.

Welcome to Cocoa Beach

Cocoa Beach offers great weather, beaches, and attractive shops and restaurants. With its coastal location and positioned where two climatic zones (sub-tropic and temperate) meet, the weather here usually avoids extremes. This unique location attracts wildlife indigenous to both climatic zones as well as coastal and migratory species.

Cocoa Beach is a residential community and a tourist destination with a base population 12,631. This increases to 30,000 during the peak tourist season when the hotels, motels, timeshares and condominium rentals are filled. In addition, Cocoa Beach is the destination for another 2.4 million day visitors per year; it is the primary tourist destination on the Florida Space Coast and home to an active retiree population. Both visitors and residents enjoy the casual beach lifestyle! Many residents first experienced Cocoa Beach as visitors and eventually relocated here.

Getting Here

The best way to get to Cocoa Beach is to fly into Orlando International Airport. From there, take the Cocoa Beach Shuttle (http://www.cbshuttle.com/ or call toll-free (888) 784-4144 (or 321/631-4144) for reservations. The shuttle vans operate every ½ hour from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. (and every two hours from Cocoa Beach hotels from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m.) During these hours, the rate for one person is $33, $55 for two people, and $10 for each additional passenger. The shuttle will take you to any Cocoa Beach hotel.

There is limited direct service to Melbourne International Airport. Delta has direct service from Atlanta. U.S. Air offers direct service from Charlotte, North Carolina.  From Melbourne, you can take Melbourne Airport Express (www.melbourneairportexpress.com) by calling toll-free (800) 826-4544 or (321) 724-1600. The one-way fare to Cocoa Beach is $49 for the first passenger, $10 for each additional passenger.

You can also hop on a local public SCAT bus (http://www.ridescat.com/transit/general-information). Call

(321) 633-1878 for information. Take a Route 26 bus from the Airport to Cocoa Beach. If necessary, you can transfer to a Route 9 bus (formerly the Beach Trolley) any day except Sunday. The trip takes a little over an hour and costs $1.25 one way ($.60 for seniors).

For those times when you need a taxi, AAA Taxi (www.AAATaxiOnline.com) (321) 868-8888 is a good choice.

Where to Stay

Most Cocoa Beach hotels are along route A1A, and are served by SCAT Route 9 (formerly the Beach Trolley). You can generally walk to at least one beach, and several restaurants and attractions.

For a list of local hotels and their contact information, visit http://www.visitcocoabeach.com/Stay.html.

Getting Around

It’s easy to walk to at least one beach and several restaurants from your hotel. SCAT’s Route 9 buses

operate seven days a week and take you most destinations in the area. SCAT fares are $1.25 ($.60 for seniors age 60 and older) for a single ride, $10 ($5 for seniors) for 10 trips, and $35 ($17 for seniors) for an unlimited monthly pass. For more information visit http://www.ridescat.com/transit/fares/ or call (321) 633-1878.

The Cocoa Shuttle (http://www.cbshuttle.com/ or call toll-free (888) 784-4144 or (321) 631-4144) will take you from your Cocoa Beach hotel to Port Canaveral for just $5 for each person.

What to Do

The beach is the number one attraction here. Isn’t that the main reason you came? But there are many fun options for those times you want a change of pace.

Ron Jon Surf Shop (http://www.ronjonsurfshop.com/) (321) 799-8888

Since opening in 1963, the Ron Jon Surf Shop has grown into a world-famous surfing mecca.  Ron Jon Surf Shop in Cocoa Beach, Fla. is a whole water world of eternal summer fun, encompassing more than two acres and overflowing with more surfwear, sportswear and beach gear than is available in any other single venue.  The flagship store in Cocoa Beach is open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

The Dinosaur Store (www.dinosaurstore.com) (321) 783-7300

The Dinosaur Store features the most elaborate array of fossils in the world. The collection includes: museum quality fossils and minerals; Dinosaur eggs; dinosaur teeth and claw fossils; fossil shark teeth and teeth jewelry; dinosaur replicas (castings) such as Coelophysis; amber and amber jewelry; meteorites, tektites and meteorite jewelry; educational products, toys, and books; and, of course, dinosaur t-shirts.

Fossils include: Trilobite, saber cat, dragonfly, bird, fish, ammonites, mosasaur, crinoid, dinosaur teeth, dinosaur claws, fossil skin and many other fossils.

 The Dinosaur Store also has a special area with live animals that are native to the area.

Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex (www.kennedyspacecenter.com) (866)737-5235

Space Coast vacations aren’t complete without a trip to Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex. Just east of the most popular Orlando attractions and theme parks, NASA’s launch headquarters is the only place on Earth where you can view the Shuttle Atlantis, tour launch areas, meet a veteran astronaut, see giant rockets, train in spaceflight simulators, and even view a rocket launch.

Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex is open daily from 9 am – 5 pm. Tours included in admission start at 10 a.m. and depart continuously every 15 minutes. Last tour departs at 2:30 pm. Admission Options and Tickets Kennedy Space Center admission includes the $100 million Shuttle Atlantis Exhibit, the Shuttle Launch Experience, Angry Birds Space Encounter, IMAX® space films, the Kennedy Space Center Bus Tour and the U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame®. Admission tickets include a second day free for use at the U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame® if used within seven days to give guests the full space experience.

To get here, call AAA Taxi. The one-way fare is $40 for up to 4 passengers.

TICKET PRICES: General Admission: Adult $50; Child (ages 3-11) $40.

Commander’s Club (Annual Pass): Adult $63; Child (ages 3-11) $53; Seniors (55+) $46 with valid id; Military* Adult $46; Child (ages 3-11) $37

The Cove in Port Canaveral (www.visitportcanaveral.com)

Highly recommended by local hotel staff, the Cove houses many shops and restaurant, charter boats, shops, attractions, and live entertainment.

Seafood is a specialty, with the day’s catch going directly from the dock to restaurant kitchens. You can watch commercial fishermen unload fresh seafood from their boats. You can even buy you own seafood here to take back to your hotel.

Port Canaveral is home to several cruise ships, such as the Disney Cruise Lines and the Carnival Dream. To get there take SCAT Route 9 (Beach Trolley with stops on George King Blvd). From Cocoa Beach there is ½ hour service from the beach Monday-Saturday and hourly service on Sunday.

For more information about Port Canaveral, visit www.portcanaveral.com/recreation/recreation.php

Brevard Zoo (https://brevardzoo.org) (321-254-9453)

8225 North Wickham Road, Melbourne, Florida 32940.

Considered one of the top 10 small zoos in the United States, the Brevard Zoo is easy to reach by local SCAT buses. Take Route 4 from Cocoa Beach and transfer to Route 1’s North Loop at the Cocoa Terminal. (You may need to take Route 9 – the Beach Trolley – from your hotel to connect with Route 4.)  At Viera Regional Park, transfer to the Route 1 South Loop and take that bus to the Brevard Zoo. The trip takes about 2 hours but well worth it for a nice change of pace from the beach. Best of all, the cost of the bus is just $1.25 each way per person (.60 each way for students and seniors age 60 and older). There is no charge on the bus for children under age five.

Bicycle Rentals

Scooters N Spokes. http://www.scootersnspokes.com (321) 613-5647

Located at 1675 North Atlantic Ave., Cocoa Beach, FL 32931, Scooters N Spokes is the place to go to rent beach bikes, scooters, scoot coupes, wheelchairs, kayaks, surfboards, and stand up paddleboats. The store is open from 9:00 A.M. to dark, seven days a week.

Walk or Bike along the Beach

There are eight miles of beach here in Cocoa Beach. Take a short walk, ride a bike, or—if you are feeling energetic—consider walking the full eight miles from Jetty Park in Port Canaveral to Patrick Air Force Base.

Where To Eat

Erika Van Buren, President of Yummy Florida, recommends taking some time to learn about eating places and other entertainment at the beginning of your visit. Her company, Yummy Florida, offers walking tours where you can visit and sample food from several local restaurants. During her tours, Erika talks about local history, special events, and other entertainment. On Erika’s excursions you feel as if a local friend is showing you around giving you an insider’s views and tips. For information and reservations, visit www.yummyflorida.com, or call (toll-free) (800) 407-1067 or (321) 501-1687.

Be sure to mention this special code: YummyCFJ when making your reservation. You will receive a $10 discount for each ticket you purchase.

For More Information

For information about local and Space Coast attractions and places to stay, go to:  www.visitcocoabeach.com, or call (321) 454-2022

www.visitspacecoast.com or call (877) 57BEACH (572=3224

For local bus and beach trolley information:

Go to www.ridescat.com, or call (321) 633-1878

For shuttles from Orlando International Airport to Cocoa Beach:

Go to www.cocoabeachshuttle.com, or call toll-free (888) 784-4144 (or 321/631-4144

For shuttles from Melbourne International Airport:

Go to (www.melbourneairportexpress.com) toll-free (800) 826-4544 or (321) 724-1600

For local taxicab service:

AAA Taxi (www.AAATaxiOnline.com) (321) 868-8888

Do you have a favorite vacation spot that can be enjoyed without a car? E-mail your ideas to steveatlas45@yahoo.com. Please include your contact information so Steve can get back to you with any questions. 

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