In December we had the chance to stay in Cocoa Beach, Florida for a long weekend. If you are looking to get away from the crowds then Cocoa Beach might be just what you are looking for. The beaches are clean and the lifestyle is slower. You won’t find much nightlife or white sandy beaches but you will enjoy your stay. If you stay in the area you will find less people than if you went to Orlando or Miami and if you visit in the Winter months from December to March, you will pay less as well.
Cocoa Beach is a popular stop for cruise lines and tourists who want to visit Ron Jon’s Surf Shop which is open 24 hours a day. Ron Jon’s is one huge store and has everything a surfer or beach goer could ever want or need.
Our stay started out at Beach Place Guesthouses just outside of the city of Cocoa Beach. Owners, Hernando and Joseph, have put a lot of work and care into Beach Place Guesthouses. Located on South Atlantic Avenue, Beach Place Guesthouses is more of a community than a hotel, with many of the same guests coming back year after year. Our room (Alice’s Garden), which was more like a condo, opened right onto the lawn with the beach and ocean just beyond. Each of the two bedrooms had it’s own bathroom, and it also had a full kitchen complete with everything you need for an enjoyable stay. A washer and dryer, and even laundry detergent was supplied.
We stepped out of the French doors onto your own oceanfront terrace.
The kitchen is fully stocked with pots, pans, dishes, silverware, and even appliances like a toaster, blender, coffee maker, glass pitcher, cooking utensils and even aluminum foil. All you need to supply is the food. They do provide sugar, coffee (from a local brewer) and creamer though. We do suggest you bring your own zip lock bags or plastic containers to store leftovers.
Angel, the resident cat, greeted us when we arrived and came knocking on the door one night for a visit. Angel is a friendly cat and stayed for a few hours and then went on his way. Angel wasn’t the only animal around. Chameleons and lizards could be found darting in and out of rocks and sunning themselves on benches. In the sky, pelicans could be seen flying overhead and then slamming, head-first into the ocean to grab lunch. At the edge of the water, Sand Pipers would grab invertebrates such as insects, worms, clams, crabs, and snails out of the sand as the tide went out.
When the wind isn’t high, they will allow bonfires to be made in receptacles around the property. When we visited in December, the wind was too strong to start a fire but we did enough sitting on the lounge chairs and using the hammocks.
The beach is just steps from your bedroom door if you are on the first floor.
The location cannot be beat because the beach is right outside your door. It’s great to hear and see the ocean just steps away. The property has all kinds of lounge chairs, hammocks, BBQs, firepit, and hand painted water fountains. Sea grape trees line the property and overhang the walkways.
One night for dinner, we stayed in the Cocoa Beach area and dined at Fat Snook. Fat Snook is located on 2464 South Atlantic Avenue, just on the outskirts of the city of Cocoa Beach. The cuisine at Fat Snook centers around New American with Latin and Caribbean influences. The Fat Snook is a small family owned restaurant with the chef being one of the owners. Their cuisine showcases their use of fresh, local seafood, top quality seasonal ingredients, and hand selected boutique-style wines from around the world. The owners have opened another restaurant, Crush Eleven, at the request of many customers located at 11 Riverside Drive in Cocoa Village.
The atmosphere at Fat Snook is relaxed and casual in a decor inspired by the soft colors of the ocean and sand. On the wall behind the bar is an amazing hand painted fish chalk board piece of art that blends well with the seaside decor.
Our server was extremely helpful and knowledgeable about each dish we asked about. The four of us each tried a different starter and each was full of flavor. The crab in two of the starters was fresh and plentiful. The 41 Degree Pineapple Cucumber Soup with Ginger carrot sorbet was light and refreshing. Great for a warm summer night. We ordered three different entrees; one of which was the Seared Jumbo Scallops and Florida Shrimp Newburg (picture below) over a bed of Jasmine rice. On the menu was two entrees simply listed as: “Catch #1” and Catch #2.” Our server described in detail what each were, “Catch #1″ being grouper and “Catch #2″ being red snapper. One of our dinner companions order “Catch #1″ while I went with “Catch #2.” What drew me to it was the fact that they used crushed vanilla wafers as a thin crust for the red snapper. Hmm, interesting so I ordered it. I was amazed with the mild vanilla flavor that the wafers gave to the fish but let the fish be the focus. Every entree was beautifully prepared and presented. All for the seafood was of ample portions and cooked perfectly. Each entree is accompanied by your choice of salad.
After our table was cleared of plates, we were treated to a surprised only offered to first time customers: house made lemoncello and house made pineapple sorbet to cleanse our palates. It was quite interesting to learn that the owners actually make their own lemoncello and sorbet in-house. Both were refreshing and did the trick to prepare our palates for dessert.
We closed out the evening with dessert. The dessert menu consisted of four, so each of us ordered a different one and sampled each others. We went with the Pina Colada Pie, Key Lime Pie that was topped with nearly 5 inches of meringue, house made Banana Ice Cream (pictured below left) with bits of banana, and Pot de Creme (pictured below right) made with Mexican chocolate.
Orlando is about an hour away and if you are willing to drive you can visit Downtown Disney Marketplace, which is a large shopping area, complete with live entertainment that is both stationary and roving, shop, eat, and feel like you are at Disney without paying to get in. Be warned that going to Orlando and visiting anyplace with the word Disney in it means zillions of other people will be there with you. If you don’t like crowds, this isn’t the place for you. Oh, and did I mention those people all push baby strollers?
Shuttles are available to take you to any Disney property you want to go for free in an around Orlando. We ate at Portobello in Downtown Disney and then took one of the free shuttles to a dueling piano bar called Jelly Rolls.
Watching the guys light up the stage at Jelly Rolls was a treat. The energy is non-stop for hours – 2 am to be exact. At the end of each hour, another set of players comes out and the two performers from the first hour do a quartet with the new players as they switch over. We watched as they sang, played the piano. entertained and wowed the crowd. We even witnessed a proposal and a conga line of pre-night wedding guests. If they didn’t know a song that was requested they would even go in the backroom and Google it and come out and belt it out like a pro. Jelly Rolls was sure a lot of fun and we highly suggest it next time you are in Orlando.
Scotty Kilwein, on the right, does an awesome Kermit the Frog rendition. Make sure you tip him well and ask him to do it for you when you visit.
The sunsets are just a bit more amazing in Florida. I snapped this on the highway on the way to Orlando.
Another fun thing we planned was a River nature cruise. After asking around and reading a few online reviews, we chose Good Natured River Cruises out of Melbourne. The weather called for rain but when we got going the skies parted and the day turned out sunny and beautiful.
Captain Bill Reynolds and crew are a friendly bunch and very knowledgeable about the area as well. Throughout our afternoon trip on the scenic Indian River, the captain and crew pointed out what we were seeing in the water and along the banks of the river. We also learned how vital the mangroves are to the Florida eco system.
From their website: Indian River Nature Tours depart from Grills Riverside in Melbourne at 10:30am and 1:30pm Daily. Sunset Cruises depart at 5:30pm Wednesday, Friday, & Saturday. We will take you though a beautiful section of the Space Coast’s estuary on the Indian River Lagoon, cruising by the historic Dragon Point leading to the Banana River, and the Mathers Turn Bridge. You’ll also see some of Florida’s finest waterfront real estate and luxury homes.
Learn more and find out when you can get on their next cruise.
We had a wonderful time and even had the chance to see dolphins swimming by our boat multiple times throughout the course of the trip. Someone spotted a manatee and the captain turned the boat around to help us get a glimpse of it.
After our cruise we stopped by Grills Seafood, Deck and Tiki Bar, which is attached to the parking lot where the cruise docks, and had a bit to eat. We watched birds sunning themselves and listened to a live band while we ate. Make sure you try one of their Pina Coladas if you go. Prices were reasonable and the food was good.
Have you visited Cocoa Beach and the surrounding area? What interesting things did you find to do.