Florida’s Space Coast includes over 72 miles of coastline along the Atlantic Ocean and offers something for the entire family. With Orlando only a short drive away, these beaches are popular day trips for both locals and tourists. Separated by Kennedy Space Center, Cocoa Beach and Playalinda Beach at the Canaveral National Seashore are two very different sides of the same coin. Where do you go when deciding between Cocoa Beach vs Playalinda?
Cocoa Beach vs Playalinda Beach
Cocoa Beach, located south of Kennedy Space Center and at the end of Florida’s Beachline Expressway, offers up the classic Florida experience. Hotels, attractions, shops, and restaurants can be found all along the main road through town. The Westgate Cocoa Beach Pier, built in 1962, extends 800 feet into the Atlantic Ocean. Several restaurants can be found on the pier, offering incredible views of the ocean.
Drive a little farther south and you will come across Ron Jon Surf Shop, the largest surf shop in the world. You can find everything you need to enjoy your day in the sun under Ron Jon’s roof, no matter what time you stop by. The shop is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week. They also offer rentals, so feel free to try your hand at surfing while enjoying everything Cocoa Beach has to offer.
The beach itself is often crowded, depending on the season, but finding a good location shouldn’t be too difficult. There are many public parking areas, along with boardwalks and shower facilities. While Cocoa Beach is famous for surfing, the waves are never so large that swimming becomes difficult (unless there is a hurricane off the coast).
For an entirely different experience, visit Playalinda Beach at the Canaveral National Seashore. Located on the north side of Kennedy Space Center and northeast of Titusville, Playalinda Beach feels miles away from civilization.
Being inside a National Seashore, you will not find any hotels, shops, or restaurants anywhere. Basic restroom facilities are available at each parking area, but that is all. Make sure you come prepared with plenty of water, food, and sunscreen if you plan on spending the day at Playalinda.
The major advantage that Playalinda has over Cocoa Beach is the seclusion. The crowds here are never very large, especially if you park near the north end of the beach. If you are looking for a beach where you can relax, but want to stay near all that the Space Coast and Orlando area have to offer, you cannot beat Playalinda Beach.
Playalinda is also one of the best places to watch a rocket launch from Kennedy Space Center. Florida Today lists it among the top ten best places to view a launch. Of course, you will also get a great view of most launches from Cocoa Beach.
Keep in mind that there is an entry fee to visit the Canaveral National Seashore. Also, the park closes in the evening. Make sure you check their website before heading out.
Personally, I prefer the seclusion and unspoiled beauty of Playalinda over the hustle and bustle of Cocoa Beach. While it takes a little more preparation to spend the day there, it is worth it. You can escape the crowds and really enjoy what the Space Coast has to offer.