Setting: On a barrier island between the Atlantic Ocean and Banana River, Cocoa Beach lies 152 miles south of Jacksonville and 176 miles north of Miami Beach. Walt Disney World is 48 miles west. Two-lane Highway A1A leads north to Cape Canaveral and to beach communities on the island's southern tip. Causeways link to Merritt Island, Cocoa, and Melbourne.
Attractions: The surrounding waterscapes offer great fishing, boating, maritime sports, and scenic vistas. Temperatures stay mild year-round. Wide-ranging regional job possibilities exist, thanks to savvy economic development. Melbourne International Airport is just five miles away. Florida imposes no state income tax.
Drawbacks: Hurricanes and damaging tropical storms are facts of life. Shopping is just OK. Rising population keeps development issues on the front burner. Day-trippers and weekend visitors can be rowdy litterbugs. High-traffic A1A runs through residential areas.
Housing Options: Leasing or buying choices vary from fixer-upper beach cottages to luxurious new and renovated properties. Waterfront homes face the Atlantic to the east or the Banana River and numerous coves to the west. On this narrow barrier island, no location is far from water.
What It Costs: It's possible to lease a two-bedroom, two-bath oceanfront condo for $1,100 a month. To buy property, $334,000 can get you a three-bedroom, two-bath townhome with water access. You can find an updated, three-bedroom river-view cottage for $699,900. Modern waterfront condos can fetch $495,000 for two bedrooms, two baths, and a split floor plan, and as much as $699,900 for an ocean-view corner unit.
Your Next-door Neighbors: The founder of USA Today. The person who does Kennedy Space Center launch countdowns. An artist who carves tiki totem poles. A Cape Canaveral Hospital anesthesiologist. A designer for Walt Disney World productions. A NASA engineer. A Cocoa Beach Pier bartender.
How You'd Spend Your Free Time: Walking miles of beach. Kayaking among manatees or ogling birds at Cape Canaveral National Seashore. Browsing Cocoa Village shops. Driving to nearby Titusville for Dixie Crossroads' rock shrimp.
(published March 2006)